As we move past the half way point of the current Premier League campaign, discussion among the Manchester United fanbase has shifted to how United can improve over the summer and kick on to the next level under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still having an impact on the sporting world, there will most likely be a limited transfer budget once again. While there will always be talk of attack minded players joining a club of United’s stature and tradition, with the likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland being linked again recently, there is a more important position to fill at Old Trafford.
The Reds have scored 49 goals in the Premier League this season, the highest so far, which is impressive given the attacking talent and options that are available to the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.
Edinson Cavani has proven to be a shrewd piece of business from United, with his energy and experience proving vital on and off the pitch, while also helping the the likes of Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood on the training ground.
However Solskjaer’s side have also let in 30 league goals this campaign, the most in the top nine. This has led to a few games where what should have been three points for United has become a point or even a defeat.
If United want to fulfil their ambitions of returning to the summit of the English game once again then these costly errors have to be cut out.
David De Gea has been in decline this season which has led to understandable calls that he should be left out for the time being, with Dean Henderson be given a chance between the sticks. It’s also worth noting that De Gea’s form may not be helped by how unstable and unreliable his defenders in front of him have been.
United have looked at their most solid at the back when Eric Bailly has partnered Harry Maguire in central defence, but the Ivorian cannot be relied upon due to his injury prone record and his combative style has only exacerbated that issue.
Victor Lindelof has remained unconvincing when called upon and should be considered a squad player rather than first choice at the club, while Maguire has had a poor campaign so far as questions mounted not only of his quality but his leadership skills as well.
The defence this season has been caught napping on many occasions and have been far too reactive instead of anticipating the danger and snuffing it out. Whether it’s opposition attackers being played onside or failing to compete for that 50/50 in the air, it’s clear to see that United are in need of reinforcements in that area.
Last summer they were linked with RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, who at only 22-years-old is emerging as one of the most talented defenders in Europe. He would be an ideal acquisition as his playmaking sensibilities from the back and decent passing accuracy suit United’s style of play.
Upamecano also has the ability read the game well and recover on the counter and protect the space in behind when playing in a high line. With his release clause down to just €42m this summer after signing a contract extension, United may not get a better opportunity to add the Frenchman to their ranks.
Sergio Ramos should be another name United consider for a more experienced hand, with the Real Madrid captain’s contract running out at the end of this season.
Ramos has been linked with a move to Old Trafford in the past, mainly in 2015 when Louis van Gaal was in charge. It is thought that Ramos used The Reds’ interest in him to leverage a better contract with Real Madrid so it would be understandable if United are reluctant to be led down the garden path again.
If Ramos genuinely does want a different challenge, then it’s an opportunity United can’t afford to waste. To be able to call upon a proven winner and a player that knows how to win ugly doesn’t come around often and could prove invaluable in passing on some of that knowledge and experience in the same way Cavani has done for the likes of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood.
Solskjaer has been in the job for over two years now and while doubts still remain about his overall suitability to the job, the club has made genuine progress this season. Most United fans would have taken a Champions League spot a few months ago, so few would have expected to have been in the conversation about winning the league.
In recent weeks United’s achilles heel at the back has led to them falling away from the likes of Manchester City at the top of the table, meaning that a title win this season may one step too far.
Should they address this issue in the summer then there can be no doubts that United will be up there once again.