Following a miraculous start to the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, Manchester United has been brought back down to earth after suffering consecutive losses at the hands of Arsenal and Wolves. The Red Devils consequently dropped below the Premier League’s top four places and crashed out of the FA Cup; two timely reminders that the club still has some ways to go in its rebuilding process. United’s need for summer reinforcements has been evident all season, but was especially noticeable in the contrasting substitutions prepared by both Manchester clubs when each found itself down 2-0 at the weekend. To recover from this situation, City introduced superstars Sergio Aguero and David Silva, while Manchester United brought on Juan Mata and Scott McTominay. Although recent injuries have led to the debuts of promising homegrown starlets for United—truly a major positive—, they also made it clear that the club’s title rivals are in a different class when it comes to depth in every position.
United have been linked with a host of talented players to close this gap in quality. Borussia Dortmund right winger Jadon Sancho, Napoli center back Kalidou Koulibaly, and Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele are three of the most frequent names in circulation, and rightly so. United have lacked a true right-sided attacker since the departure of Angel Di Maria—a player deemed a huge flop after spending much of his time at Old Trafford playing out of position—and Sancho has been sensational playing there for Dortmund. Defense has also been a problem area for United, as was so publicly identified by Mourinho. Even with the emergence of Victor Lindelof, the forms of Bailly and Smalling, combined with the amount of time Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have spent on the treatment table, are causes for worry. Additionally, the impact Virgil Van Dijk has had at Liverpool is a serious indication of the difference a commanding center back can make, and it is viable to believe Koulibaly would be a similar revelation for United. Lastly, United seem to have settled on its strongest midfield trio—Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, and Ander Herrera—yet, when any one of them is forced out of the team—be it by injury, suspension, or rest—the level of his replacement is significantly beneath that of the first-choice player. Tanguy Ndombele has shone against Manchester City and Barcelona in the Champions League this season, and would be a seismic upgrade on United’s current lot. The issue, however, is that each of these three players—Sancho, Koulibaly, and Ndombele—would likely require fees in the region of £100 million. Moreover, Koulibaly appears to be settled at Napoli, and Ndombele is expected to be the subject of a bidding war between many top clubs. It is unrealistic to expect a club, even of Manchester United’s stature, to spend £300 million in one window, and it is difficult to see United successfully prizing all three away from their current clubs. As such, United must prioritize the signing of Jadon Sancho, and switch defensive and midfield targets to Toby Alderweireld, Kostas Manolas, and Adrien Rabiot.
Jadon Sancho is the perfect signing for Manchester United. Aside from young Tahith Chong, United have zero right wingers in the first team squad. Sancho would address this long-standing issue and complete the United attack. He has already established chemistry with Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard from their time together in the Three Lions’ camp, and having left Manchester City due to a lack of playing time, he has extra motivation to succeed in the Premier League. At only 18 years old, the prospect of Sancho forming a front three with 23 year-old Anthony Martial and 21 year-old Marcus Rashford would set up Manchester United to dominate for nearly a decade.
In order to afford Jadon Sancho and fill other weak points with top quality players, Manchester United should also pursue center backs Toby Alderweireld and Kostas Manolas, and midfielder Adrien Rabiot. Alderweireld was heavily linked to United this past summer, but after much speculation he remained at Spurs. The Belgian has proven himself to be one of the best defenders in the league, and is reported to have a modest £25 million release clause. Similarly, AS Roma’s Kostas Manolas has garnered high praise for his performances in Serie A and the Champions League. He, too, is reported to have a release clause of only £36 million, and would unquestionably enhance United’s back line. Finally, Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot would be the ideal signing to supplement the Manchester United midfield. Rabiot can play in a holding role, and excels at breaking the lines with his range of passing. He would compliment Paul Pogba on the field, and his French nationality should expedite the development of a connection with Pogba and Martial off the field as well. Rabiot’s attitude raises a valid concern, yet his rebellious tendencies are rooted in his frustrations at being perceived as a young star and subsequently receiving little recognition of his ability. A move to Manchester would allow Rabiot to escape the French media and reinvent himself in an unprejudiced environment—with which he is familiar due to his time in the Manchester City academy. His contract expires at the end of this season, and all signs indicate he is not willing to renew, making him available for free. All together, Rabiot, Manolas, and Alderweireld would cost a mere £61 million, and would be welcome additions to the United squad.
Manchester United has seen exponential improvements in its performances and results since appointing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as caretaker manager. Although the club has taken steps in the right direction, imports are still needed this summer, with right wing, center back, and center midfield being particularly key positions. United has been linked with Jadon Sancho, Kalidou Koulibaly, and Tanguy Ndombele, but that group would cost an impractical £300 million. With no right wingers solidified in the first team picture, Jadon Sancho must be a priority, even for £100 million. To ensure that all other areas of interest are properly addressed, too, the club must be savvy in the market. Along with Sancho, signing Toby Alderweireld, Kostas Manolas, and Adrien Rabiot, for a total of £161, is more than realistic, and would be incredibly keen business from Manchester United.