As the January transfer window has now opened, here we take a close look at the signings which could turn around the fortunes of Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal.
A miserable December for Red Devils, in which the club accumulated a solitary point at home to Chelsea, cranked up the pressure on the Dutch boss from both supporters and the media alike. Along with the criticism aimed at Van Gaal, there has been suggestions that the playing squad is simply not at the level expected at Old Trafford.
Although the January window is not normally known to provide transfers as big those during the summer, the big clubs do sometimes dip into the market. In the past Manchester United have used this window to sign Louis Saha, Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic, Henrik Larsson (loan) and Juan Mata.
The below 5 players which would instantly improve United’s playing squad may well be targeted this summer, but with the window now open and United struggling for form, the chequebook may well be opened.
1. John Stones, Everton, £40m
This season Manchester United’s defensive record has significantly improved. This though has been largely down the to tactics employed, with Van Gaal ensuring numerous players are placed behind the ball when the opposition attack and the deployment of two holding players in central midfield. The emergence of Chris Smalling as a leader at the back has been a major positive, but it would be true to say that nobody has nailed down the second centre back position, with Daley Blind, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo all failing to fully convince.
A move for Everton and England’s highly rated John Stones would prove to be a masterstroke in this department. The Barnsley born 21 year-old would bring a composure and footballing brain to the heart of the defence, which has been missing since Rio Ferdinand left the club. The fee of £40m seems high for a 21 year-old with only 2 full seasons of Premier League football under his belt, but the longevity he would bring and the fact he would be kept out of the clutches of various other rivals would be a massive plus.
It is well known that Van Gaal would prefer a ball playing centre back next to Smalling and in Stones, a genuine defender would provide a more viable solution than the versatile Daley Blind.
2. Blaise Matuidi, PSG, £25m
The French midfield schemer was scouted by Phil Neville during the 2013/14 season and earmarked for a summer transfer to Old Trafford before David Moyes was sacked. Both energetic and pacey the former Saint-Etienne anchorman would add the legs to the centre of midfield, which Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger do not.
The French international has won numerous honours with PSG and was a key member of the side which reached last seasons Champions League Quarter Finals, eventually being beaten by winners Barcelona. The energetic style of Matuidi has brought glances from all of Europe’s top clubs and the key role he will play for France in this summer’s European Championships will only add to his value.
3. Inaki Williams, Athletic Bilbao, £20m
The 21 year-old Basque born wideman burst onto the scene in La Liga last season with some eye-catching performances for Athletic Bilbao. Played in an attacking right midfield position his pace and creativity has caused problems for numerous defences in both Spain and Europe.
Though still relatively inexperienced, his pace, guile and determination to succeed would ensure he would be a perfect addition to the club. The right side of United’s attacking midfield and forward play has been too imbalanced all season, with Juan Mata operating in that role. Although Mata is a fine player, he always looks to cut inside and find space in his favoured central areas.
The capture of Williams would provide more balance to the attacking threat and his excitement factor would be a huge hit with the Old Trafford faithful. At such a young age, his best years are certainly ahead of him and along with Anthony Martial would give United two potent attacking threats for years to come.
4. Antoine Griezmann, Atletico Madrid, £35m
The Frenchman first came to prominence at Real Sociedad and gave United problems during two encounters with the side from San Sebastien during the 2013/14 Champions League campaign. Since transferring to Diego Simeone’s Atletico, the forward has improved even further and is now regarding as one of Europe’s finest attacking players.
Still relatively young at 24, Griezmann is approaching the peak of his powers and it would be wise for United to snap him up before Chelsea or PSG do. Played primarily in the wide attacking left position, Griezmann would be a ready made starter and ensure that Memphis Depay is kept on his toes and is pushed into fighting to improve his talents.
Griezmann is exactly the type of player that the United faithful love. His all action attacking style, marauding down the flanks, getting crosses in and getting into the middle to unleash fierce efforts on goal would keep supporters on the edge of their seats. Although likely to be more of a summer deal, Ed Woodward would be wise to keep lines of communication with Atletico open now.
5. Harry Kane, Tottenham, £60m
It could cost up-to £60m to land the Tottenham and England hitman. The lethal striker is after all “one of their own”. With Tottenham submitting ambitious plans to build a new stadium, it is clear the club has ambition, bit just like Arsenal once they had moved to the Emirates, the stadium had to be funded.
The chairman, Daniel Levy, is well-known to sell his biggest stars for the right price. The sales of Michael Carrick and Dimitar Berbatov to United show this. With Manchester United having a reported £150m to spend and with only two recognised first team strikers in the first-team squad, it seems inevitable a large chunk of the budget will be splashed on a goalscorer.
With an impressive 42 club goals in the calendar year of 2015, Kane has proved that he is more than just a one-season wonder. Many have compared Kane’s finishing ability to that of Alan Shearer. However, he appears to be more of a Teddy Sheringham type player, who scores plenty of goals but who’s all-round game contributes to the team and brings others into play.
This work-rate and goalscoring prowess would be a perfect fit for Van Gaal’s Manchester United. The fee could well be worth every penny.