Manchester United enter January needing reinforcements if they are to go on to have a successful season. Their current position is disappointing, but the struggles of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham mean that they can still finish in the top four with the gap being five points. They will need significant improvement to do this, therefore the board needs to be active in the winter transfer window. It appears that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer maintains the backing from those above. This month will clearly show one way or another whether the Norweigen is considered the right man for the long-term.
Although there was disappointment that the club failed to sign Erling Haaland, a striker shouldn’t be made a priority this month. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are capable of carrying the load until the summer. All three are good finishers and it is chance creation from central areas that is proving to be an issue for Manchester United. The ongoing saga revolving Paul Pogba is an issue that needs to be solved. It may be that selling him this month is the best option for the club, on and off the pitch.
The future of Pogba will have big implications for the amount of business required and the finance available to carry out their incoming transfers. At the very least, Manchester United need to sign one central midfielder. Supporters would like to see a number ten arrive too. If Pogba does leave, they will need to bring in at least two players this month.
Solskjaer’s lack of options in the centre of the part have been obvious. Scott McTominay has been the only reliable option, but he has now picked up an injury. Fred and Andreas Perreira are decent squad players, but neither have looked up to standard as a starter for a top-four contender. Meanwhile, Nemanja Matic is on the decline and not favoured by the current manager. In the more advanced midfield role, Jesse Lingard has failed to register a single goal or assist in the current Premier League campaign.
The current Manchester United attack is set up to excel on the counter-attack. However, they don’t have the midfield players to quickly put them on the front foot in transition. This often leads to United losing possession or Harry Maguire advancing to try to make something happen. He can provide quality on the ball, but he is often found out of position due to this. This creates issues at the back.
Against Arsenal, they looked devoid of ideas with the ball against a poor defensive team. Their starting striker, Martial, didn’t register a single shot. Meanwhile, Fred and Matic completed 12 dribbles from central midfield. This is a worrying stat, as Solskjaer will not want either to be running with the ball. They should be moving the ball quicker to the forward line. The lack of a creative midfielder is causing a big tactical problem for Solskjaer, that leaves them predictable in possession.
The Mail report that Manchester United are considering moves for Sean Longstaff and Emre Can. Neither of those names will excite supporters. The former is unable to get into the Newcastle United team. Meanwhile, the latter may be a proven Premier League player, but he won’t provide the dynamism or creativity that the squad desperately needs.
There is an obvious answer to their problems, but it may be a difficult deal to pull off. Christian Eriksen is in the final months of his contract at Tottenham and will be available for a good price during January. Spurs may be forced to sell to a direct rival considering his contract situation. United failed to attract him during the summer, but his poor form this season may mean that he will now consider a move to Old Trafford. The Danish international has been one of the best creative midfielders in this country since signing for Tottenham. He could be the perfect signing.
This month will shape the short-term future for Manchester United. They have a chance to salvage their season by finishing in the top four or winning the Europa League. Both of those outcomes remain possible, but they will need to strengthen in the middle of the park to achieve one. If they fail to make the right additions, they are doomed for another year of mediocrity.