Predicting how Manchester United could line up on the opening day of next season is proving more difficult to do than predicting Saturday night’s winning lottery numbers.
With just under two months to go until the 2021/22 season reaches its conclusion, United are gearing up for what will be their biggest summer in recent years. After the signings of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo failed to move United back into a position where they could challenge for the Premier League title this season, wholesale changes need to be made at Old Trafford over the coming months, starting with the appointment of a new permanent manager.
While the installation of a new boss will tick off one of many boxes on Richard Arnold’s to-do list, the squad is also in need of major reconstruction. The end of the road has been reached for many United players and you can guarantee that several individuals will be saying their goodbyes over the coming months.
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Already, the likes of Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani are preparing their farewell speeches. They all look set to depart on free transfers, immediately lowering the club’s wage bill in the process.
Other players, such as Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek – although his future may rest on whether or not Erik ten Hag lands the job – and Anthony Martial, also need moving on, both for the good of their own careers and United’s plans moving forward.
Whilst it is important to have good players in reserve, to offer both competition and squad depth, figures such as Henderson and Van de Beek, for example, they need to move on for the good of their own careers. They have not played anywhere near enough for what their talents deserve.
Starting with the goalkeeping department, offloading Henderson would mean that United would have to source a replacement to provide back-up to David de Gea. Considering United need to invest in other areas of the squad as a bigger priority, signing a goalkeeper on a free transfer should be their best course of action, meaning Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina could be a suitable option.
He is out of contract this summer and boasts a wealth of experience. Signing him would be a similar type of deal to the one that saw Sergio Romero act as De Gea’s understudy for six years.
In defence, United need a new right-back and centre-back. Both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot have struggled to nail down the right-back berth this season and United, if an offer came their way, ought to consider offloading the former.
He has not made the expected progress of him and United, even though it would mean taking a hit on their investment, ought to offload him. Considering the modern-day full-back is required to offer width and support in the final third, United may wish to explore signing Denzel Dumfries from Inter Milan.
He would require a transfer fee, but the rewards could be worth their weight in gold. United have struggled at right-back for much of the season and the Dutchman would be a definite upgrade.
At centre-back, with Jones and Bailly likely to move on, United will need to add at least one new face to their ranks. Links with Antonio Rudiger have been frequent in recent months and the prospect of signing him on a free transfer ought to tempt United.
It is in midfield where the biggest changes need to be made. United need a defensive-minded midfielder, perhaps even two, and West Ham United star Declan Rice remains at the top of their list. The Hammers’ financial demands will dictate whether or not this deal happens, but United, if the price is right, ought to push as hard as they can to get it over the line.
Rice will significantly improve United’s holding midfield options and it would be an addition that wins applause from the supporters. On the face of it, a second holding midfielder ought to be drafted in and United should look no further than Marseille ace Boubacar Kamara, who is set to be available on a free transfer in a few months’ time.
As highlighted by interim manager Ralf Rangnick, United must source a new, younger striker this summer to be the face of their forward line for years to come. The prospect of signing Erling Haaland is already all but over, meaning United will have to look elsewhere for who they hope will be their new main man.
It is hard to pinpoint specifically who United could turn to, especially as top-level, seasoned goalscorers cost lavish amounts of money, however, they could do far worse than turning their attentions to Alexander Isak. He has bags of potential and is a star in the making.
He has excelled in Spain since joining Real Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund and has a massive future ahead of him. At just 22, however, he would fit United’s profile of what they are looking for.
United’s perfect 25-man squad for next season:
Goalkeepers: De Gea, Ospina, Heaton.
Defenders: Dumfries, Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Rudiger, Shaw, Telles, Williams.
Midfielders: Rice, Kamara, McTominay, Garner, Hannibal, Fred, Fernandes.
Attackers: Sancho, Elanga, Rashford, Amad, Ronaldo, Isak.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.