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10th Jul 2023

How Man United could line up next season if they land their main transfer targets

Robert Redmond

Man United are a few players away from challenging Arsenal or Man City.

So far, the 2023 summer transfer window has been a familiar story for Manchester United supporters.

The Red Devils have been linked with countless players, they are said to be ‘interested’ or ‘tracking’ or ‘exploring’ the option to buy several of them.

Meanwhile, their rivals are busy improving their squads. Newcastle have signed Sandro Tonalli, one of Europe’s most promising midfielders. Arsenal are set to sign Declan Rice, while Liverpool have landed Alexis MacAllister and Dominik Szoboszlai.

Man United, by contrast, have signed Mason Mount for £55m, and are yet to sell any players. However, they could be very slowly getting their act together.

Eirk ten Hag’s side are closing in on André Onana after taking the ruthless decision to allow David de Gea, the club’s longest-serving player, exit the club on a free transfer.

How Man United could line up next season if they land their main transfer targets.

Ideally, Man United’s squad would undergo major surgery this summer. The club have around 10 players on their books who need to be moved on to generate transfer funds and are short in key areas.

Some of the team’s main players – Bruno Fernandes (28), Casemiro (31), Raphael Varane (30)  and Christian Eriksen (31) – are also in their peak years. The club must soon identify their successors.

Yet, that may be an issue for another day, and unlikely to be resolved within one transfer window.

If Man United can add another two key players to their side, and move on some out of favour players, Ten Hag’s side will be in good shape to tackle Europe and another top-four battle.

Here’s how Man United would line out if they were to land their top transfer targets – of course, the chances of them doing so, at this point, look remote.

Man United potential XI.

Onana looks set to join Man United from Inter Milan and will go straight in as first-choice goalkeeper. The Cameroon star, 27, worked with Ten Hag at Ajax and is a perfect fit for the Dutch coach.

Crucially, he is comfortable in possession and will enable Man United to play in a way more suited to Ten Hag’s preferred style. Onana will allow Man United to play out from the back, which in turn will help them neutralise opposition teams who press high.

De Gea improved his footwork over the last few seasons, but never quite to the level required to excel under Ten Hag.

At the back, Man United have not been linked with any new signings. The Red Devils have long needed an upgrade at right-back, but that may be put on hold with other areas to address.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka has also improved under Ten Hag. The former Crystal Palace right-back is solid in one-versus-one defensive scenarios but limited on the ball.

Under Ten Hag, however, Wan Bissaka has stripped his game down and become more effective. In his last full season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Wan-Bissaka was averaging 75 touches per game. Last season, he averaged 54 touches per game.

His overall number of passes and dribbles per game have also declined, from 63 and 38 to 52 to 33 respectively. This has benefitted the player, however. Ten Hag has helped improve Wan-Bissaka by simplifying his game. This, in turn, enables the club to prioritise other areas for new signings.

In Man United’s ideal starting XI next season, the rest of the back four – Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw – remains the same.

In midfield, Casemiro is joined by Mason Mount and Moises Caicedo. Mount is a versatile player who will be a good fit for Ten Hag. He can press high, he is comfortable in possession and is creative in the final third.

Caicedo, meanwhile, is a long shot to end up at Old Trafford next season. The Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder is wanted by several top European clubs, and it appears as though Chelsea are leading the race to sign him.

If Man United, however, were in the market for a new defensive midfielder, there aren’t many better options than Caicedo. The Ecuadorian midfielder, 21, was a revelation last season, and it is only a matter of time before he is playing for a team in the Champions League. Or Chelsea.

Up front, Marcus Rashford starts on the left side of a forward three following his best-ever season. The England forward scored 30 goals in 56 games last year, a massive improvement from five goals in the previous campaign.

In this XI, Bruno Fernandes starts on the right side of the front three. The Portuguese midfielder is versatile enough to play in the position, and United’s other options – Antony and Jadon Sancho – are yet to convince. Alejandro Garnarcho can also play in the position but is still developing as a player.

At centre-forward in this ideal Man United XI for next season, Harry Kane starts.

The England captain has one year remaining on his contract with Tottenham Hotspur, who have rejected two bids from Bayern Munich for their star player. Man United would be wise to join the race to sign the Spurs striker.

Kane is the best centre-forward in the world and is in the final year of his deal. Man United may not ever get a better opportunity to sign him, even if prising him away from Spurs would be extremely difficult.

Daniel Levy, the club’s chairman, would probably rather sell Kane to Bayern, or lose him for nothing next season than allow him to join a domestic rival. Man United, however, should at least test the water with a bid. If they cannot sign Kane, Atalanta striker Rasmus Højlund appears to be the club’s second option.

All these potential transfers also depend on Man United selling several players – such as Harry Maguire, Dean Henderson, Anthony Martial, Scott McTominay, Fred and possibly even Jadon Sancho.

If the Red Devils can raise cash this way, and make the previously stated signings, here’s how they could line out next season:

Read next: Summer transfer window 2023: Follow the latest updates live in our hub.

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