Manchester United endured a disappointing season and have aimed to rectify their attacking issues with the capture of Daniel James. Two defenders are the priority now as Ben McAleer delves into the transfer markets...
"In a season that saw them ship 54 goals, marking their leakiest Premier League campaign to date, reinforcements at the back are required for United to re-establish themselves as England's top team"
The Manchester United summer recruitment drive has begun. On Wednesday, the Premier League powerhouse confirmed the capture of Daniel James from Swansea, adding a winger with searing pace to the squad. However, his arrival wasn't the beginning of the end, but rather the start of a squad overhaul.
United's is a team that needs investment. Having laboured to sixth last season, despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's bright start to life as manager, a revamp is desperately required and James affords speed down the right or left flank, a precious commodity to help United stretch opponents as and when needed.
That said, James isn't the final piece of the puzzle, but another section to help the jigsaw come to life. Another youngster is being heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford, with one of the Premier League's finest right-backs in line to finally ease United's woes in the position. For too long, United have relied on the likes of Ashley Young and Matteo Darmian to occupy the right-back berth, while Antonio Valencia's exit opens up space for a new player.
Crystal Palace youngster would be an upgrade on United's right-back options
In Aaron Wan-Bissaka, United would at least have at their disposal a fine up-and-coming right-back whose development shows no signs of slowing. Having been eased into the senior squad in 2017/18, Wan-Bissaka established himself as Crystal Palace's first choice right-back last term and did not disappoint. His fine performances were recognised too as the 21-year-old was named Palace's Player of the Year.
And while Wan-Bissaka has previously stated he'll be plying his trade at Selhurst Park next season, he may only do so once rather than at least 19 times in the Premier League. United's need for a new right-back has led them to the England U21 international and for good reason too. Not only will he boost their homegrown quota, but Solskjaer's side would be acquiring a player who made more tackles (129) than any other defender in Europe's top five leagues last season, and was dribbled past on just 10 occasions in 35 outings, a fine return for a full-back.
He won't come cheap, though. Palace are well within their right to ask for a top fee for one of their prized academy products and reports suggest the Eagles are holding out for bids of anything upwards of £60m, that a fee United are unlikely to baulk at. It means United are the 2/9 favourites to sign Wan-Bissaka on the Sportsbook, with rivals Manchester City at 8/1 their closest competitor in his market for the youngster.
Will United beat City to Maguire?
Wan-Bissaka isn't the only English defender United are targeting this summer either. In a season that saw them ship 54 goals, marking their leakiest Premier League campaign to date, reinforcements at the back are required for United to re-establish themselves as England's top team. A central defensive partnership of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling hardly instills confidence, nor do the duo have the quality required to help United return to the Champions League.
Eric Bailly's ongoing injury issues have hardly helped, but Solskjaer needs a reliable centre-back partner for Victor Lindelof, who impressed in the wake of the Norwegian's appointment. Harry Maguire was heavily linked with a big money move to United last summer following a fine World Cup and while his league form dipped last season, his stock remains high as the Manchester pair battle it out for the 26-year-old.
An aerial success rate of 78.1% was better than any of the 290 players to contest 30 or more aerial duels in England's top tier last term, with Maguire dominant in the air. United need a Premier League experienced centre-back to improve their defensive fortunes and Maguire fits the bill. Like Palace and Wan-Bissaka, Leicester would want a huge fee for the England international, but it's one United would be willing to pay to improve at the back.
United are at evens to be Maguire's next club on the Sportsbook, with rivals City the current favourites to secure the defender's signature at 8/11. This will play into Leicester's hands as they would be able to command a huge fee for Maguire, though their preference would be to retain his services.
Lukaku's two-year Manchester stay set to end this summer
United need to fund these big money moves somehow and it's likely that there will be departures this summer, with Romelu Lukaku tipped for a fresh start following a tough second season at Old Trafford. Netting 16 and registering seven assists in his debut season, the Belgian was tipped to follow up that with a fine campaign, yet scored just 12 times, despite a bright start to 2018/19 that saw him score four in his opening five league appearances last season.
He enjoyed two rare purple patches following Solskjaer's appointment, but Lukaku is likely to depart for pastures new this summer as he looks to rediscover his best form ahead of next year's European Championship.
A move to Italy is on the cards and the chance to link up with Antonio Conte at San Siro is one Lukaku would grab with both hands. Inter are the favourites to sign Lukaku this summer at 4/9 as the Series A side gear up for life after Mauro Icardi. The Argentine is widely expected to leave Inter this summer and while Conte has the promising Lautaro Martinez in reserve, the newly-appointed head coach may favour an experienced head on the frontline, with Lukaku earmarked as a likely arrival this summer.