Jose Mourinho wanted a fourth Man Utd priority signing but doesn’t look likely to get one before the end of transfer deadline day.
Whether it is by design or through inflated prices putting Jose Mourinho or Ed Woodward off, the lack of a fourth signing is a serious risk. The fourth player, of course, has been confirmed by the Manchester United manager to be a wide player – either a winger or a full back that could potentially slot into a wing-back slot.
If you factor injuries into the equation, prima facie the United squad looks healthy with the likes of Matteo Darmian, Ander Herrera and Victor Lindelof not starting a game this season and at times not even in the matchday squad. That on top of the fact that the likes of Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be returning to the squad does perhaps give the illusion of quality squad depth.
When you take a deeper look at the team, fans may realise they could find themselves in a precarious position particularly with the anticipated fixture build-up.
From an attacking point of view, when you count a player as being part of the depth for two different positions you realise that the team could be light. For instance, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are considered the two for the left-wing spot as well as the two players that would fill in for Romelu Lukaku in case of injury and rotation.
If we consider Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as players that prefer theposition that equates to Jesse Lingard being the only right-sided winger. Manchester City’s attack in comparison is arguably stacked with greater quality in depth. They can alternate between Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, have the freedom to bench one of the two diminutive Silvas and have an attack capable of worrying defences without Sergio Aguero up top.
If the Belgian no.9 was a direct replacement for Ibrahimovic then Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay, the two significant attacking departures, have yet to be replaced in the squad.
Unless Andreas Pereira has been earmarked to take United’s highest ever goalscorer’s minutes or the manager wants to wait to bring in Antoine Griezmann next summer, it seems strange that Mourinho would risk trimming a squad that became bare with injuries last term and go into four competitions this season with an even smaller squad.
If exorbitant prices dissuade United decision-makers then very few options are available. However, with the money at the club, if Mourinho wants a wide-man there are plenty of options that clubs would be open to selling if a deal could be struck. The 2015-16 PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez would be available for a fee between £40-50m, a £50m bid for Ivan Perisic potentially would make Inter Milan directors fold and Monaco’s Thomas Lemar or PSG’s Julian Draxler would have been attainable at a reasonable price earlier in the window.
Wantaway Alexis Sanchez would be tough to prise away from Arsene Wenger’s grasp given the tumultuous connection but a big bid or perhaps a part exchange surely would be worth testing the waters to challenge City’s attempts.
Chelsea seem to be in a rush to get as many players in as possible before the close of the window, arguably prioritising numbers ahead of genuine quality. At the back for United, numbers do not seem to be an issue, it is rather that the depth is of insufficient quality to be relied upon.
The left side is the area which often causes the most concern from a fan perspective. Daley Blind has started each of the three opening league fixtures with Luke Shaw working on returning from injury and Darmian a third option.
Blind may be a steady performer but already this season his lack of pace has caused him to be troubled by Riyad Mahrez’s trickery and his crossing delivery has been unreliable.
Darmian has improved since early on the Mourinho era and he may be a useful squad player in big games as an old-school full-back who prioritises defending over getting forward but United need the complete balance. The Red Devils have traditionally always had a left-back comfortable with overlapping and delivering exquisite crosses to break down the majority of sides but the Italian has failed to show he can offer that attacking output.
Shaw remains the biggest hope. Brought to the club after demonstrating outstanding potential at Southampton, he has failed to build any sort of consistency as a result of infuriating injuries.
He has shown glimpses of a high calibre young talent that still can be moulded into something special with his bombing runs forward and defensive maturity. He could vindicate the faith that a new full-back (or wing-back) is not required – but needs to prove his fitness over a prolonged period.
With Danny Rose and Kieran Tierney linked and players like Saed Kolasinac and Benjamin Mendy formerly in the market – the options were certainly there for Mourinho to enhance the squad in his full back options.
It is great to see the likes of Shaw work hard for his return and the attacking outlets upping their games thus far but it remains to be seen whether the risk of electing not signing a fourth player affects any potential title challenge.
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