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There were two major things that Manchester United needed to do during the summer of 2016. Firstly, decide who would be in the dugout going forward- whether it was Louis Van Gaal, Ryan Giggs, or Jose Mourinho.
Once that was sorted, the second was transfer targets- to improve the squad in a number of key positions.
Most United and non-United fans believe that the squad needs three positions of key improvement – CB, CM, and ST- quite shocking actually that the entire spine of the team needs reinforcement if the club wants to return to its former glories.
Let’s go through these positions one-by-one.
CB: Kostas Manolas
While Chris Smalling has come on leaps and bounds during a breakout season where he led from the front (and avoided injuries), the second CB position is still yet to be determined. Daley Blind for all his technical superiority and his uncanny game awareness is no match for a top physical striker, and has been caught out on occasion.
What United need is a no-nonsense, physical defender akin to what Nemanja Vidic was. While Ferdinand was replaced with Smalling, Vidic is still to be replaced. One answer might be Kostas Manolas, the Roma and Greece defender. On first glance, he looks like an old-school bruiser- tall, strong, and definitely not shy of putting in a hard challenge (as Morata has found out in the past).
However, he manages to combine this with a particular grace- his passing is more than decent, normally preferring to lay the ball of short instead of pinging balls over the top or across the field.
Manolas might take some time to settle into the Premier League, but has a proven track record at the top level, and without Champions League to offer for Man United, is a realistic transfer target for the club.
CM: Joao Moutinho
It looks like United have a plethora of options available in the centre of the park with Schneiderlin, Fellaini, Herrera, Rooney, Carrick, and Schweinsteiger. However with questions over Carrick/Schweinsteiger’s future, constant doubts over Fellaini’s suitability for a club like United, and Rooney recently dropping deeper, the need for a CM becomes clearer.
It is important to note that United do not need any CM- rather, they need a specific type. A CM to control the tempo of the game- a long-term replacement for Carrick who can pick the ball up from deep, spread it wide, play it short, and dictate the tempo of matches. Joao Mario seems to fit the bill, and has recently refused to deny rumours he was in contact with Jose Mourinho.
The Sporting midfielder has had a great season, contributing both goals and assists, but more than anything it is his poise and talent that sets him apart. His control and distribution was excellent this season, and a strong work-rate endears him to the fans.
Having recently been called up to the Portugal squad for the Euros, United fans will be hoping this deal is done before he performs on the big stage and attracts more interest.
Yes, that’s right: the one and only, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
This would be the dream signing for Manchester United fans- a striker capable of the sublime, a player rival fans would love to hate, and that would give a huge boost to the squad.
It makes sense on the outside – a player who deserves to play in the Premier League, who Mourinho loves and gets along with, and a player who starlets like Rashford and Martial would learn so much from and benefit from in the future.
Ibrahimovic has also played up talk about United, but it remains to be seen whether this transfer will materialise. One thing is for sure – United fans will definitely buy into the Ibrahimovic hype.
Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar
Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24
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