After a disappointing finish to last season Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson moved early to secure the signature of highly sought after Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa. Two highly rated youngsters, Exeter City’s teenager midfielder Sean Goss and Crewe striker Nick Powell have also been added to the Red Devils ranks while Brazilian full back Fabio (loan) and midfielder Park Ji Sung (permanent) have left to QPR. So what next for Sir Alex in the transfer market?
The addition of Kagawa, almost exclusively an attacker that plays behind the striker, could mean a change of tactic for United. Recent speculation linking Lucas Moura with a £30 million move makes a change to 4-2-3-1 from the more traditional 4-4-2 even more likely. First United will have to address the deficiency in the aging defence and midfield where injuries took their toll towards the end of last season.
For all his strength in central defence, question marks remain over Rafael Da Silva’s defensive qualities and Patrice Evra will need to show some form after a mixed season. With Fabio Da Silva on loan Ferguson will need cover at left back and is likely to look towards Everton for their England left back Leighton Baines. Valued at £15 million, the 27 year old defender is not as quick as Evra but is solid defensively and a dead ball specialist.
Ferguson’s recent penchant for buying English may lead him to sign Crystal Palace’s 21 year old full back Nathaniel Clyne. The defender is out of contract at Selhurst Park but since he is under 24, any deal would be subject to a fee set at a tribunal which could be in the order of £5 million. Southampton, Reading and Aston Villa are all thought to be interested in Clyne. Alternatively Ferguson could bid for 26 year old French full back Mathieu Debuchy, who is the subject of much interest after some good performances at Euro 2012. Technically sound, Debuchy is comfortable on the ball having started his football career as a deep lying playmaker in the centre of midfield and could be available for £7 million.
Over the past few years, United have been exposed for a lack of depth in the centre of midfield. Last season Ferguson had to recall Paul Scholes, 37, out of retirement to fill his centre midfield with some creativity and bite. Together with Ryan Giggs, 38, he forms the rearguard of the old guard and as age catches up with them United will need to replace the seemingly irreplaceable. One player who is perennially linked to United is Athletic Bilbao midfielder Javi Martinez. The 23 year old midfielder can play in defence if needed but excels in a central midfield role and is valued at £25 million. Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City are all known admirers of Martinez and the potential bidding war may put Ferguson off.
Benfica have alerted clubs that they are ready to cash in on their Belgian midfielder Alex Witsel. Any bid for the former Standard Liege player would need to be in the region of £20 million and with Ferguson stating his desire to sign one or two players he might well be willing to spend big for the right player. After a run of good performances during Euro 2012, Joao Moutinho has caught the eye of a host of top European clubs. The diminutive Portuguese maestro can play in a deeper holding role or in a more advanced position and could become a long term replacement for Paul Scholes. The 25 year old midfielder is thought to be valued at around £30 million with any move dependant on the level of investment the Glazers are willing to release to Ferguson.
Reports are growing linking the 19 year old Brazilian starlet Lucas Moura to Man Utd. The Sao Paulo attacking midfielder can play out wide and through the middle and seems to suggest that Ferguson is regenerate his attacking options. Valued in the £30 million region, Moura represents a significant outlay and could hint at a significant tactical shift for the United next season. With the majority of Europe’s top clubs, including last year’s Champions League finalists Chelsea and Bayern Munich, playing a 4-2-3-1 formation combined with Manchester City’s success with the same formation has put significant amount of pressure on Ferguson to follow suit. With Owen released, Park transferred out and Berbatov on the transfer list Ferguson is clearly shaking up his squad, ridding himself of dead wood in the squad.
Apart from Moura, Ferguson may look to Spain and Athletic Bilbao’s impressive Ike Muniain. The 19 year old forward can play out wide or through the middle and should Ferguson want to pry him from the San Mames stadium, United would have to meet his buyout clause which currently stands at £29.5 million. Nicolas Gaitan, the 24 year old attacking midfielder has scored 10 goals in 51 league games for Benfica and has already stated his desire to move with United his favoured option. Kagawa will certainly be joined by more midfielders with Ferguson likely to rebuild his squad in order to keep pace with Man City and Chelsea after a disappointing end to last season.