Five Signings to Make Manchester United Champions
By Harry Dalton
After an underwhelming 2020 summer transfer window and a quiet January, Manchester United sit second in the Premier League 12 points adrift of the top. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reinvigorated the club in a way that hasn’t been done since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but still hasn’t finished building his team in his vision. It may take multiple more transfer windows to recruit these players because of the hefty fees associated with them, but here are five signings the Red Devils should make to become genuine title contenders:
5. Declan Rice - CDM
The West Ham starlet has become the main man for the Hammers and has become a regular in Gareth Southgate’s England selections. Manchester United typically play a double pivot midfield in a 4-2-3-1 system similarly to the one Rice plays for West Ham. Rice likes to sit deep and break up play in order to allow Tomas Soucek to play high up the pitch and join the attack, whilst providing a shield for the defensive line.
In games where United will have less possession, Solskjaer is forced to play Scott McTominay and Fred together to protect the back four. This is because of the defensive frailties, but also the lack of a genuine number six who can play the role alone. The addition of Rice would allow Paul Pogba to play with more freedom as Rice is able to hold the midfield alone and would provide protection for the back four. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has transitioned Manchester United from a counter attacking team in 2019/20 and is now looking to play with the ball more. Declan Rice will allow United to play with freedom and not have to limit the attacking quality.
West Ham have previously suggested that a minimum of around £90m would be required to sign rice, which would be a mouth-watering amount of cash. However, with Jesse Lingard currently in the form of his life on loan at the London Stadium from Manchester United, a potential player plus cash deal could be made to bring Rice to Old Trafford at a cut price.
4. Jules Kounde - CB
Despite scoring the most goals (53) in the Premier League in the 2020/21 season, Manchester United sit second in the table and have conceded 32 goals at a rate of 1.23 goals per 90 minutes. The centre back partnership of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof has been a persistent issue owing to a lack of recovery pace. With Eric Bailly consistently absent due to injury, United will need to look to the transfer market to find a centre back with attributes to complement their current options.
Sevilla’s Jules Kounde would be the perfect option for United to partner Harry Maguire at the back. Kounde’s 90% pass accuracy means he is reliable on the ball and so would help Solskjaer in his transition to a team which is dominant in matches, and his recovery pace would be perfect for playing a consistent high line. With Sevilla seemingly willing to negotiate below the £68m release clause, a summer move for the 22-year-old Frenchman could be the solution to United’s defensive woes.
3. Paul Pogba - CM
I know what you’re thinking. “Wait… what? He already plays for United though”. Well, the title says five “signings” not “transfers” and with his current deal expiring next summer, a contract extension for Paul Pogba is a MUST. The Frenchman has had the consistency of his performances questioned since his arrival in 2016, but one thing that cannot be denied is his quality. Pogba has played in an average United side since he joined the club and has never been seen in a side which is capable of competing at the top. With the addition of players such as Declan Rice at defensive midfield to fill in the missing pieces, Paul Pogba will be key to United going forward.
The world cup winner’s passing ability is unparalleled at the club and no available signings could match what he offers. Many people will put his recent form down to “playing for a move”, but the man-management by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in dropping Pogba after his agent’s comments prior to the Leipzig game seem to have spurred him on and rejuvenated his long-term relationship with Manchester United. If Pogba were to leave then perhaps the Mino Raiola circus would end and the transfer fee would prove helpful in investing in other positions, but with better foundations in place, Paul Pogba will be a key differential in any future title push.