Manchester United midfield issue could be solved in the final week of transfer window
The transfer window is about to undergo a change of pace, for Manchester United and for their rivals in the Premier League.
With just over a month to go until the window closes on August 31, United are in a position of strength, well ahead of the three teams they’re likely to fight for the title with this season, in Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
As they finalise adding Raphael Varane to the signing of Jadon Sancho, United have delivered Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s top two targets this window with plenty of time to spare. So quickly has business been done in the deals that could total £116million that the centre back and the right-winger will arrive at Carrington in plenty of time to settle in before the season begins on August 14.
With United in a comfortable position with their squad, City, Chelsea and Liverpool are still working on plans to strengthen their own ranks. The only significant addition to those three squads is Liverpool signing Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig, a deal made all the easier thanks to his release clause.
So while their rivals try to step up their approach in the window, United will switch tact. They still want to do more business, but for now, the priority has gone from strengthening their first XI to trimming the squad down.
How much more business can be done will depend on what sort of funds can be raised through sales, whether that’s Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Diogo Dalot, Eric Bailly or even Paul Pogba. Once United have a clearer understanding of who’s going and for how much, they will know how aggressive they can be in what may yet be a mad two weeks at the end of August.
The next priority is likely to be at right-back and signing Kieran Trippier. United want the 30-year-old and he is desperate to return to Manchester and sign for his boyhood club. Atletico Madrid will probably need to come to the negotiating table at some point this window.
That might make central midfielder the final issue to be resolved in this window and it could be the transfer saga that dominates the final days of August.
Just how important a new midfielder is to United is mostly dependant on who leaves. Despite his wonder goal at Old Trafford on Wednesday Pereira will depart again. Obtaining a transfer fee for the 25-year-old could be tricky, so it might be a loan move only.
Lingard continued his impressive pre-season against Brentford but United coped without him last season and with 12 months to go on his contract it would make sense to sell him. Raising £20m to £25m should be achievable given his remarkable form for West Ham United in the second half of last season.
But the real dilemma for United is Pogba, who is yet to report back for pre-season training amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain. The 28-year-old also has just a year left on his deal and with no extension imminent United might be forced to cash in if PSG firm up their interest and the player considers returning to Paris an attractive enough proposition.
United paid an up-front fee of £34m for Varane, another 28-year-old Frenchman with one year left on his contract, so realistically they are probably looking at a top rate of £40m to £45m for their own World Cup winner.
If both Pogba and Lingard depart and raise £60m to £70m it might swell the budget enough to fund a mad dash for a replacement central midfielder later in the window. United’s business has been smooth so far, but don’t rule out the prospect of some late drama in August.