Manchester United have certainly had a below-par season this time around. The side went through managerial changes and inconsistent performances from most of their players this season. It is quite hard to look past Cristiano Ronaldo this season in terms of picking Manchester United’s best player. This speaks volumes of the standards that United have displayed. Ronaldo struggled in several games, lacked the ability to track back and yet easily contributed the most to this struggling United side.
Reasons for their downfall go beyond just the skill of the players involved. It must be noted that United have some of the finest talents individually. They acquired Jaden Sancho, Raphaël Varane, and Cristiano Ronaldo in the same window. Unfortunately for United, beyond the style of play and the strategies in games, comes the attitude and desire during games. The United players simply did not seem hungry enough and beyond all, it seems they needed more characters in the dressing room than just skilful players. Of course, there are question marks about certain players and their abilities, which shall be addressed during the course of this article.
However, keeping in mind the overarching picture of United’s story, here are the signings that I believe Manchester United need to make in the summer transfer window:
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One player who will be eyed this summer, particularly in the Premier League, is Rúben Neves. The Wolverhampton Wanderers midfielder certainly could play for any of the top six sides in the league. He occupies that deep-lying midfielder role at times, but more often than not, he operates as a #8. His attacking abilities have not yet surfaced to the maximum due to Wolves being a rather passive side with the ball. However, Neves’ abilities have been spotted by many over the years. His presence in midfield, ability to spray passes, and even hit the ball sweetly from range: he seems like the perfect midfield package. Neves scored four times this season and also provided a couple of assists.
United could do with a player like Neves. Now 25, he has enough experience behind him and would walk straight into this United side. Neves could play beside Scott McTominay or Fred in the United midfield. He’s certainly an upgrade on both players. Not only is he a brilliant player but also a man with the right attitude. Neves works hard for the side, does not moan, and gets about his business quite professionally. In my opinion, Manchester United should also look to bring in a holding midfielder to partner Neves, given their current midfield options are simply not good enough.
United in recent weeks have been linked with Marco Asensio as well. The Spaniard, who made his mark at Real Madrid, did not see much football this season as a starter. Even during the Champions League games, Carlo Ancelotti preferred Federico Valverde on the right-hand side of the front three over him.
Asensio is simply too good a player to be playing from the bench and deserves regular first-team football. Having a left-footed right-sided player is something Manchester United need to explore. After Mason Greenwood’s exit, United sorely missed a left-footed forward. They often deployed Anthony Elanga on the right-hand side, who simply could not match Greenwood’s quality.
Marco Asensio would be nearly perfect for this United side. He could come off the right-hand side and play as a right-winger. United have struggled with wide players off-late and have looked to play Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba at times as wide players. Asensio is an accomplished footballer and is 26 years old now, just about the right age. He scored ten goals in LaLiga and scored one goal in the Champions League this season.
United will most likely be fighting Arsenal for Asensio’s signature. It will be interesting to see where the Spanish winger ends up. The club willing to pay about €40 million should get the signing over the line.
Manchester United should be in the market for a striker as well. Of course, Darwin Núñez is out of the question after his move to Liverpool. What about other strikers in Europe? Victor Osimhen? Probably not, given the amount of money United would have to pay for a player like that and the other bases they need to cover. Cristiano Ronaldo is surely not the man United want to bank on. Although he did perform well last time out, his age and fitness might not let him play every single game of the season. Edinson Cavani has also left the club. This also presents the perfect opportunity for United to think ahead in terms of buying a striker.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin is coming off of an injury-stricken season, where he did not play much. But he could certainly play a crucial role at United. His goal-scoring prowess in the Premier League is well-known. He is athletic, mobile and strong in the air.
Calvert-Lewin scored just five goals this season, but then he only made seventeen appearances. He did hit double digits in the preceding two Premier League campaigns. United should certainly keep an eye for him in this transfer window.