As Manchester United look to Erik ten Hag for their revival, the squad he has still needs tweaking and additions. In his first summer window, Ten Hag was backed by the board in spending close to £216m on signings, made up of bulky costs for Antony (£85m), 5 time UCL winner Casemiro (£64m) and Lisandro Martinez (£51m).
Having spent a significant time attempting to lure Frenkie de Jong to Carrington, there are still positions left to be enhanced or filled. Here, I look at players across Europe that could bring in a heap of change and experience to help Ten Hag’s revival of Manchester United.
The 22-year-old defender is currently having a breakout season for RB Leipzig, and is potentially looking for a World Cup call-up for the French national team. With the ability to play right centre back and right back, Simakan would offer great depth to both positions with Raphael Varane’s injury woes.
As a two-footed defender, Simakna has the ability to use his body wisely when being pressed under possession, with quick passing and strength, he offers physicality for defensive duels and going forward in attack. With 1 goal and 2 assists currently in the Champions League, he provides an attacking threat for his club.
Explosive and quick acceleration offers benefits for both offensive choices and defensive choices. With a combination of technical and physical qualities, the French defender would be a defensive signing that would offer depth and quality to United’s defensive options.
Living under the shadows of Aurelien Tchouameni at Monaco, Youssouf Fofana has been a key piece to Monaco’s midfield for 4 years. A well-rounded midfielder who plays in a doubt pivot alongside Camara, Fofana has a defensive capability both in and out of possession that United would benefit from. Having purchased Casemiro this summer, the club may not be interested in adding another CDM to their squad, however, Fofana is one that would immediately make a difference.
With similar statistics to his partner Tchouameni last season, Fofana has the ability to break down attacks as well as get forward to provide an extra body. At the age of 23, the French international gained his first call-up in 2022 and looks to be an option for the World Cup in replacing N’Golo Kante.
The Nigerian international is one of Napoli’s biggest assets this season. With his breakout year with Lille in the 19-20 season, his ability to produce shot and goal opportunities is high. With United in dire need of a forward to enhance their team, Osimhen is always using his pace off the ball to find chances and catch his opposition off guard, consistently on his toes and causing a nuisance.
Not only is he a threat for passes received on the ground, but his leaping ability also provides an additional aerial threat, recording the most headers last season in the Serie A (7). Despite not being the best dribbler or ball carrier, he is a threat in the box and uses his positive attributes more, to outweigh any abilities he lacks.
At the young age of 20, Sulemana is impressing the French league and his Ghanaian national team. Playing as a left winger, with a right foot, he offers what Antony does, but just on the opposite side. Mostly used as an inverted winger, Rennes snatched him up before other clubs could.
Sulemana is a threat when carrying the ball. His ability to dribble with great technique and speed, as well as agility, forces defenders to commit to a foul or simply get left behind. In the 21-22 season, only Mbappe created more shots from dribbling in the French league, showing his ability to make something with the ball.
His ability to attract the opposition and create spaces for his teammates to run into is another positive attribute he provides. The Ghanaian youngster is able to play under pressure, in tight spaces, and change directions quickly to change his options.
As well as the positionally threat he adds, and shooting threat, Sulemana provides pressing and defensive work and has shown consistency and ability in winning the ball back effectively. Looking to make his presence known at this year’s World Cup, the Ghanaian winger will be valued by Rennes for more than what they paid for him.
The Portuguese goalkeeper at the forefront of everyone’s discussions is none other than Diogo Costa. The 23-year-old, with a 6ft4 stature, has already made 85 appearances for Porto’s senior team. With shot-stopping abilities, incredible reflexes and the ability to distribute effectively, Costa is a goalkeeper who would excel with United.
However, the discussions surrounding David de Gea’s potential new contract (on reduced terms) and a release clause of £50m for Costa, it is not certain that this is a signing United would act upon immediately. With Spurs and Atletico potentially looking for a new goalkeeper next summer, it could be a battle for his signing.
With United facing key areas needing enhancement such as midfield, striker and backup right back, a summer signing of possibly one of the best young goalkeepers, might not be at the forefront. However, missing out on this signing could be as big an issue.
There have been various Portuguese internationals who have played a key role in Ten Hag’s revival like Diogo Dalot and Bruno Fernandes, and the player’s agent, Jorge Mendes has built a decent relationship with the club over many years. As Porto progress into the next round of the Champions League, he is a player that many fans will be watching closely.
With the Frenkie de Jong saga playing out the entire summer, and resulting in nothing, United may start to look elsewhere for a ball-progressing CM to partner alongside Casemiro. The Algerian midfielder has high passing abilities and movement in possession, as well as impactful out of possession.
Bennacer, playing in a ‘regista’ role for his club, allows him to use his intelligent movement and ball progression in attacks as well as distribute effectively with quality. Regularly involved in the build-up from the back, he is able to collaborate with defenders with work out of a press and advance the ball quickly.
His deep-lying position sometimes requires awareness and concentration as he provides defensive support and covers depth and ball interceptions. His ability to defend in transition, get forward and provide passes through the lines, allows his players to get forward and sometimes adds an extra body. With a £45m release clause, the 24-year-old Algerian would be a great partner to Casemiro, and would be able to learn from him as he progresses in his career.
Having risen through Lyon’s infamous academy, the 19-year-old centre-back is one of the most eye-catching talents coming out of the French league. At the young age of 19, Lukeba provides aerial physicality and can carry the ball with a continued defensive ability.
As the world of football progresses, ball-carrying/playing centre backs are sought after, and Ten Hag currently has that in Lisandro Martinez. With good positional awareness, Lukeba is quick, strong and is an intelligent defender. The youngster can defend well in 1v1 situations, and prefers to use his physicality and intelligence in making decisions.
With comparisons of prime Umtiti, the Lyon academy kid still has stuff to learn, but would excel under the guidance of Raphael Varane. With a history of producing talents such as Karim Benzema, Nabil Fekir and Houssem Aoaur, Castello Lukeba will be the next Lyon graduate to excel in Europe.
Having signed Antony and Tyrell Malacia from the Eredivisie, Erik Ten Hag and United might return to a signing that was on the tables in the summer. Having approached Cody Gakpo and PSV, United opted out of seeing that transfer through, however, with Anthony Martial’s injury troubles, United are in dire need of a striker and Gakpo can be just that.
With the ability to play as a forward, Gakpo provides a consistent threat to his team and, when given space, can create opportunities for himself and others. His height can allow him to play in a central role or play off a striker, with the slight ability to play with his back to goal. Evidently, he is a talented player, with great crossing ability and is dangerous on set pieces, however, there may be some sceptical thoughts on his position and his consistency.
As United look to progress through Erik Ten Hag’s first season, the pieces of his puzzle will be important in the club excelling to the status that the manager envisions. As such, with players contracts expiring in 2023, the summer transfer window of 2023 will be important in supporting the manager and bringing talents to Carrington that will allow the team to reinstate their position as one of the biggest clubs.
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