Top of the Premier League at the turn of the new year, Manchester United are very much in the title race this season, much to most people’s surprise. But can they really go all the way and win it?
Manchester United have been inconsistent and all over the place throughout the course of the season. They have won many games through 15-minute spells of brilliance whilst being lacklustre and underwhelming the other 75 minutes. They also have been struggling defensively, conceding 25 goals in just 19 games.
Yet despite all their problems, United are sitting top of the league with rivals Liverpool and Manchester City right behind them. Most football fans don’t think they can mount a serious challenge and will begin to fade away. I think with one transfer they could win it all.
Manchester United’s problem
A right winger. The Red Devils are crying out for a natural right sided attacker. Their attack has looked clunky and disjointed frequently this year. The main reason for this is their lack of creativity and goals from the right-hand side. Greenwood has been the preferred choice on the right flank but has struggled this season with just one goal and no assists in 13 outings in the league. Of course, this isn’t Greenwood’s natural position, and he is still just 19 years old. Whilst Ole and United fans won’t be concerned about their young star, his struggles this season are hurting their title pursuit.
Dan James is another option United have at right wing. The Welshman has only featured six times in the league this season with only a couple of starts. James joined in the 2019 summer window from Swansea for a fee of £16 million and initially hit the ground running with a string of excellent performances. However, he has struggled in the last 12 months to get into the starting line-up and contribute. Again, Ole and United fans will not be worried with James. He is 23 years old and was signed to be a young squad player that has lots of raw potential.
Amad Diallo is another option United have at right wing. The young Ivorian winger has just completed an £18 million transfer from Atalanta to United. The deal has an additional £17 million in possible add-ons. Diallo is an unknown quantity. The 18-year-old has made just four Serie A appearances for Atalanta in the last two seasons. I, like many fans, do not know what to expect from him. He is obviously an extremely talented prospect demanding a sizeable fee from just four first team appearances. However, it is unlikely he will feature much at the latter end of this season and contribute to United’s title quest.
This lack of threat on the right-hand side is significantly hurting United. It results in narrow attacks that are easy to defend, allowing opposing defences to focus more of their attention on United’s other forwards. This added attention is culminating in baron spells for Rashford, Martial and Cavani. The trio have netted just 13 goals between them in a combined 46 games in the league. This is simply not good enough to be champions.
This is the best chance United have had in years of winning the title. They have a deep squad full of world class talent and their rivals are weaker than ever; United must go for it. They must commit in the January transfer window.
United’s rivals Liverpool and Manchester City have regularly strengthened their squad with sensible signings over the past few years. Players such as Diogo Jota, Thiago, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan were all signed for between £20-45 million to bolster the squad in areas that were lacking. They weren’t bought with the intention of being the star player’s in the squad, instead just to do a job in areas that the team struggled. It is now Manchester United’s responsibility to do the same, in order to compete for the Premier League title.
The problem is that it will be very tough to sign a good right sided attacking option this window for a fair fee.
Domenico Berardi is a possible option for the Red Devils. The 26-year-old Italian is a natural right sided winger who likes to cut in on his left foot and attack the penalty box. He has an eye for goal and over the course of his career has consistently reached double figures each season. Former Italy and A.C Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi has described Berardi as “a player of great talent, a modern footballer who constantly plays with and for the team all over the field. Liveliness, intuition, temperament, physical strength, stamina combined with a good technique are his main attributes.” He is also capped at international level with Italy, making 9 appearances in the last two years.
Berardi would be a great fit on United’s lacklustre right side. His fee should be reasonable, in the region of £20-40 million. The only stumbling block would be his loyalty to Sassuolo where he has spent his entire career.
Florian Thauvin is another option Manchester United must consider for their right side. The experienced Frenchman has spent most of his career with Marseille and in the last few years his numbers have been incredible, averaging a goal every two games. He has also decided not to renew his contract with the Ligue 1 club according to Le10Sport which expires in June.
Thauvin is a natural right winger who causes full-backs all sorts of problems. He is left footed and revels in catching the defender off-balance and cutting inside to shoot. Former Toulouse manager Alain Casanova described Thauvin as “a player in the image of Franck Ribery… someone who is able to disrupt any opponent, someone very dangerous when he picks up speed. Very dangerous indeed.” He is also an experienced international player, capped 10 times by France and was part of the 2018 World Cup winning squad.
Some people will look at Thauvin’s lone season in the Premier League with Newcastle in 2015 as a reason why this transfer idea doesn’t make sense. His short time at the Magpies was disastrous, making just 13 appearances in the league and failing to score. However, Thauvin has greatly improved his game in almost every aspect since his Newcastle days and is an established star.
With Thauvin set to leave for free this summer and Marseille not competing for any silverware, United could sweep in with a small transfer fee and a short 18-month contract and pick up a bargain.
Either of these players would greatly improve United’s chances of winning the league this season, it’s as simple as that. Both would be available for a reasonable price tag and bring a much-needed spark to their attack.
This is of course all hypothetical. Whilst to me it is glaringly obvious, we (Manchester United- talking as a fan now) need a right winger to bring our attack together and improve our team, it is likely that the club will not be active this window.
This is frustrating as a fan. We have our best chance of winning the league in a long time and we should go all out for it and commit in the transfer window. Our last January signing (Bruno Fernandes) was a major success and crucial to turning our season round. A signing this January could have the same effect and spur us on to being crowned champions.