On 9th August last summer, Manchester United flexed their financial muscle to bring Paul Pogba back to the club for an eye watering sum of £89m. Manchester United had their intentions clear; they wanted to claw their way back to the elite and weren’t willing to hold back. Whether or not, United finish in the top four and continue their run in the Europa League all the way to the final in Stockholm, their squad needs big changes. Jose Mourinho knows that he still needs reinforcements and will be desperate to make his mark on this United squad. A mini exodus began in January with Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger leaving, showing just what Mourinho thought of Louis van Gaals recruitment.
Mourinho will look to get started on his transfer dealings right away. The Portuguese has famously always done his business early and is not afraid to spend big to get his targets. Signing the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Didier Drogba and Diego Costa early in the summer of 2014 was key to Chelsea’s Premier League triumph that year. Mourinho will need to be at his ruthless best this summer to overhaul his side to the next level. And, like last summer, it won’t come cheap. The only USP United have in the transfer market right now, is cash and lots of it. This year will be four years since the last title whilst Champions League qualification hangs by a thread but the club, who were announced as the richest in the world by Deloitte this year, can outbid anyone.
Mourinho’s first transfer window in charge at Old Trafford brought just four new signings, Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan with no regular first team players departing. Expect something very different this time around with major changes to the playing staff.
The main problem Mourinho needs to address is in his forward line where United desperately need goals. United are the lowest scorers in the current top seven and have relied on the goals of Ibrahimovic all too often. A possible target could be French forward Antoine Griezmann, who starred at last summer’s’ European Championships. The Atletico Madrid star has an £85m release clause with will only tempt Mourinho further. If Everton striker Romelu Lukaku gets his wish and departs Goodison Park, United may start a bidding war for such a proven, young goalscorer. In terms of outgoing players, the rumours of David De Gea’s departure to Real Madrid won’t go away. Michael Carrick, still a key player in central midfield in his tenth year at the club, will not continue to defy his 35 years forever. Suitable replacements for both will not come cheap.
Mourinho’s current squad needs refreshing and is such a mix of the old and the new; the future and the expendables. You can almost categorize each United player into one of three groups; the undeniably world-class (De Gea, Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Bailly) the iffy, “take-it-or-leave-it” bunch where the jury is still out (Shaw, Blind, Lingard, Romero, Januzaj, Rojo) and finally , the players who United can’t get rid of fast enough (Fellaini, Rooney, Darmian, Young, Jones and Smalling). It’s amazing some of these players are still at the club. Years of questionable recruitment and different managers have resulted in a squad full of odds and sods.
Injury-prone centre back Phil Jones, in his fifth year at the club, has failed to deliver on his early promise. The chopping and changing of United’s back line will not please Mourinho, with Chris Smalling possibly being another major casualty. When Wayne Rooney departs, and it really should be when not if, a new captain will also need to be chosen. Do not be surprised if Ibrahimovic gets the armband. Luke Shaw could also be a big name departure having started just one game in the league since November. The treatment of Shaw and Bastian Schweinsteiger, shows that Mourinho isn’t afraid to publicly yield the axe so no United player should feel safe.
A manager like Mourinho, armed with a United’s vast wealth will certainly keep Ed Woodward busy all summer, that’s for sure. If United are going to get near Mourinho’s old side Chelsea, they need to rebuild now. Pogba may only be the start of a big and costly overhaul that they so badly need.
Post by Tough Tackler – @thetoughtackler (www.toughtackler.co.uk)