Finding a balance – approaching the summer transfer window

A lot has been written about David Moyes, tactics, transfer rumors, veteran players, club staff and similar lately. I want to take a step forward and look at the summer ahead of us. This post will include two categories of transfers we could be looking at, the topic of building a core and the promotion of youth team players into the first team.

Premises

In doing this, I have to set some premises. The post would be way too long and include way too many variables if I were to include all the aspects mentioned above in the intro. My premises are as follows; I expect players like Macheda, Anderson, Vidic (this one is confirmed), Ferdinand, Giggs, Lindegaard, Chicharito and one of Young, Valencia or Kagawa to play for other clubs or retire before next season. This is massive, but likely. This should have us at 8 players going out of the squad. Minimum.

Another premise is that I expect us to take a somewhat healthy approach to rebuilding. This means that we will balance new signings with youth players, our current core of young and talented players and a few of the veteran players at the club. This is a significant premise in the way that it seperates us from the clubs we can not, and should not compete with in terms of transfer policy (City, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Monaco, PSG). We need to follow a more healthy approach as we can not spend £200 mill every other season.

Building a core

Building a new core in the team is going to be one of the greatest challenges of the manager in the summer and season to come. First of all, the World Cup comes at a very inconvenient point for us. Players will most likely get extended holidays and the pre-season tour is going to be dominated by players who got knocked out of the WC early and young prospects ready to play for a spot in the team. This is both very unfortunate for setting the tone for a new season, but great for young players who can improve and knock on the door to the first team or gain great loan deals in the seasons to come. Two examples could be Lingard (Birmingham) and Januzaj (important first team member this season). Others have the potential to do the same.

For me, this means that the manager has to get a majority of his business done early. Summer tournaments tend to bump the value of players, and we should look to avoid that. Also, signing players up before they become contested, evident in the Chicharito-case in 2010 is definately the way to go for us. It will calm fans, current players and new players going into a new season. It will also let us reduce the amount of situations where other clubs outbid us for the players we want, which tends to happen towards the end of transfer windows.

As for core building itself, Ferguson has been a master of this. If Moyes is the manager next season, he has decent credentials in doing the same over and over for the Merseyside club. We already look decent in that we have a young, amazing goalkeeper. We also have 3 relatively young, talented centrebacks, a young right back and some talented young attackers. We do not have midfielders to build the team around, and this is probably the main challenge in building for the future. We also need a young left-back to challenge Evra or to replace him. Both of paramount importance.
Promoting youth players

One obvious way to  renew the core of the team is to promote young players that are good enough to “more than carry their own weight”. Jones has done it this season, Januzaj the same. Looking at our current club roster, a few names points themselves out as candidates for next season. Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell, Michael Keane, Angelo Henriquez, Will Keane, Wilfried Zaha and Guillermo Varela are some of the players that have looked ready for more chances and responsibility at a higher level. Now, as we are rumored to invest a lot in new players this summer, it is unlikely that all of the players mentioned above will be given chances at the first team. Most likely, half of them will be loaned out to Premier League teams or top-half Championship teams. This is fine too. But some of them needs to be included with the first team next season. Could Michael Keane fill the role Rio Ferdinand has had this season? Looking at how well he has done on loan, for the reserves and when given a chance with the first team – yes. He most definately could be our backup centreback with a chance to get a lot of playtime whenever our starting defenders need rotating or picks up injuries. Jesse Lingard has shown himself as a possible star player in pre-season and on loan this season. Jesse is lethal infront of goal, quick, technically gifted, loves combination-play and works hard. He could very well play in cup games, be an impact player off the bench and fight for playtime with the first team. I also see Nick Powell as a rising star. A lot of praise has been sent in the direction of Evertons’ Ross Barkley this season. I rate Powell similarly. He looks fantastic going forward, knows how to tackle and has that goal scoring quality which is rare in young players. The way he has been a key player for Wigan this season proves that he knows how to adapt quickly, plays in several position and has the right talent and motivation to make it with us. He needs playtime next season, and should be tried out in several different positions. As for the other players in the list, it gets harder. It all depends on who and what we sign in the summer. There is no need to have both Henriquez and W. Keane on the bench if we also have Welbeck, Rooney and Van Persie. One or both of them will have to be loaned out if that is the case.

Looking even further than that, players like Mitchell, Rothwell, Goss, Pearson, A. Pereira, J. Pereira, Sam Johnstone, Redmond and a few others look fantastic on a youth level and could be looking to get cup games next season. Things are looking very good in terms of promoting from our own ranks, and the importance of how the manager will tackle this challenge will be very interesting to follow in the next couple of seasons.

Transfers for the future

A lot of young players have the potential to play for Man United. Many of them find themselves in clubs like Ajax, PSV, Sporting CP and in the Belgian league. One can never dismiss Brazil and Argentina when it comes to young players either. Dropping names here does not really provide any helpful speculation as we have no idea. As Nick Powell was picked up from Crewe Alexandra, I was extatic – but also surprised. Nobody could have foreseen such a transfer, and neither will we be able to do it in the summer to come. There is no doubt we will be looking at players that fit this category though, as many rate as the most important transfers to make. Januzaj is a great example of that.

Immediate impact

This is where myself and many others feel that the club has slacked off in recent years and needs to step it up in the summer. As written about above, we have a lot of talented players that we can phase into the first team or involve in games we are 3-0 up, playing against League 2 teams or similar. Mata and Fellaini are supposed to fit this category, and hopefully they will. Many will argue that Mata already has made an impact with decent stats since changing from blue to red. I would agree with that. Fellaini picked up an injury early after coming here, but has looked among our better players since returning from injury some weeks back. Going into the summer, with the premise that we will lose the players mentioned in the premise-paragraph, we need to replace quite a few players. We will need ourselves top players to raise the quality of the squad. I recently had a discussion with a fan who, with convincing arguments, showed me how both Southampton and Tottenham have better depth and quality in midfield than us. This is concerning and we should look to sign. A new centre back in seems to be on many fans’ lips as Vidic is ready for Inter and Ferdinand looks old. A new central, creative midfielder that provides a goal threat is also a popular opinion for what people want Man United to bring in.

Now, the regular rumors coming our way include: Ezekiel Garay, Ilkay Gundogan, Adam Lallana, William Carvalho, Toni Kroos, Luke Shaw, Elaquim Mangala, Paul Pogba and Mats Hummels. I will offer a few other players that I feel we should be looking at in the summer.

Nicolas N’Koulou

Is a 23 year old Cameroonian centre-back playing for Marseille. He is (only) 6’0, and a powerplug. Those are 80 kilos of muscles right there. He is great on the ground, is good at passing has a good attitude. He has been perhaps the best player for Marseille this season and could be looking for a move to the Premier League. He would fit very well in our defense and still has years to improve. As a transfer target, he is most likely cheaper than some of the big names (Subotic, Hummels, Benatia), and we could be looking at bringing him in as a contender for a CB spot next season.

Stefan de Vrij

We could also be looking at Feyenoord defender de Vrij, who is a 22 year old focused, tall centre-back who is great on the ground. Fantastic tackler, good leadership qualities, good passer. We have had great experiences with players from the Eresdivisie before, and this guy would fit right into a young, ambitious team. He might not be as good as Evans, Jones or Smalling yet, but has a couple of years on both Evans and Smalling, and would provide much needed depth in the squad.

Ivan Rakitic

A 26-year old phenomena in the Sevilla midfield. A fantastic player on the ball and one of the best players in the Spanish league this season. Whoscored.com has him on an average rating of 7.77 , which grants him a 3rd place on average ratings on whoscoreds’ La Liga-list, only behind Messi and Ronaldo. As a player, he has a fantastic set-piece ability, a great passing range, a good long shot, is able to control the flow of the game with movement and passing and a hard working attitude. Sevilla is a club without a lot of money in the bank, and will have to sell if we go in for him. He can play as a deeplying playmaker, a box-to-box midfielder with an emphasis on going forward or as a pure attacking midfielder. He shines when he gets to see a lot of the ball and is allowed to control the flow of the game, which many would argue is exactly what Man United are lacking in midfield.

Dani Parejo

Real Madrid-reject thriving in Valencia? We’ve seen it before and it is happening once again. Dani Parejo has had a very convincing season in Valencias midfield. He is fantastic on the ball, has a good passing range, good at tackling, hits lethal through-balls and knows how to dribble. He would be a slightly more dynamic long-term replacement for Carrick if we were to sign him. He turns 25 in April and should be the perfect age to come into the team and claim a spot.

Conclusion

Now, we could go on forever when it comes to transfer rumors, youth prospects within the club and who we should sell. Some people want Vidal, Pogba and Reus in while others are okay as long as we improve our squad. The main point of this article however, is to highlight that no matter who we purchase this summer, and who we promote – it is the combination of those and the success in that process that will determine how well our team is going to look in the years to come. How successfully can we implement players like for example Rakitic, Powell, Michael Keane and Dani Parejo with De Gea, Rafael, Jones, Rooney and Januzaj? This is impossible to foresee. Especially when one considers how much negativity is surrounding the club this season. Still, it should be the grounding for some optimism. We have a lot of good, young players. We have a lot of money to reinforce. We have the possibility to build a fantastic squad. The future will prove whether or not we do this in a successful manner. Like we have done time and time again before. There are no guarantees, but I find comfort in our traditions, potential and economic power. I also choose to remain positive in regards to the rebuilding process. We have a great starting point, and whoever leads the team going forward has a lot of resources to use in his building.

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