Manchester United have a serious rebuild ahead of them in the summer and the dwindling form of Marcus Rashford may be making the job a lot bigger. With a new manager coming in a number of positions will have to be addressed across the squad on a budget that will likely hinge on where the team finish in the league this season.
In this transfer breakdown series, we have already spoken about the goalkeeper and right-back positions and also the possible option in of a fourth choice centre-back in defence. And in midfield, we identified targets for the holding role and a Paul Pogba replacement.
So when considering the problem right-wing position for the penultimate transfer breakdown, let’s look at the situation, the profile of the player United should target and the best man for the job. This one was a lot harder to consider than past installations…
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Rashford is struggling for form and with every passing game he seems to be only getting worse, therefore United need to plan for if the forward doesn’t get back to his best. Anthony Elanga has seemingly usurped him in the pecking order but with the club’s main managerial targets relying heavily on wingers, it will be necessary to sign another.
Jadon Sancho seems to have the left-wing on lockdown now, so the right-wing should be prioritized. However, if the player can play on either wing it will help with United’s tactical flexibility. It is unclear how much United will have to spend overall, so they should really only be spending around £35m on this position, given that a striker and defensive midfielder are the priorities.
The player needs to be adept at holding the width but also cutting inside and making the best use of the space. Tactical flexibility and technical ability is king when signing a winger in the modern game. It is also good for this exercise as each manager United are targeting use their wingers in different ways.
If the target can play on either wing as well that will help with some of the rotations that United have seen great success with in the past. And as United should be trying to pick young players wherever possible due to the club being at the start of a rebuild, he should be under 25 years old.
Anthony and Raphinha are both excellent targets and while the former most definitely will be expensive, the latter may be available for a much cheaper price if Leeds United go down. But there is another winger United could consider.
Ousmane Dembele will be available on a free transfer in the summer and United would be foolish to not consider him as a potential option. He has had problems with injuries and fitness in the past, but when the stars align he is unplayable and in recent months this version of the player has been on display for Barcelona.
Dembele can play on either the left or the right and has a fantastic ability on the ball. He completes 13.57 progressive carries per 90 minutes played and 3.49 dribbles which put him among the world’s elite in his position. For comparison, Sancho completes 9.33 progressive carries and 2.6 dribbles.
Dembele also can boast 5.2 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes played. Of course, wages and signing-on fees will have to be considered but for a free transfer, the Frenchman may be a steal and go a long way to solving United’s issues with dynamism and creativity.
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*all stats from FBref are correct as of the time of writing
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.