Manchester United typically don’t make ideas in the winter window, feeling that clubs don’t want to let go of genuine talent in the mid-season. This season, though, he is under pressure to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manager Eric Ten Hag told reporters at Spain’s training camp during the World Cup break that he wants to add to his attack: “We’re doing everything in our power. We’re doing research at every opportunity and we’re doing everything we can if we can contract that opportunity.”
This, Athletic It looks at the possibilities of moving both in the next month and beyond, and who will make the final negotiation.
The last three January window deals
How much money are you likely to have available this month?
Since the summer, when United have passed the economy by 100 million, this winter window has been seen as a maintenance rather than an increase. Britain’s first-fourth largest financial institution has developed a total debt of nearly £1billion, with only £24.3m of cash in the bank (in June 2019 they had £308m).
However, the departure of Ronaldo increases the need for a center and ten Hag, still to see their strength in recruitment money ready. Agents are wondering what United’s sale of the media signs, but some feel that it would make sense for the owners, the Glazer family, to dip into the revolving credit facility again to increase their chances of Champions League football next season. The qualification, after failing from this season, would raise the value of the club.
Who makes the key decisions on standards?
The voice of the Hag ten is the most prominent in the identification of targets – in the interest and funding of Antonio held a great dominance in the summer – but it acts in conjunction with the recruitment of the team that is leading more and more. Ten Hag has a good relationship with football director John Murtough, and the latest sign-off comes from Joel Glazer. This will also continue throughout talks about United’s prospective ownership, with “business as usual” being the mantra at Old Trafford.
Joel, most of the Glazers involved in club affairs, continued to work with chief executive Richard Arnold during the course of the United States.
Steven Brown, head of British recruitment, oversees scouts and provides information. Dominic Jordan, the first director of information science, examines the statistics. Andy O’Boyle, Murtough’s deputy, is also involved in the discussions.
Murtough oversees negotiations with managers and executive counterparts, while Arnold sometimes steps in when large sums are committed.
Which position is the priority?
Finding a striker to fit the Hag’s ideal ten was a top requirement, even before Ronaldo’s exit last month. Anthony Martial could do the job, but has been sidelined by three different injuries already this season. It cannot be done.
Marcus Rashford played up front, but mostly left to the left, and with doubts over the return of Jadon Sancho, he is well needed. Teenager Alejandro Garnacho is expected to play more time, and Antonio and Antonio Elanga are options on the wings but the situation is quite serious.
A straight-back to rival Diogo Dalot, who had started 25 United games this season before missing his first post-World Cup fixture against Burnley in the Carabao Cup next Wednesday, could be another request. Aaron Wan-Bissaka played just four minutes all season before being named in the team to face Burnley, but he acquitted himself well, assisting in the first 18 months.
Ten Hag later said: “It is clear that Wan-Bissaka is going to happen. He had several good years at Man United and had many weaknesses and injuries since the start of the season. From the start, he was fit and able to train with the team.’
Ten Hag wanted to strengthen the position in the last days of the summer window, with talks held about US Sergino Dest, who moved to AC Milan instead of on loan from Barcelona.
Who are the likely targets?
Cody Gakpo was discussed again. Together with personal agreements with his ambassadors, he was preparing to move the summer and the player himself, only for Ajax to raise the price of Antony, which he still prevented from spending. Since Gakpo was enjoying a good World Cup at the time, Ten Hag remained in favor of him. The staff of the intelligence department are weighing in on that thought.
Gakpo’s best position is the left wing, although he starts in the middle in Qatar Netherlands. Uncertainty over Sancho means flexible players will be most useful.
In the summer, PSV Eindhoven announced that they will require €50million for two days in Gakpo, a salary guaranteed by the contract running until the summer of 2026. PSV is also aiming to win the Eredivisie title for the first time in five years and Gakpo believes. it is a means to an end. There are suggestions of needing to sell, though, so there is space to be afraid.
Ten Hag with the same work as Gakpo. Athletic announced Murtough with Kees Vos, CEO of SEG agency, at Carrington in the next fortnight. Vossius is a regular at Old Trafford and the pair see each other regularly.
Ruud van Nistelrooy, his PSV counterpart and former United hero, who himself switched to the Dutch club for Old Trafford 21 years ago, said last week: “If I have a choice, I prefer the summer, but it can also be now. There comes a time when you cannot say anything.
Whatever money will be spent will come from the summer fund and Ten Hag, in conjunction with Murtough and Joel Glazer, must decide whether to call it right.
United could opt for a lower cost, more experienced striker.
Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s contract at Bayern Munich expires in June so the Cameroon international – who will be 34 in March – is available. In the summer of 2015, Memphis Depay, now in Barcelona and 29 in February, was offered to the club in the upper window. In this format, the options are small and attractive.
At right-back, United have scouted Bayer Leverkusen’s Manchester City Academy graduate Jeremie Frimpong. But he expects to only be looking to sign a loan for this position.
Who would ask?
Wan-Bissaka was available in the last window and will listen to United’s offer now too. He made contact with Crystal Palace about bringing the 25-year-old back to Selhurst Park, but he was not prepared to bid anywhere close to the £50million fee United paid him to move him in the opposite direction in 2019.
In the circumstances, Murtough convinced the Ten Hags to give Wan-Bissaka further consideration to see if he could regain his previous good form, but his only Premier League appearance came at Liverpool in August as an 86-minute substitute. He started both recent friendlies in Spain, however, before continuing against Burnley with Dalot, after he left to go to the final World Cup game in Portugal. Dalot, who had arranged for Joao Cancelo in the Portugal team, was not sidelined for long. A mutual departure for Wan-Bissaka seems unlikely.
United are also expected to hold talks with Brandon Williams, who returned from injury in the games against Granada and Real Betis. Williams joined Premier League rivals Norwich City on loan last season and it’s possible that a permanent transfer now makes the most sense, with Ten Hag looking to be influential in the situation.
Axel Tuanzebe, who had two spells at Aston Villa and Napoli last season, is available. But now he needs to return to fitness after the injury. Tom Heton wants to make football a regular after falling behind Martin Dubravka in the pecking order.
Which World Cup star would be perfect for United?
Gakpo’s alternative is Goncalo Ramos.
Replacing Ronaldo in Portugal’s starting line-up for the World Cup by bowing out the tie and immediately scoring a goal in his first international start showed that he has a granite mind, while in that match against Switzerland he was razor sharp. His all around story was good too.
He continued the productive season of the 21-year-old, who emerged after the summer sale of Darwin Nunez to Liverpool to score 15 goals for Benfica.
He wants ten Hag Branches, but again cost has become a factor.
(Top photo: Goncalo Ramos, Cody Gakpo, Jeremie Frimpong; all Getty Images)