The remaining two months of the 2017-18 season will be critical for Manchester United and play a key role in how Jose Mourinho’s efforts to progress the club back to former glories are perceived.
Should the Old Trafford outfit finish second in the Premier League and win the FA Cup, the Red Devils supporters will surely be content with a campaign that has delivered improvement.
However, should United fail to pick up any silverware and potentially be overtaken by Liverpool or Tottenham in the race to finish as runners up in the league, questions will be asked about Mourinho’s ability to lead the club back to the game’s highest echelons.
One thing that has stuck in the throat of the Red Devils fans is the lack of excitement at Old Trafford, with the current side functional and practical – but rarely exhilarating.
As such, with the summer transfer window around the corner, United will have one eye on potential recruits ahead of next season.
One area that Mourinho and the club hierarchy may be tempted to strengthen is at right-back, where Antonio Valencia is currently a mainstay.
The Ecuador international is one of the most-consistent and trusted players at United and the South American should be applauded for his ability to adapt from playing as a winger to now consistently excelling in defence.
However, with Valencia turning 33 in the summer, the club will need to think about players that can replace him in the long run.
One man that looks like an ideal fit is seemingly available and won’t play Champions League football next season with his current club is Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin.
The Spanish full-back has risen to prominence since swapping Barcelona’s La Masia youth system for North London, with the 23-year-old a blistering talent when fit and on form.
Bellerin was irrepressible when he first broke into the Arsenal starting XI back in 2014 and there was an argument that the Spaniard could be identified as one of the best players in his position in the Premier League.
However, with the Gunners struggling over the last two seasons in particular, the defender’s individual form has also stagnated and there has been speculation over his future.
The Guardian suggested earlier this year that Bellerin will look for a new challenge this summer, with Juventus linked with the forward-thinking right-back.
Should Arsenal be willing to entertain allowing the Spaniard to leave the Emirates Stadium this summer, United should be one of the suitors vying for his signature.
Bellerin’s style of play is not dissimilar to Valencia’s, with both players starting their careers as wingers before moving deeper.
The Arsenal man’s searing pace and constant desire to get into attacking positions would surely win over the United fans and feed into the Old Trafford club’s tradition of playing front-foot football.
While the Gunners would be reluctant to see Bellerin leave, the full-back will be contemplating his future given the club’s struggles in recent times.
United have signed players from Arsenal in the recent past, with Alexis Sanchez and Robin van Persie high-profile defectors from the Emirates Stadium to Old Trafford.
Given that the Chilean attacker has been struggling for his best form since moving to the Red Devils, adding a familiar former team-mate such as Bellerin could also play a role in getting the best out of Sanchez.
It may take a number of different variables to fall into place for a deal to happen, but should Bellerin find himself on the move this summer, United would be wise to make an approach for the impressive full-back.
Written by Gareth McKnight
Follow Gareth on Twitter @90MinsOnline
Check out his fantastic website, Ninety Minutes Online
Like O-Posts on Facebook
You can also follow O-Posts on Twitter @OPosts