Manchester United’s renaissance under Ole Gunner Solskjaer has highlighted many faults in the tactics of his predecessor, Jose Mourinho; but more than that, it has highlighted the strength of this current crop of United players.
United’s victory against Tottenham last weekend indicated just how penetrative they can be in the front third, and it’s not a stretch to say that with the addition of three quality players in key positions of relative weakness, the Red Devils can very well be mounting a title challenge in the foreseeable future.
Centre-back – Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli)
Centre-back has long been a point of weakness for the red half of Manchester, some fans would argue since the departure of Nemanja Vidic in 2014.
The most recent central-defensive pair of Phil Jones and Victor Lindelof fluctuated between solid and suspect in the game against Spurs, with Lindelof coming out of the game looking like the more secure of the two.
Both Jones and Lindelof, along with United’s other centre-halves Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, appear to lack the leadership and personality to command a defence and intimidate opposition forwards; however, under the tutelage of a more established defender, United can form a central defensive partnership akin to that of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez at Liverpool.
Koulibaly perfectly fits the bill, but United would need to pay over the odds for the services of the Senegalese international.
Koulibaly signed a new deal with Napoli in September of last year, and the side from Naples were wise enough to ensure that the contract had no release clause – so if he were to leave, it would be in their hands.
Manchester United is not a club on a tight budget, but the club has been hoarding players since the reign of David Moyes, and are now left with a few more players than they need, particularly in the centre of midfield.
A potential sale of Marouane Fellaini has been touted in unconfirmed reports, and that could possibly free up some space in the money jar for the services of Koulibaly.
Defensive-midfielder – Abdoulaye Doucoure (Watford)
This one may seem like it’s out of left field, but this would be a smart signing and comparatively speaking, a relatively smart one.
Nemanja Matic is the current occupant of the defensive midfield role and he is not doing a bad job by any means, but he is getting on in age and isn’t able to cover as much ground as he used to and United’s defence is being exposed to more dangerous attacks than is ideal.
Doucoure has been a revelation at Watford, taking out their 2017-18 Player of the Year award; and with two and a half years of Premier League experience under his belt, he brings an assurance and comes without the sub-mandatory period of getting used to the league.
Matic’s race is yet to be completely run at United, and he could even serve as a mentor for Doucoure in his first year or two at the club.
Right-winger – Malcolm (FC Barcelona)
United have been crying out for a right winger since Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Nani used to job-share the role in the late 2000s.
This fantasy signing is optimistic at best, but the wonderfully single-named Brazilian has been having a miserable time of things since signing for Barcelona from Bordeaux for approximately $65 million after the 2017-18 season.
The Catalan giants had great hopes for the 21-year-old and even went as far as snatching him from the clutches of AS Roma – but the Brazilian has only made five appearances in the league and 10 overall this season, netting once in the UEFA Champions League and one in the Copa Del Rey.
There is little doubt that Barcelona will persist with Malcolm and try and help him reach his full potential, but if they do choose to cut their losses at the end of the season and sell him before his stock gets too low, one is certain United can find some room for him somewhere in Salford.