·29 November 2023
·29 November 2023
While Manchester United are the well-documented most in-form team in the Premier League with five wins from six outings, much has been left desired from their on-field display. And now, The Guardian has reported that Erik ten Hag’s outfit have earmarked four positions that they are looking to strengthen in the January transfer window.
The 13-time Premier League champions have endured their fair share of struggles since the 2023/24 campaign got underway, both in the league and in Europe. Stockport-born starlet Kobbie Mainoo has been a beacon of hope since returning from an injury he picked up in pre-season against Real Madrid.
And there was no better declaration of his talent than his dazzling performance against Everton. But the 18-year-old cannot paper over all the cracks. With the futures of Casemiro, Raphael Varane, and Sofyan Amrabat all hanging in the balance, there could be a flurry of change seen as the winter window opens for business.
The Guardians’ report has suggested that a central defender, a defensive midfielder, a central midfielder, and a striker are all positions pinpointed as areas in need of dire improvement. Here at GIVEMESPORT, we’ve picked 2–3 players per position that the club should target specifically to alleviate their evident woes.
Ten Hag’s injury problems, especially in defence, have been nothing short of damaging. It has often left summer outcast Harry Maguire and usual fifth-choice Jonny Evans as the club’s starting partnership. Signing a fresh central defender has been reported as a main priority for Ten Hag and Jean-Clair Todibo of Nice has been perennially linked.
The Evening Standard have reported, however, that United’s domestic rivals Tottenham Hotspur are also in contention for his services. The Frenchman has been key in the unforeseen pursuit of the Ligue 1 title as Nice currently sit one point behind table-topping Paris Saint-Germain, conceding just four goals in 13 outings. He could certainly provide some defensive acumen to Ten Hag's back line.
Respected transfer expert Fabrizio Romano recently told GIVEMESPORT that Antonio Silva is ‘100% United level’ amid the clamour over his signature. The 20-year-old has been on the club’s radar for quite some time now after breaking into first team proceedings at Portuguese stalwarts, Benfica.
A stumbling block that United could face in their pursuit of the wonderkid is his employers’ asking price, which is sat at a lofty £87m. Despite the eye-watering fee, it has been reported that Ten Hag and his entourage are willing to spend big to iron out their defensive frailties. Meanwhile, fending off the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea may be on the agenda should they streamline their attention to the young talent.
Everton youngster Jarrad Branthwaite possesses a quality that neither Todibo nor Silva do: Premier League experience. Emerging as one of the Toffees’ standout players of 2023/24, the Englishman has piqued interest from a lot of top English clubs, most notably United.
Signed for just £1m by the Merseysiders, journalist Dean Jones told GIVEMESPORT that his arrival at Goodison Park is ‘one of the best bits of business’ they’ve done. Still just 21 years of age, Branthwaite could become a mainstay in the Old Trafford defence for years to come, with TEAMtalk claiming he is their ‘primary defensive target’. His impressive positioning and good decision-making on the ball are two aspects of his game that Ten Hag is a big fan of.
A player that is all too well known by fans of the Manchester-based outfit after a drawn-out saga ended in him remaining at the Camp Nou. While Frenkie de Jong, one of Barcelona's best signings of the post-Neymar era, can function as a regista, Manchester United are crying out for him to arrive in Greater Manchester and be a cool head in possession in front of the back line – and the Dutchman is the perfect fit.
Having acted as one of Ten Hag’s midfield operators at Ajax, the two could resume their pre-existing relationship in arguably the toughest league in world football. Whether the tempo-dictating midfielder could perform in the high-energy nature of England’s topflight is another question, as is whether the Red Devils could pry him away from Xavi and co. But there’s no disputing a) his undeniable talent and b) United’s ever-growing interest in him.
Accustomed to the thrills and spills of the Premier League, Fulham’s tough tackler Joao Palhinha could answer many of Ten Hag’s problems. The Portugal powerhouse proved his willingness to explore pastures new in the summer and was whiskers away from sealing a move to Bayern Munich before the window slammed firmly shut.
As such, United could swoop in after being ‘priced out’ over the summer months. His £90m valuation proved to be too much of a dent to the Red Devils’ prospective kitty – but returning in January is still very much on the table, especially as the midfielder was keen on a move. With Casemiro underperforming and Mainoo not potentially not equipped to start every game for the club, snaring someone of Palhinha’s ilk and expertise would be very clever business.
A player that captain Bruno Fernandes is a keen admirer of, 19-year-old Joao Neves looks destined for greatness and United could be one step ahead of the curve by snaring his signature. Neves has taken European football by storm and is poised to become his club’s next high-profile, big-money sale.
Having spat out the likes of Bernardo Silva and Ruben Dias in yesteryear, Neves is primed to become the next best thing out of their fabled academy and United are one of the would-be buyers ready to trigger his £103m release clause currently written into his contract. Albeit a mouth-watering figure for someone with limited first team prestige, planning ahead could be smart, especially with £100m+ transfers now commonplace in the Premier League.
Not only are United interested in Everton’s Branthwaite, but the Toffees' impressive midfield general Amadou Onana could also be on their shortlist. Over the summer, the club’s search for midfield reinforcements led them to make an approach for the Belgian star. His current employers were reluctant to sell, though, given his importance to Sean Dyche – but should Ten Hag table an offer too hard to refuse, the Dutchman could enrich his roster with a Premier League-proven ace in January.
Onana would bring a level of physicality to the centre of the park, an attribute that has been lacking in abundance during 2023/24, but also a calm and composed head able to pick out passes and disrupt opposition attacks. Given that he was on their list of potential recruits in the summer, you can imagine he won't be too far from their winter wishlist either.
20-year-old Rasmus Hojlund is still yet to get off the mark domestically, despite hitting the ground running in the Champions League, plundering five goals in four European fixtures. As such, another centre forward to support the youngster’s progression could be necessary.
And despite his torrid stint in the Premier League with Chelsea, Timo Werner has been mooted as a potential stand-in. Sky Sports have suggested that United have ‘expressed interest’ in the RB Leipzig marksman, though no offers have arrived in the Bundesliga side’s inbox as things stand. With the 57-cap German international unsatisfied with his current situation but happy to remain until next summer, potential suitors Real Madrid have cooled their interest, leaving the door ajar for Ten Hag and his men.
When Evan Ferguson - included in the Premier League's best teenage XI - was a fresh-faced striker earning his corn at Bohemians, the 20-time English champions came calling, though a clear route to first team football at Brighton & Hove Albion seemed the most attractive option. His goalscoring prowess this campaign has seemingly impressed Ten Hag, though, and so they could return to the table with an improved bid in the hopes he could come in and support Hojlund.
Since the Irishman has set English football alight and has become one of the league’s most sought-after prospects, though, his signature will cost any side a pretty penny. According to recent reports, the United target – despite signing a recent contract extension - could be on the move, according to Brighton CEO Paul Barber.
Albeit unlikely, this would be a fun one for those of a United persuasion. Antoine Griezmann - who has one of the highest combined transfer fees in world football - has been in red-hot form this term and would bring a plethora of expertise, particularly in the Champions League, to Old Trafford.
Transfer insider Jones recently told GIVEMESPORT that a move for the Atlético Madrid star is ‘as ambitious as it gets’ from the Premier League outfit, but he would be an incredible option to have. For the Spanish capital side, the Frenchman has scored 169 goals and plundered a further 77 assists in 357 games and would add another layer of possibility to Ten Hag’s front line, one which has struggled to find its feet in recent times.