It’s really not nice to hear, but the efficient and intelligent transfer window unfolding at Anfield should scare Manchester United. They are in danger of being left behind.
The signings of Fred and Diogo Dalot (cough…Lee Grant, too…cough) may prove shrewd, but even if they do, United are still left with many of last season’s problems to resolve. Ed Woodward will need to act fast with less than three weeks of the transfer window remaining.
Below is a look at United’s problem areas, why they are a problem, and how the problems could be solved.
It’s plain to see – José Mourinho doesn’t like Luke Shaw. In fact, his feelings towards the ex-Southampton man rose to a quite poisonous pitch last season, with the United boss castigating his left-back personally after certain poor performances.
Images of Shaw on his summer break have recently permeated the Twittersphere, with much being made of the extra weight he appeared to be carrying; but these are to be wholly ignored.
After an intense regime of pre-season work, the 23-year-old is looking trim again, but his inability to follow basic instructions last season did become increasingly apparent.
Ashley Young, who tended to play instead, performed relatively well. But his lack of instinctive positional discipline in his new position, and an innate ability to give away infuriatingly stupid fouls, prove that he is quite simply not the answer either.
(ABOVE: No, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are not the answer)
Who to Buy?
Alex Sandro of Juventus seems to be the favourite. The 27-year-old heir to Roberto Carlos (as claimed by the legendary full-back himself) spent much of last season on the bench in Turin, but on his day can offer explosive pace and intelligent awareness.
The rumours over Danny Rose seem to have quietened, although Daniel Levy’s failure to offer a new deal could reignite them at any time.
It is astounding that five years on from the decline of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United are still no closer to a settled centre-back pairing.
The equation for this season is simple: if José does not trust his signings – Victor Lindelöf and Eric Bailly – enough to give them a run together in the side, then he must promote from within and buy.
The thought of starting an eighth Premier League season with the likelihood that one, if not both, of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will start the opening game is as laughable as it is terrifying. It is time they were both shipped out. Each would fill out a West Brom shirt beautifully.
(ABOVE: Phil Jones and Chris Smalling take their ‘Comedy Roadshow’ on tour to Anfield)
Who to Buy?
Links to Toby Alderweireld seem to have gone stale, and United would have to choose between him and Rose anyway. Levy selling a rival two players in one window is about as likely as Michael Chopra scoring the perfect hat-trick.
Diego Godin impressed at the World Cup, as did Barcelona’s Yerry Mina, but both are either unlikely to want to leave their club or no better than what United have already got. We’ll leave you to decide which one’s which.
Manchester United used to be defined by their electrifying wide play.
But essentially since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, they have struggled to offer a threat from both flanks. Last season, the team often lined up with Alexis Sanchez on the left and one of Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard on the right.
Sanchez feels he operates best from the left, where he is able to drift inside and invade pockets of space, but that is exactly what Lingard and Mata want to do too. This meant that too often last season United ended up crowding the central area in front of an opposition’s box, only finding width when one of the converted wingers (Young and good old Tony Valencia) marauded forward from full-back.
This won’t do, and if Mourinho is going to persevere with Sanchez over Martial on the left (another debate for another time) then he needs a right winger who likes to get chalk on his boots.
Matthew Ashton – AMA/GettyImages
(ABOVE: Sanchez needs a right winger who won’t get in his way)
Who to Buy?
There is something of a deficit in this position in world football. Wingers these days tend to always have ambitions as number 10s, failing that, converted centre forwards.
The Gareth Bale rumours boringly persist and he could well be the right option, but with Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid, he may well see an opening as the Bernabeu’s new talisman.
United fans should be a little frustrated by the ease with which their club let City take Riyad Mahrez for their bench, while it looks like Chelsea’s Willian is high on Mourinho’s shopping list.
It’s a weird transfer window for Manchester United, but one they simply need to get right in the next few weeks. A difficult season lies ahead otherwise.