Predicting how Manchester United will line up on the first day of next season is proving more difficult than predicting the winning lottery numbers on Saturday night.
With less than two months until the end of the 2021/22 season, United is preparing for their most successful summer in recent years. After the arrivals of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho, and Cristiano Ronaldo failed to put United in a position to fight for the Premier League title this season, fundamental changes at Old Trafford are required in the coming months, beginning with the hiring of a new permanent manager.
While the appointment of a new leader will be one of many items checked off Richard Arnold’s to-do list, the squad will also require extensive renovation. Many United players have reached the end of their careers, and you can bet that several will say their final farewells in the coming months.
Farewell speeches are already being prepared by players such as Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Edinson Cavani. They all appear ready to go on free transfers, immediately decreasing the club’s pay expenditure.
Other players, such as Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek – whose future may be determined by whether or not Erik ten Hag gets the position – and Anthony Martial, must also move on, both for the sake of their own careers and United’s future aspirations.
While having talented players in reserve is crucial for both competitiveness and squad depth, players like Henderson and Van de Beek, for example, need to go on for the sake of their own careers. They have not received nearly enough credit for their abilities.
Starting with the goalkeeping position, United would have to find a successor for Henderson to provide backup to David de Gea. Given that United’s focus should be to invest in other areas of the squad, adding a goalkeeper on a free transfer should be their best option, which means Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina could be a feasible alternative.
He will be out of contract this summer and has a wealth of experience with him. Signing him would be akin to the contract that saw Sergio Romero serve as De Gea’s understudy for six years.
United requires a new right-back and center-back. Both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot have battled to hold down the right-back position this season, and United might consider selling the former if an offer comes in.
He has not made the desired improvement, and United should offload him even if it means a loss on their investment. Given the need for a modern-day full-back to provide breadth and support in the final third, United may want to consider signing Denzel Dumfries from Inter Milan.
He’d have to charge a transfer fee, but the rewards may be worth their weight in gold. United have struggled at right-back for much of the season, and the Dutchman would be a significant improvement.
With Jones and Bailly certain to depart, United will need to add at least one new face to their ranks at center-back. Antonio Rudiger has been linked with a move to Manchester United in recent months, and the idea of landing him on a free transfer should entice the Red Devils.
The most significant improvements must be made in midfield. United requires a defensive midfielder, possibly two, and West Ham United’s Declan Rice remains at the top of their want list. The Hammers’ financial demands will determine whether or not this trade goes through, but United should push as hard as they can to get it done if the price is right.
Rice will greatly strengthen United’s holding midfield options, and his arrival will be met with acclaim from the fans. On the surface, a second-holding midfielder should be brought in, and United should look no further than Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara, who will be available on a free transfer in a few months.
As interim manager Ralf Rangnick has stated, United must find a fresh, younger striker this summer to be the face of their forward line for years to come. The possibility of signing Erling Haaland is already over, which means United will have to hunt elsewhere for their new main man.
It is difficult to determine who United could turn to, especially given the high expense of top-level, seasoned goal scorers, but they could do far worse than direct their attentions to Alexander Isak. He has a lot of promise and is on his way to becoming a star.
He has performed admirably in Spain since joining Real Sociedad from Borussia Dortmund, and he has a bright future ahead of him. However, at the age of 22, he would suit United’s description of what they are looking for.
United’s ideal 25-man roster for the upcoming season:
De Gea, Ospina, and Heaton are the goalkeepers.
Dumfries, Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Rudiger, Shaw, Telles, and Williams are the defenders.
Rice, Kamara, McTominay, Garner, Hannibal, Fred, and Fernandes are the midfielders.
Sancho, Elanga, Rashford, Amad, Ronaldo, and Isak are the attackers.