After a poor start to the 2021/22 season, Manchester United already risk falling too far behind to rekindle any hope of salvaging some kind of success this year. United are quite frankly stuck in a woeful run of form, exacerbated by the toothless performance against Leicester City last weekend.
Confidence in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is purportedly retained by board members at the least, but the tide has now mostly shifted in terms of supporters. United seriously risk imploding further if results don’t improve or a long-term solution isn’t found soon, the pressing need for some changes more evident than ever.
One thing that is abundantly clear is that United need to take advantage of the upcoming January transfer window. Traditionally it’s a rarity for United to buy in this window, however this year with the way the season is panning out there is a growing body of evidence to suggest United really need to both buy and sell this upcoming January.
Reports of discontent in regard to Donny van de Beek and the lack of game time afforded to Jesse Lingard means it would be detrimental to both club and player to not look for potential buyers, United could really do with the funds so that they can afford to reinvest over January.
It’s still highly unlikely United will spend a huge sum of money in January, however a player in the region of £30-50 million is attainable but most likely on the provision that someone from the club is sold for a decent fee. When clubs lay out the transfer budget for the season most teams don’t factor in the January Window, changes to the squad mid-season can be disruptive in nature.
However, when injury strikes, or a season doesn’t pan out the way it was intended to, this normally barren and stable period can turn into a frenzy, especially if the need for a new player is glaringly obvious. In United’s case it is.
Let’s take a look at some potential January incomings and outgoings, while also assessing the likelihood of a transfer materialising:
Naturally we’ll start with one of the most talked about and rumoured transfers over the last few months, Franck Kessié is a central defensive midfielder currently playing his trade at Italian giants AC Milan. The Ivorian is only 24 years of age and possesses bags of ability for a player at such an early stage in their career.
United experienced first-hand how much of a controlling presence the midfielder can have, Kessié played both legs in last season’s Europa League clash between Milan and United. This is exactly the type of player that could inject some much-needed energy and presence back into United’s midfield. The highly rated prospect is out of contract with Milan next year, and with rumours swirling around that Kessié demands higher wages that Milan can afford to pay, it is likely he may be on the move in January or at the very least summer 2022.
Additionally, Kessié has actually previously expressed desire to play for United one day, make of that what you will…
Moving onto the other team in Milan, Inter’s Marcelo Brozovic is also out of contract next summer and potentially seeking a move away from the San Siro. The Croatian midfielder is also more of a defensive option and offers a wealth of experience, sitting at 28 years of age with over 60 caps for Croatia means that if United were to opt for his signing it would add an influential presence alongside existing midfielders.
Brozovic is an excellent playmaker from deep, occupying the space just in front of the two centre-backs. With a brilliant passing range he is often able to bypass other team’s press with calming authority, something United could really use. Additionally, off the ball the Croatian is competent, content to read the game and sit back while stifling spaces and cutting off passing lanes.
Signing Brozovic would only be a positive for United, adding him in January could genuinely change the club’s fortunes for the season dramatically, however there are a number of other teams sniffing around for his signature- including Liverpool and Barcelona.
Aurélien Tchouaméni is another player that has recently been linked with United frequently, it would seem with good reason too. Tchouaméni is just 21 years of age, making him a very raw talent. Playing in central midfield, primarily as a defensive midfielder, the youngster has massively impressed to draw the attention of top clubs.
Tchouaméni is a great ball winning player and also possesses the asset of being able to progress the ball, whether that be from driving forward with pace or picking the right forward pass. The Frenchman has already got international caps and recently played alongside Paul Pogba, the two working effectively together in midfield.
If United want to look for a player with a high ceiling of potential that they can subsequently mould into what they see fit then this is a good option, with the benefit of existing connections to Pogba.
United’s interest in Kieran Trippier is well documented at this point and the England full-back has reportedly been open to a move since the summer. Trippier became only the fourth Englishmen to win La Liga last year with Atletico Madrid, a triumphant reward for what was an unorthodox move for an English player.
Despite being 31, the right-back is able to motor up and down the flank and is a bit of a set piece specialist, United may be keen to find someone of Tripper’s ilk in order to provide pinpoint crosses for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Additionally, the acquisition of Trippier would relieve pressure on Aaron Wan Bissaka but the prospect of Atletico letting a first team player leave this January is fairly low, so this deal may be difficult to do.
Donny van de Beek
It’s no secret that Donny van de Beek has grown increasingly frustrated with his role at United, or lack of one for that matter. Van de Beek has only featured three times for United so far this season, playing the full 90 only once in the Carabao Cup defeat against
This lack of game time combined with murmurings of unfulfilled promises from Solskjaer mean that it’s almost certain the Dutchman will seek to move to pastures new this January. If a move does materialise then United can expect to pocket at least £25 million for the talented midfielder, who was originally signed from Ajax for £35.7 million.
The rollercoaster ride for Jesse Lingard has been nothing short of incredible, from being scapegoated as not good enough at United, suffering with personal issues and then blossoming at West Ham United on a loan move last season, Lingard has experienced it all in the last 18 months.
The 28-year-old actually became one of the best attacking players in the league after switching to West Ham on loan last season, enjoying a scintillating run of form that many thought would lead to a permanent switch to London.
However, when the summer window closed this year, Lingard remained, despite being touted as worth around £35 million pounds amid interest from West Ham and others. Lingard has scored for United already this season and enjoyed some positive moments but if the England international is to play regularly he will have to seek football elsewhere.
If United do manage to sell Lingard in the January window, then they will gain a significant sum that should be used to reinvest in the midfield straight away.
Anthony Martial has struggled over the least year or so to really establish himself as a reliable Manchester United forward. Switching between a striker role and occupying the left flank, the Frenchman hasn’t seemed his once cool and deadly self. With the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho it is going to be increasingly difficult for Martial to get any sort of game time at United, meaning a move will likely be his best option.
Despite this, it would be a huge surprise if Solskjaer greenlights a departure in January for the forward as he won’t want to lose too many players if Lingard and Van de Beek end up leaving.
Overall, I expect United to be active in the upcoming January transfer window, with at least one player leaving the club on either a permanent basis or a loan deal. United need to bring in a midfielder but they will need the funds in order to do so, which is why the sale of one player on a permanent basis will be a key factor in this whole process.
The lack of quality in the midfield currently is evident and Solskjaer doesn’t have the correct profile of player to remedy the issue at the moment it would seem, so bringing in one of the targets listed above would be a massive boost for the overall balance in general.
If United are successful in acquiring a defensive midfield target, then there’s no reason why the second half of the season can’t be fruitful with some silverware, but as always, only time will tell.
Written by Sam Wilson