It might not come as a surprise that José Mourinho has been one of the more outspoken managers during this transfer window.
During the past week of Manchester United’s tour of the United States, the Portuguese has spoken frankly about the players he needs to bring in, and about the transfer market in general.
“Players like Pogba; there are one or two [big] transfers [like that] per transfer window,” he said. “The other ones are where you have 100 transfers and for me that is the dangerous area of the market.
“Some clubs are paying, or they don’t buy because they don’t accept the numbers that are now ruling the market, or to do it they have to go the same levels and for me that’s what worries me a little bit because now we speak about £30million, £40million, £50million in such an easy way.”
This latter transfer might be at the level which “worries” Mourinho, but the market for centre backs is competitive due to an apparent lack of proven quality, and the subsequent bump in price of those players at this next level.
One area of the side which has been strangely ignored by United so far is the full back position. Antonio Valencia has filled in admirably recently, to the point where you’d now say it’s his best role in the side, but as the Ecuadorian turns 32 before the season starts his days of motoring up and down the right flank for 90 minutes, twice a week, may be coming to an end.
Elsewhere, Matteo Darmian has emerged as a reliable option on either side of the pitch and was one of the standout players in his side’s Europa League final triumph last season, where he nullified numerous Ajax threats, but particularly that of pacy winger Bertrand Traoré.
Darmian could become Mourinho’s United version of Paulo Ferreira, providing a reliable option on either side of the defence when the game plan calls for him, as it did in their final game of last season.
While there are other options in the full back position, including the enigmatic Luke Shaw, centre backs Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind who can both do a job there, plus academy graduates such as Demi Mitchell and Matthew Olosunde; there still seems to be a void in the wide areas of the defence which the club are yet to fill with quality.
Mourinho has spoken openly about two positions he wants to strengthen. “I would like one player — a midfield player — which would give me more options to the balance and the team.
“Another one — an attacking player — especially that can play through the wings to give me more attacking options but I never speak about players that belong to other teams.”
He’s speaking here of long term targets Ivan Perišić, plus one of Eric Dier or Nemanja Matić, but maybe, with the Perišić saga dragging out, he could look to the full back position to provide a wide attacking threat on one side, while using Darmian, Blind, or Rojo to sure up the defence on the other.
Serge Aurier could be the ideal man
Serge Aurier has been linked with the club via the transfer rumour mill, and would be ideal for the role.
Due to the high profile signing of Dani Alves, the Ivorian will have fallen down the pecking order at his current club, Paris Saint-Germain, and he might now be looking to move clubs to get game time ahead of the World Cup in 2018 which Ivory Coast are close to qualifying for.
There were also rumours linking him with a move to United earlier in the year, including claims that a deal had already been agreed in principle between the player and Mourinho, so the move wouldn’t come out of the blue if it happened.
The fee for Aurier might enter worrying territory for the manager, but though the fact that neighbours and rivals Manchester City have spent well over £100million on fullbacks alone could mean a hike in price, it also means they have a freer run at signing the PSG man who was also linked with City at one stage.
With only two signings so far, and the season fast approaching, Mourinho’s relaxed demeanour in pre-season training so far could soon turn into the grouchy disgruntlement seen from the manager in recent seasons.
To keep manager morale at its current state, Ed Woodward, the man who deals with the clubs transfers, would do well to add a full back to the list of signings, and make it a priority up there with midfielder and winger, rather than an afterthought.