What a disappointing evening on Saturday. Like most United fans, I was so anxious to see our team play again in the Premiership after the 45-day absence, almost expecting that we would continue from where we left against Seville in our last competitive match last month. We had totally outplayed Seville on that day and despite the loss, I was half content that I could see my team playing exciting football, being superior albeit ending on the losing side. The match against Palace took us back to the beginning of last season, in terms of progress. I don’t want to judge the team on one match because it’s unfair and I will not dwell on episodes during the match either, because we all know what happened and heard tens of experts trying to explain how. But where do we go from here?
In the immediate term, Ole needs to be ruthless and adventurous at the same time. The players lacked sharpness, understanding and fluidity against Palace, so I would pick the team that will play on Saturday in the early kick-off against Brighton and play that exact team on Tuesday against Luton in the Cup. Same team. There is no issue of tiredness at this early stage of the season, whilst most of the players need to step up. And there need to be changes, not wholesome but significant changes. De Gea played well and keeps his place. Forget playing Henderson at the moment. AWB should come in at right-back and Bailly on his side of the central defence. We need to play Bailly every match unless he’s injured because he can provide the physicality and speed that we lack at the heart of our defence. Our captain also stays, despite I would really have like to see young Mengi given a chance. And Shaw keeps his place, in the absence of another left-back. In midfield, there should be a change in shape. We should play a diamond formation there, with Fred at the base of the diamond and Fernandes at the top. Van De Beek on the right and Pogba on the left side of midfield. A comment that struck me on Saturday was the one from our new recruit. The ex-Ajax midfielder said that United needed to quicken things up, I would add that we were predictable. Our forward line should be two strikers instead of three. Greenwood and Martial, no Rashford for this match. So Fosu Mensah, James and Marcus out. It will be a tough match and a good test for the players, while they can hopefully start to gel together as a team.
In the short term, the transfer market has to come into it. I remember that even when the Fergie teams won the league, there would still be a name or two coming in, in order to freshen things up, create excitement in the dressing room and keep everyone on their toes. Let alone a team with an excellent first eleven but lacking squad depth, at least in the eyes of the Manager. Adding to that the fact that the teams ahead of us and also the ones below us in the table at the end of last season all strengthened, then an energetic young midfielder is certainly not enough. That’s not take anything from Donny because during the time on the pitch, he showed that he will bring something different to what we already have. But we need more. I have a question for you reading this. If you had a transfer pot of €120 million at your disposal, to buy any players you want in the United squad for next season, would you buy Jadon Sancho and nothing else? How would you spend it? I am intrigued by what you will reply to that question, but I will tell you what I would do.
I WOULD NOT buy Jadon Sancho and would spend the money on four different players. Don’t get me wrong. Jadon is a fantastic player, with the potential to become world-class. But the team needs more than that to take the next step forward. So who do I buy with €120 million?
Here we go…
✓ €60 million – Koulibaly or Upamecano come in the heart of the defence. I would spend half of my budget on a strong quick partner for Harry. Sir Alex used to say, “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles”. Perfectly right. That quote still applies today and despite hard to admit, Liverpool is the latest proof. Alisson and Van Dijk changed their fortunes around. Both Koulibaly and Upamecano would be great in that defence. One brings more experience, while the other brings longevity. I’m fine anyway. Central Defender – check
✓ €15 million – Alex Telles. I like the guy so much. He will not only bring with him a winning mentality, flair and experience, but he is also in his prime at 27. Finally, we would have some competition for Shaw, which would spur them both to go to the next level. Apart from the fact that Telles is so comfortable playing in a 3-5-2 as a wing-back because of his forays on the flank and his crossing skills. Left-back – check
✓ €25 – Christian Eriksen. Surplus to requirements at Inter Milan because he does not fit Conte’s playing system, Christian is a gem of a player. He has vast Premier League experience, can play anywhere in midfield and still in his prime at 28. Christian would be the perfect understudy for Pogba and Fernandes, although he can also play on the right of a front three, given that he has no preferred foot and is capable also on his left, similar to Greenwood. He can take corners and free-kicks and has an eye for the killer pass. Creative midfielder – check
✓ €20 million – Josh King or Alexander Sorloth. Both players have Premiership experience, although King is favoured in this area because he was in the United academy for several years, so he also knows the club well. Both play for Norway alongside a certain Haaland and both will bring something different to our squad complement presently. King is six foot two, while Sorloth is more than six foot four and we don’t have that aerial power upfront, since Lukaku left. Sorloth is currently on loan from Crystal Palace to Trabzonspor and has last year scored goals for fun. Any of them would do for me. Central striker – check
Bonus incoming player – Diego Costa or Ousmane Dembele on loan to provide us with another left-footed player and enhance the balance in the team.
Let me have your thoughts