The transfers Manchester United need to challenge rivals

Станислав Ведмидь / Wikimedia Commons

It has been a long five seasons for Manchester United fans following the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2013. The Red Devils have hardly challenged for the title since and are onto their fourth manager in five seasons.

Ole Gunnar falters: The introduction of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer offered an early return of form, but the team has struggled since his appointment as permanent manager.

  • United have earned just four points out of a possible in 15 in their last five matches, with the sole win coming via two penalties over West Ham.
  • While their remaining fixtures (Huddersfield and Cardiff City) are easy matchups, United have ground to make up to qualify for the Champions League.
  • Currently three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and one point behind Arsenal, Manchester United are not in a strong position to make the elite European competition.

Criticisms of Manchester United in the past five years have centered around the inflated squad size and large wages of many players. That hasn’t changed over the club’s many managers, and another year of struggles in the league leaves United’s squad in need of a massive overhaul this summer.

Priority No. 1: sell Alexis Sanchez: There’s no way to sugarcoat Alexis Sanchez’s time at Old Trafford since moving from Arsenal. The Chilean forward has scored just five goals in 44 games across all competitions, despite being among the Premier League’s highest-paid players at £315,000 per week. If Manchester United can find any club to take on his massive contract, it will be a win for them.

Hold onto Paul Pogba: The inconsistent but talented midfielder is key to United’s future.

  • When Manchester United signed Paul Pogba for a then-world record £89.3 million in 2016, they certainly didn’t intend to ship him away three years later.
  • While Pogba does boast the third-highest wage bill in the league, he has scored 13 goals and provided nine assists in the Premier League this year, leading the team in both categories.
  • Transfer rumors linking Pogba to Real Madrid might be tempting for the Frechman, but United would hardly be following a winning strategy if they sell one of their top players.

Clear out old defenders: Manchester United have lacked a dominant defender for years. Instead, they have accumulated a number old, average defenders who could be moved on from.

  • Chris Smalling: A member of the club since 2011, Smalling has been a key part of United’s defense for years. His ability has fallen off recently and despite signing a December contract extension, United would be wise to move on if they get a fair bid. Given the renewal of Phil Jones’ contract, Smalling becomes more expendable compared to younger options.
  • Ashley Young: Another long-term club player, Young’s best days have passed him even after transitioning from an attacker to a defender. The move lengthened his Old Trafford career for another couple seasons, but the Englishman is set to turn 34 years old over the summer and is not a world class option at left back.
  • Matteo Darmian: The Italian began his United career well, but a combination of injuries and poor form have made him all but an afterthought recently. He appeared in just 17 games last season and is down to seven this year. While he may have been an attempted fix to the team’s left back problem, Darmian is also not a long-term option for the team.

Bring in young talent: After a few reserved transfer windows, United have the cash to overhaul their squad. They just need to find the right players.

  • Raphael Varane: At just 26 years old, Varane has a few years of world class ability left in him, and he has the experience of winning three consecutive Champions Leagues with Real Madrid. A key component of Madrid’s team, it won’t be easy to earn his signature, as his Madrid contract runs until 2022. If United are serious about improving their defense, Varane should be their top target.
  • Ferland Mendy: Signing a French player named Mendy hasn’t worked out well for Manchester City, but that shouldn’t stop United. An exciting 23-year-old left back, Mendy has become a starter for Olympique Lyon and gained important Champions League starts this season. He could be the long-needed fix to the team’s left back problem.

Manchester United and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward will have some tough transfer decisions to make this summer. Aiming to move on from some of their past mistakes should be part of the plan, along with acquiring talented defenders who will stick at the club for years to come.