Louis van Gaal’s first season at Man United has been a mixed affair, with some good results but unconvincing performances with the occasional burst of excellence, as evidenced by the fabulous performance in the 3-0 win over Spurs. In the likes of De Gea, Rooney, Di Maria and Blind, United have a strong core which isn’t that far away from getting in to the title chase next season. The big advantages they enjoy are that their commercial income is so massive that they are able to spend big money without flouting FFP rules, and that their ‘brand’ is still very strong. They were able to attract Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid last summer despite having no European football for example. They should have a large transfer fund available to them and have the basis of a strong squad. These three players could potentially bring the title back to Old Trafford if they can all be signed.
Bastian Schweinsteiger – Bayern Munich
Scout Report Schweinsteiger has developed from a wide attacking midfielder in to a deep lying playmaker, equally capable in defence in attack. He is a superb technician and excellent passer of the ball, exhibiting total control of the World Cup winning German midfield and also Champions League winning Bayern Munich. He is adept at running with the ball through midfield, playing a goal making pass in the final third, or starting phases of possession from deep. He is the archetypal modern midfielder in possession. His under rated defensive work is also a strong suit. He tends to be an interceptor and bases his defensive work on reading the game and intelligence rather than hard tackling.
Where does he fit? United have used a variety of midfield systems this season but Schweinsteiger would fit any of them. He could be the deep man in a 3 man set up or work at the side of a diamond. If there is one manager who would know how to use him it’s van Gaal. After all, van Gaal was the man who moved Schweinsteiger in to the defensive midfield role he has flourished in when he became manager of Bayern Munich. He was a good player, but van Gaal turned him in to a world class one by seeing how he could get the best out of him. It’s safe to say he would add balance and an ability to use possession in a variety of ways to the United midfield which can be a bit one dimensional.
How much? His contract expires in 2016 and there are a lot of midfield options for Bayern so it’s not unreasonable to think something could get him for something in the £10m range given Bayern were able to sign Xabi Alonso for £8m in similar circumstances last summer. He’s said previously that he’d like to play in England and this would be his last chance so it’s a strong option.
Paul Pogba – Juventus
Scout Report The prodigal son. United had Pogba at the club and for various reasons saw him head to Juventus, where he has become the best central midfielder in the world. Like Schweinsteiger, he is a thoroughly modern midfielder; able to defend and attack equally well. What Pogba also has is imposing physicality and has developed a goal scoring habit, especially long range specials.
Where does he fit? System versatility makes Pogba a perfect signing. He can play in any possible set up. He’d be best with license to rampage forward as part of a 3 man or diamond set up but even if United experimented with a 4-4-2 he’d be a superstar. Man United need to keep signing stars and Pogba is one of the biggest stars around at the moment. United’s main weakness has been in central midfield for a few years, Pogba would solve that instantly.
How much? A lot. It could easily climb well over £50m, perhaps even up to £60m. But for that United would be signing the best midfielder in the world and he’s only 22 years old so it’s a long term investment. Adjusted for inflation Wayne Rooney’s transfer fee when he was 19 is about £50m and that’s worked out pretty well. If he’s the centre piece of a summer’s recruitment it’d be impossible to top. Short of bringing another ex-United megastar back from Spain!
Nathaniel Clyne – Southampton
Scout Report Clyne has been the best right back in the Premier League this season, a vital part of the best defence in the league. Unlike a lot of modern full backs, Clyne is exceptional defensively as well as offering good attacking threat. But it’s his defence that makes him such an attractive proposition. His tackles and interceptions stats are as good as anything in the league and he’s only 23.
Where does he fit? A couple of years ago it looked like Rafael was going to be the United right back for the next 10 years. However, injuries and an inability to recover that form consistently have seen him unable to supplant converted right winger Antonio Valencia for the right back spot. United won’t win the league with question marks at full back and certainly won’t make progress in Europe. Clyne would be an instant upgrade and he could also possibly help former running mate Luke Shaw have a better second season.
How much? He won’t cost the £30m that Luke Shaw did, but considering Southampton extracted over £20m from Liverpool for Dejan Lovren it’s likely it’ll be that much. But that is good value. He’s young and English and plays a position to an elite level which isn’t bursting with quality players around Europe at the moment.