Manchester United’s tumultuous campaign has, in many respects, been due to the lack of consistency displayed by United’s midfielders. Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba have been consistently excellent, and have done everything expected of a United midfielder this season. However, Michael Carrick has struggled with the amount of football he’s had to play, Marouane Fellaini has proven he isn’t a central midfielder, and Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin both left the club over the course of the season.
For the fifth consecutive summer, then, United seems set to target another midfielder to solve the mass of issues that have plagued this club in the centre of the park since the turn of the decade. The Bundesliga is one of the best places in the world for up and coming young talent, particularly midfielders, and United could splash the cash for a defensive midfielder from Germany with the hope of changing their fortunes. Here are the five best that could be available this summer.
5: Johannes Geis, Schalke
If Manchester United is looking to pick up a midfielder under the radar, the best option may be Johannes Geis, a simple player at Schalke with a special knack for set-pieces. Geis, a player who is best when sitting at the base of a midfield unit, can create ridiculous chances with his tendency to move the ball forward quickly. He loses the ball often, but has solid proficiency winning it back, and ultimately benefits the team as a result.
Averaging 2.4 key passes per game, Geis clearly has a knack for creating serious chances, and his set-piece ability has been compared to David Beckham since he was at Mainz. Geis’ low passing accuracy could be improved and sees him incomparable to Michael Carrick, but alongside the sheer accuracy of Ander Herrera’s passing, he could complement the Spaniard quite well.
Estimated Value: £20 million
4: Leon Goretzka, Schalke
One of Schalke’s many fantastic youth products, Goretzka narrowly missed out on Germany’s World Cup squad in 2014, despite being ridiculously young. Able to play in central midfield, further forward, and from the right, Goretzka is known for his strong defensive commitment and ability to strike the ball from range.
Defensively, Goretzka averages 2.2 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, which is indicative of his ability to track back. Moving forward, his 1.2 key passes per 90 minutes state his intentions without his five goals from 25 Bundesliga starts this season. Perhaps his possession play, which sees him only retain the ball 78% of the time, is lacking, but those developments would ensure that the 22-year-old becomes a world-class midfielder at Manchester United.
Estimated Value: £25 million
3: Naby Keita, RB Leipzig
Naby Keita’s remarkable rise to prominence, that has seen his value skyrocket over the course of this season, has seen him draw comparisons to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante. The mobile, diminutive midfielder is very comparable to Kante, except he is phenomenal moving forward, and this difference has seen him heralded as one of the best up and coming midfielders in world football.
The 22-year-old, who plies his trade as a defensive midfielder, has eight goals and seven assists in 24 Bundesliga starts this season- just think about that sentence for a second. Defensively, he puts in a shift, averaging 2.3 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game, and moving forward, he averages 2.8 dribbles per match. Those statistics are unbelievable and mark an absolute world-class prospect.
The only red flag with Keita would be the fact that he plays for RB Leipzig, a side with no need to sell their best players, and with players who have all performed superbly despite being unheard of before this season. It’s unclear to see whether or not Keita would be worth the ridiculous sum United would have to shell out for him, so it may be better to see what he can do for Leipzig next year.
Estimated Value: £40 million
2: Renato Sanches, Midfielder, Bayern Munich
Jose Mourinho has reportedly expressed his interest in his teenaged compatriot, Renato Sanches, a player who hasn’t been offered a chance at Bayern Munich after being heralded as one of the best young talents in world football at Benfica and during Euro 2016. Sanches’ performances, which played a key part in Portugal’s surprise triumph on the continental stage, only came after his move to Bayern Munich was confirmed- that shows the quality he showed last season.
The central midfielder, who is just 19, possesses a great eye for goal, fantastic work rate both on and off the ball, a level of creativity that surpasses his age, and superb retention of the ball. He would slot straight into United’s midfield alongside Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera, earn enough game time to relieve them and win the hearts of United fans. Perhaps he’s been promised more at Bayern Munich with Xabi Alonso retiring this summer, but if he’s available, Mourinho will almost certainly snap him up.
Estimated Value: £40 million
1: Julian Weigl, Defensive Midfielder, Borussia Dortmund
Perhaps the least likely to join of all the players on the list, Weigl is by far the most suited to United of any player on this planet. He’s the natural successor to Michael Carrick in every way; not only is he superb at keeping the tempo of play high, he is fantastic at getting passes between the lines, can play further forward, and can win the ball superbly.
Renato Sanches may be younger, Johannes Geis may have more x-factor, and Naby Keita and Leon Goretzka may be more involved in goals, but Weigl is the metronomic presence needed at United for the next era of football. Manchester City was able to prize Ilkay Gundogan away from Dortmund, and Untied did the same with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the money required would be worth it to bring Weigl to Old Trafford and sort Carrick’s replacement for a long while.
Estimated Value: £35 million