Manchester United

Solskjær's shopping list: the players United could target this summer

 • by Ryan Baldi
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“Ole’s at the wheel…” sing the Manchester United fans, in honour of their Treble-hero-turned-manager. And, after the Norwegian’s three-year deal to make his caretaker stewardship more permanent, they will be hoping he can steer them back into title contention next season.

Whether he is able to do so will depend largely on the moves United make in the transfer market this summer. Solskjær will reportedly receive significant backing to strengthen his squad, with funds available for new recruits at right-back, centre-back, central midfield and for a wide attacker.

With that in mind, we’ve analysed one player who should be top of Solskjær’s shopping list in each position, as well as looking at viable alternatives.

Kalidou Koulibaly

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Napoli’s Koulibaly has been one of the best and most consistent centre-backs in Europe since joining the Partenopei from Genk in 2014.

Powerful and commanding, the Senegalese is a leader at the back, strong in the air and imperious in his timing of challenges.

But he is also excellent on the ball, a gifted passer able to conduct play from the back and break the opposition lines with crisp and ambitious balls forward.

It is likely that any deal for Koulibaly will require a transfer fee in the region of the record £75million Liverpool paid to sign Virgil van Dijk in January 2018, while Real Madrid‘s reported interest in the 28-year-old could yet push his price up further.

Centre-back alternatives

Internazionale’s Milan Škriniar is another Serie A centre-back linked with Old Trafford, and while he would likely come no cheaper than Koulibaly, he is almost four years younger than the Napoli man, therefore offering greater resale value.

Tottenham Hotspur‘s Toby Alderweireld can match Koulibaly for experience, and the 30-year-old Belgian has a £25million release clause in his Spurs contract that will become active this summer, making him an attractive option.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka

It’s been little more than a year since Wan-Bissaka made his senior debut for Crystal Palace, drafted into Roy Hodgson’s side to face Spurs in February 2018, with his second start coming in a 3-2 defeat to United a week later.

The 21-year-old right-back was named the Eagles’ Player of the Month at the end of his first full month on the team, an accolade he was won a further three times since.

What is most surprising about Wan-Bissaka’s rapid assimilation to life in the Premier League is that, given he was only converted from a winger at under-23 level, he is so proficient defensively.

The England under-21 international has made more tackles that any other player in the English top flight this term, and his average of 6.34 defensive actions (combined tackles and interceptions) per 90 minutes is comparable with the best in Europe in his position.

His star having risen so rapidly over the last 13 months, and allowing for the usual premium attached to young English talent, Wan-Bissaka would not come cheap, with Palace likely to demand at least £40million.

Right-back alternatives

United already have one of Europe’s most-gifted young right-backs on their books in Diogo Dalot, a £19million purchase from Porto last summer.

Although Dalot differs from Wan-Bissaka stylistically, being more attack-minded than the Palace man and with his lethal crossing his biggest asset, signing another young option for the position would only block Dalot’s development.

There is, of course, the option of playing Dalot further forward, with the 20-year-old impressing as a winger at times this term, but United might be wise to consider a slightly more experienced addition on the right side of defence, an alternative to 33-year-old Ashley Young who can hold the fort while Dalot develops.

Barcelona‘s Nélson Semedo, as 25-year-old who played alongside Lindelöf at Benfica, could be a good fit.

Tanguy Ndombélé

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Said to be high on Zinedine Zidane’s transfer priorities at Real Madrid and wanted by Manchester City, Lyon’s Ndombélé is set to be one of the most coveted midfielders in Europe this summer.

The Frenchman has excelled in his two seasons with OL, whom he initially joined on loan from Amiens before making the switch permanent last summer. Even in the club’s 5-1 Champions League last-16 defeat to Barcelona last month, the four-cap Les Bleus youngster still stood out.

Able to play either as a holding midfielder or in a box-to-box role, Ndombélé anticipates play well, allowing him to intercept and make timely tackles to break up opposition attacks when protecting his defence, while his driving dribbling ability and eye for a killer pass makes him deadly in transition.

With his mobility and technical skill, Ndombélé would be a significant upgrade on Nemanja Matić in the deepest midfield role, but his thrust and creativity could also see him replace Ander Herrera if the Basque midfielder leaves on a free at the end of the season.

Midfield alternatives

Paris Saint-Germain‘s Adrien Rabiot will be out of contract in the summer and he is yet to agree a move away from the Parc des Princes. Like compatriot Ndombélé, Rabiot can also play in a number of midfield roles and, turning just 24 in April, he will continue to develop and mature.

Suited to a more attacking remit, Sporting CP’s Bruno Fernandes is catching the attention of the continent’s biggest clubs of late, thanks to his incredible scoring record in Portugal.

Likened to former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard for his ability to drive forward from central midfield and threaten goal from distance, the 24-year-old has scored 24 goals and registered 14 assists in 43 games for Sporting this term.

Jadon Sancho

England international Sancho only turned 19 in late March but already the Borussia Dortmund winger is one of the most prolific creators of goals in Europe.

The 12 league assists the former Manchester City youngster has provided so far this season can be matched only by five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi among Europe’s five major leagues.

Having moved to the Bundesliga in search of first-team opportunities in August 2017, the young winger has quickly established himself as not only an elite talent, but already a player who can perform consistently at the highest level.

Capable of playing on either flank, Sancho has frightening pace, faultless close control and the kind of dribbling skills traditionally revered inside Old Trafford.

United are said to be ready to break the bank to sign Sancho this summer, with a bid of up to £100million mooted, but word coming out of Germany suggests Dortmund will refuse to sell.

Winger alternatives

He may not have started a Premier Legaue game yet in his career, but Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi is one of the most talked-about players in England at present.

The 18-year-old was given a senior debt and a first competitive start for the Three Lions at the last international break and is a £40million target for German champions Bayern Munich.

United have now also entered the race to side the supremely gifted forward, but Chelsea, in light of their transfer ban, are likely to dig their heels in, even if it means losing the player for free in 2020, when his contract is set to expire.

One potential alternative if deals for Englishmen Sancho and Hudson-Odoi prove impossible is Lille’s Nicolas Pépé. The 23-year-old Ivory Coast wide man has been exceptional in Ligue 1 this season, scoring 17 goals and providing eight assists in 29 games.

Pépé is also a target for Bayern, but, likely to be available for around £60million, he’d be a cheaper and more gettable option than Sancho.

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