After Manchester United’s 4-0 drubbing of Chelsea on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men went on to win just once in their next eight league games.
However, following their most recent win over Burnley, the Red Devils now sit fifth in the league, just four points behind fourth-placed Chelsea after 20 matches.
So far in 2019/20, they have picked up wins against Chelsea, Manchester City and Tottenham, while Solskjaer’s side also drew with Arsenal and runaway leaders Liverpool.
However, the win over Burnley was just United’s fourth victory against teams below them in the league this season, with the team clearly struggling to break down so-called lesser teams, who sit deep and invite pressure.
Solskjaer has mentioned that he will look to bolster his squad if the right player who fits the long-term strategy of the club becomes available.
So, with the January transfer window fast approaching, here’s 90min‘s take on who Solskjaer should look to bring in (without the obvious ones who have zero chance of moving mid-season either like Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish). Enjoy.
(There’s no strikers either, midfield is the real problem).
Gedson Fernandes (Midfielder)
It was recently reported that United are interested in signing Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes. The 20-year-old has not featured in any of his side’s last seven games and is thought to have fallen out of favour with head coach Bruno Lage.
Fernandes is thought to have a £102m release clause, but due to his lack of game time, the club have recognised that they are highly unlikely to receive that kind of money. Instead, the report notes that the youngster’s representatives have been in the UK attempting to secure a loan move, with a £34m option to buy.
He has made 58 appearances for the Portuguese side, scoring three times and providing seven assists. Fernandes has the ability to play in a conventional central midfield role or more advanced, while he can also play on either wing.
He has a tremendous amount of potential and this could prove to be a very logical signing – especially considering the reported price and his versatility.
Benfica have also confirmed a deal for Julian Weigl, while Bruno Guimarães is reported to be close to joining from Athletico Paranaense. Both are midfielders, so somebody has to go, surely?
Denis Zakaria (Midfielder)
With Nemanja Matic reportedly on his way out of the club, United need a midfield anchor who can read the game intelligently and break up play with consummate ease, while also thinking positively when in possession.
Enter, Denis Zakaria.
At 6’2, the imposing figure and rangy legs of Zakaria make him a superb defensive midfielder, while he also has the qualities to dribble past an opponent and break down a defence with his pinging passes.
The Manchester-based side have shown an interest in the player in recent weeks. However, Borussia Mönchengladbach will be keen to hold onto their star man, with the German side fighting for the Bundesliga title.
While a summer a move may appear more likely, Zakaria is an ideal signing for Solskjaer and United – if they want him in January then they’ll have to go big.
Sander Berge (Midfielder)
Genk midfielder Sander Berge plays with a maturity well beyond his years, with his energy and excellent positioning allowing him to win the ball back for his side and get them playing on the front foot.
To that end, one of the 21-year-old’s greatest strengths is his dribbling, with the player often picking up the ball and driving through the heart of the opposition’s defence before offloading. This ability to think positively and make inroads, compiled with his defensive strength, make him an ideal signing.
90min learned back in October that United were monitoring Berge and a move for the midfielder could open the door for Matic to leave the club, with his contract up at the end of the season.
At roughly £25m, Berge is a player United should certainly look to sign in the upcoming winter window. A bargain.
Sandro Tonali (Midfielder)
As a result of Sandro Tonali’s outstanding performances for Brescia this season, club president Massimo Cellino has publicly placed a staggering £260m price tag on the player’s head.
But, fear not, United fans.
Tonali has already made his senior international debut for Italy and is being touted as the next great Italian midfielder, with similarities to both Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso. He has been a key player for Brescia this season but despite his dominating performances, the Italian side currently find themselves sat 18th in Serie A, having picked up just 14 points from their opening 17 matches.
United reportedly sent scouts to watch the 19-year-old back in September, but with Tonali continuing to impress, there has been plenty of interest in him from across Europe. An outstanding talent and it’s safe to say he fits the bill for the Red Devils and Solskjaer.
This sounds a bit like a Football Manager scouting report, doesn’t it?
Arne Maier (Midfielder)
Writer: Ben Carter
It wouldn’t be a transfer window without Manchester United getting linked to Toni Kroos, and even though Robbie Williams (yes, the singer) might be pushing for that to happen in January, Solskjaer would actually be better off going for his soon-to-be successor in the national team.
Hertha BSC midfielder Arne Maier has been dubbed as ‘the next Kroos’ ever since he started to make a name for himself in the club’s youth side and he’s one of the most highly-rated young players in the Bundesliga.
But after a decade in the German capital, new Hertha manager Jürgen Klinsmann appears to be pushing Maier down the pecking order at the Olympiastadion by making moves for a handful of new midfielders in the January transfer window.
Granit Xhaka, Santiago Ascacibar and even Julian Draxler have been tipped to join Hertha when the transfer window re-opens, so 20-year-old Maier – who has just two years left on his contract – might just be available if United come knocking at Hertha’s door.
Dominik Szoboszlai (Attacking Midfielder/Winger)
While Erling Haaland may have disappointed United fans by securing a move to Borussia Dortmund recently, Dominik Szoboszlai remains an RB Salzburg player and the Red Devils should look to make a move for this wonderkid.
Yes, definitely a Football Manager scouting report.
The 19-year-old predominantly plays on the left wing, but he can also play on the right hand side and in the middle, as well. He has become an integral member of the Salzburg first-team, making 21 appearances in all competitions up to this point, managing to score four times and assist a further five.
Szoboszlai is certainly not the finished article yet and he has areas for improvement, but his impressive displays this season, particularly in the Champions League, have seen him attract plenty of attention. The player is said to be valued at around £15m, a very reasonable price for a player with his potential.
Snap him up, Ed.
Jude Bellingham (Midfielder/Winger)
Jude Bellingham has a very bright future.
Bellingham made his debut back in August aged just 16 years and 38 days, becoming Birmingham City’s youngest-ever first-team player. He was born in 2003.
Despite his age, the midfielder has been one of Birmingham’s standout players this season, featuring in 21 Championship games so far. Most recently, he scored his third goal of the season during his side’s dramatic 5-4 defeat to Leeds United, a calm strike into the bottom corner from just inside the area.
This season, Bellingham has played in the middle of the park, while he has also been used on both flanks. While he may be 16, it speaks volumes when considering how important he is to this Birmingham side, with the youngster already proving to be a leader on and off the pitch.
He has dazzling quick feet and has the intelligence to read the game, making runs off the ball to create space for his teammates. This talented midfielder has all the necessary attributes to become a world-class talent and a move to United would make sense, considering the club’s ethos and commitment to developing young English talent.
90min learned back in September that Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City have sent scouts to watch him, while Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund are also keen. However, it was reported recently that the Red Devils have now also shown an interest, with assistant manager Mike Phelan travelling to watch him.
Reinier (Attacking Midfielder)
Flamengo wonderkid Reinier has been likened to Kaka, with the youngster adopting a similar style of play. His footwoork is astonishing, gliding past players with ease before producing an end product. At 6’1, he also has the height and physical strength that makes him a nightmare to defend against.
The 17-year-old has six goals and two assists in just 14 appearances this season, attracting interest from a number of top European clubs. There will now be even greater interest after it was recently revealed that his release clause was reduced to just €35m.
Reinier really is a special talent.