With only seven league fixtures to go until the current campaign comes to an end, Jose Mourinho’s men are sitting in second place in the Premier League and are 16 points behind soon-to-be champions and local rivals Manchester City. However, Manchester United will be aiming to finish the season on a high note in all competitions before they can retaliate within the transfer window.
After producing vital victories over the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool as well as an unbelievable comeback against Crystal Palace over the last couple of weeks or so, Mourinho is now being seen in the eyes of the board and the supporters as the perfect manager to take the club forward on and off the pitch.
On the other hand, following the embarrassing defeat to La Liga side Sevilla, leading to the club exiting the Champions League, he’ll need the full backing of the board as the Red Devils are still lacking a few game changers and world class players before they can challenge for any major honour once again.
Here are the four areas that Manchester United need to improve on this summer...
In the middle of the pitch, the double pivot of Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba has been utilised on a regular basis since the start of the current campaign, with the former sitting deep and snuffing out any danger in his own half whilst his
partner tends to control and dictate the play from midfield.
Pogba has been known to be one of the best box-to-box midfielders within Europe, though, he has not managed to show his true abilities during his time at the club due to the restricted system of Mourinho. Due to that, the Frenchman has become an easy and instant target to blame for when the side lose.
Lately, Mourinho has started to select Scott McTominay in the line-up, who has provided the much needed balance on both sides of the pitch. The youngster has shown true maturity and passion since his debut for the club which has also earned him his first appearance for Scotland’s national team.
Once the season comes to an end, Mourinho’s options in midfield will be limited as Michael Carrick will be retiring from professional football and Marouane Fellaini’s contract will come to an end, leaving Matic, McTominay, Pogba and Ander Herrera as the only players available in midfield. So, a central-midfielder or two will pretty much be needed during the summer transfer window and before the 2018/19 campaign.
These days, the full-backs within the beautiful game of football have an equal influence on the team just like the creative playmakers and hungry goal-scorers. No matter what setup or system they play in, the full-backs have to make sure they are in full of energy and stamina to be effective in this role.
Right now, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw have been battling it out with one another for the left-back spot, but, the manager prefers the consistency and experience of the former ahead of the latter. Recently, Mourinho publicly came out with a lot of harsh words to a few certain players including Shaw.
As both Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian have not featured at all throughout the 2017-18 season and are expected to leave for an Italian side once the current campaign is completed, the final list of candidates within the left-back and right-back positions will become very limited for Mourinho to choose from.
The left-back department is not an easy or an open topic to talk about, given that the natural talent and promising potential in this area is declining season by season. However, the club and most importantly the manager will need to find an individual that has proven himself in Europe and is ready for a big move.
Manchester United may have the second best defensive record within the league, on the other hand, that is more down to the superb brilliance of goalkeeper David De Gea than the defenders themselves. On many occasions, the Spaniard has saved the Red Devils from a potential embarrassment caused by the opposition, which leaves many thinking where the club would be without Spain’s number one.
The problems at the heart of defence seem to be continuous for quite a number of years, where the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were once seen as a defender with a huge career ahead of them but are now regarded as two typical English players that have failed to reach their true potential. Also, both individuals could possibly be leaving for a mid-table side during the summer transfer window.
On top of that, the summer arrival of Victor Lindelof has not been totally convincing so far at Old Trafford whilst the likes of Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo are seen as solid players but not very reliable, as they have missed a chunk of league games this term due to the injury issues they have suffered from time to time.
After considering these factors, a centre-back that has the aggression of Bailly as well as the passing ability of Jones is much needed if the team are looking to progress forward. Given that many players are being linked with United regularly, Raphael Varane and Toby Alderweireld have been mentioned as a target for the side in recent weeks, with either of the two potentially being a huge coup for the club.
The fourth and final area that United could seriously work on is the right-wing position, where there are a number of options that can play in this role but they are more effective and influential just behind the striker. This quickly sums up the fact that most of the side’s attack comes through the middle or the left.
Although Juan Mata has made this department his very own, the manager still unbelievably chose to experiment around with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford in this position, nonetheless, it simply did not work at all. Also, the arrival of Alexis Sanchez has not gone down as the supporters had expected, as the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach is yet to give him an actual role within the starting line-up.
Since these individuals are the type that can play on either flank and have a tendency of cutting through the middle, United are in need of a natural winger that can play direct on and off the ball and can also produce some very inviting crosses into the penalty area for a striker like Romelu Lukaku to pounce on.
As Antonio Valencia is defensively composed and does not run down the flank as much as he used to do during his time at Wigan, there is enough space for the future winger to roam into as well as cause severe damage to the opposition. The Red Devils need to be more brutal and ruthless in the final third of the pitch, which they can only do once a right-sided attacking player arrives at Old Trafford in the summer.
This article was written exclusively for Soccer Box by Asif Norat. Shop with us for all the official Manchester United football kit, training gear and accessories.