Manchester United’s Premier League season has been slightly disappointing, though not short of development. Jose Mourinho’s men already look far better than they did last season, despite the fatigue that has plagued the side for a few months now. However, improvements need to be made this summer, and there are plenty of players in Europe who have been linked to United in the reports.
The fatigue United has experienced in recent months is related to deficiencies in squad players to relieve those who have been in the starting side. While United’s main players have generally performed very well, particularly the ones signed by Mourinho in the summer, the players behind them have been very poor. Thus, many people believe the Red Devils will need improvements in almost all key areas of the pitch, be it from youth players, new signings, or players returning from loan.
This year’s Premier League season has been stacked with superb talent from top to bottom, as evidenced by Jermain Defoe being one of the best strikers in the league for Sunderland, a side rooted firmly to the bottom of the table. There are more than a few players in England that United could target to change next season, and here are the best five.
5: Mesut Ozil, Attacking Midfielder, Arsenal
This is undoubtedly the most unrealistic selection on the list, but rumours that Mesut Ozil is unsettled at Arsenal should have Jose Mourinho firmly on alert. Mourinho is a known fan of the diminutive playmaker and vice versa, and while he seems lazy and likely to disappear in the big games, that could change if he is placed alongside United’s plethora of attacking talent that hasn’t yet reached their full potential.
If Ozil was willing to acknowledge that he’d be a mere cog in Jose Mourinho’s system and not play every game, he’d be an asset to United’s squad, or any in world football. Able to score goals, provide assists, and make key contributions in midfield or as a second striker, Ozil would be a superb player for United, and the fans would love him and the exasperation Arsenal fans would have from his move.
Moving to Arsenal for £42.5 million in 2014, Ozil is probably worth less than he was then as his stock has fallen and he will be 29 this year. Considering the £27 million United paid for Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer with one year remaining on his contract, Ozil is probably not worth much at all, besides the fact that he’ll come from a league rival.
Estimated Value: £35 million
4: Alexis Sanchez, Forward, Arsenal
Continuing the potential raid of Arsenal is Alexis Sanchez, who has undoubtedly been thrown off by the underperformance of his teammates and lack of ambition from his football club. Almost certain to leave this summer, and reportedly attracting interest from Chelsea, United could do very well to get their hands on arguably the best footballer in the Premier League.
Sanchez will also be 29 this season, but his value has only risen since his £31.7 million move to Arsenal, as he reached the next level under Arsene Wenger. However, he is worth every penny, as he can produce his best football in any fixture, can play in any position across the front line, and gets through intense amounts of work rate. If available, United must move water and earth to get him to join, particularly as a second striker alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Estimated Value: £45 million
3: Romelu Lukaku, Forward, Everton
Lukaku’s phenomenal form for Everton this season, that has seen him at the top of the Premier League scoring charts by just a few goals, has seen United fans touting him as the natural successor to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, perhaps joining Manchester United with skipper Wayne Rooney heading in the other direction. One thing is for certain- with Lukaku and Rashford, United would probably be sorted for strikers for the next decade, if not longer.
However, it would be foolish to suggest Lukaku is anything near the complete player- which people seem to believe based on his goal tally. The Everton striker still needs to develop his skills in possession and on the counter, and while his finishing is nothing short of spectacular, the fickler side of United’s fanbase won’t get what they are expecting from Lukaku.
His slight disciplinary issues, as shown by his bust-ups with Ashley Williams at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, should be a red flag, but he’s an accomplished, effective, and ambitious young striker who wants to win the lot. Combine that with the sheer popularity of the player and his relatively young age to the other options on this list, and his potential transfer fee could prove to be a mere afterthought.
Estimated Value: £60 million
2: Gylfi Sigurdsson, Attacking Midfielder, Swansea
Looking at the central attacking midfield options in the Premier League this season, it would be foolish to suggest that Gylfi Sigurdsson hasn’t been the cream of the crop this season. Involvement in more than half of Swansea’s goals this season, after a phenomenal Euro 2016 campaign with Iceland, should ensure that he finds a better club in the summer, particularly if Swansea gets relegated.
The 27-year-old is an attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, works extremely hard and is superb in the defensive side of the game. This side of his game saw him play as a central midfielder in Iceland’s 4-4-2 formation, which bodes well for a United side that needs squad depth in midfield and is managed by the defensively staunch Jose Mourinho.
He can consider himself unbelievably unlucky that he didn’t earn the nomination for PFA player of the year this season because he’s had a belting campaign at the heart of a Swansea side that is gasping for life. Likely happy to play a squad role for a big club and step up in the biggest of fixtures, while having the unbelievable quality to make an impact, Sigurdsson is exactly the type of player United should be looking to sign this summer, as opposed to the glamorous names.
Estimated Value: £20 million
1: Virgil Van Dijk, Defender, Southampton
The only possible transfer to beat Sigurdsson is Virgil Van Dijk, a player who has everything needed to play for Manchester United. Stepping up to Southampton after being lauded as the next great defender at Celtic, Van Dijk seamlessly transitioned into the tough Premier League and immediately emerged as one of the best defenders in the league.
Van Dijk’s aggression, towering height, and ability to play the ball out of the back make him the perfect partner for Eric Bailly, and his ability to step up to higher levels of difficulty will ensure he becomes a staple at the back. He’s only 25 years of age and could be part of the side for the next ten years.
Van Dijk will be the perfect partner for Bailly, Rojo, Phil Jones, or even Daley Blind, and could be at the club for the next decade, so what’s Jose Mourinho waiting for? There will be many clubs lining up to pay ridiculous amounts for Van Dijk, and rightfully so because he’s a superb defender with as many tools in his shed as any defender on the planet.
Estimated Value: £35 million