New Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho may have taken over one of the world’s biggest clubs, but the team requires significant work in the transfer market if they are to compete for the Premier League title in 2016-17.
Since the departure of Alex Ferguson in 2013, United have failed to trouble the top three, with finishes of seventh under David Moyes and then fourth and fifth during Louis van Gaal’s tenure failing to inspire the Old Trafford support.
Despite this, the pressure will be on Mourinho – a three-time Premier League winner with Chelsea – to immediately challenge for the title with United.
If he is to do this, an urgent revamp is required. Here, we assess the main areas of need for United’s squad.
Even though he was sent off in a poor FA Cup final performance, Chris Smalling has established himself as a permanent member of United’s central defence.
The versatile Daley Blind was largely solid filling in alongside him throughout 2015-16, but the club needs a top-class and more natural partner for Smalling if they are to challenge.
Options are limited behind Smalling and Blind as Phil Jones has had repeated injury issues and Marcos Rojo is better suited to playing at left-back.
United unsuccessfully targeted Sergio Ramos prior to last season and will hope to fare better with the top defenders who may be on the market ahead of 2016-17.
Mourinho worked with Raphael Varane at Real Madrid, while he also coveted Everton’s John Stones during his time with Chelsea. Marquinhos has expressed a desire to play more regular first-team football, and whether that comes at Paris Saint-Germain or elsewhere is to be decided.
More experienced options are Inter defender Miranda and Zenit’s Ezequiel Garay.
United are still looking for the ideal combination in the middle of the pitch. Stalwart Michael Carrick is now 34 and out of contract at the end of June, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s first season at the club was heavily affected by injury and Morgan Schneiderlin did not have the type of impact he would have hoped following his move from Southampton.
Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, meanwhile, have been regularly deployed in more advanced positions.
Two Portugal internationals could be among Mourinho’s targets to improve the area.
Andre Gomes, 22, has only spent one season at Valencia and could be well suited to a defensive midfield role, while Sporting CP’s 23-year-old Joao Mario represents a more creative option.
United have a number of options to fill the three positions behind a central striker, but are yet to find the perfect match.
The impressive Anthony Martial has performed best on the left wing, while captain Wayne Rooney will remain a crucial figure. Juan Mata played in every league game this season, but would be right to have concerns over his future after Mourinho sold him at Chelsea.
Jesse Lingard capped a good campaign with a magnificent FA Cup final winner, but Memphis Depay endured a miserable first season after signing from PSV.
United need another injection of pace or creative quality to complement the players already involved. Southampton’s Sadio Mane is a player who has previously interested them, while Sporting’s Andre Carrillo has been cited as an option.
Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez could be a top-tier name on the summer transfer market after he was marginalised in his second season at Santiago Bernabeu.
With Rooney transitioning to a deeper role and Martial most at home on the left, a proven number nine is likely to be on Mourinho’s shopping list.
Marcus Rashford has been a revelation since making his first-team breakthrough in February, but at 18 he cannot be solely relied upon.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – out of contract after four glorious seasons at PSG – could be the answer if he wishes to continue playing at the top level and landing the in-demand forward would be a huge statement signing from Mourinho.
If the Sweden international, 34, moves elsewhere, Karim Benzema is a forward United have targeted before and one who has played under The Special One.
Alvaro Morata is reportedly available to the highest bidder if Real Madrid activate their buyback clause from Juventus, while Inter captain Mauro Icardi is a proven goalscorer who, like Morata, is just 23.
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