Manchester United’s season was always going to be a transitional one, and it has proven to be just that.
Erik ten Hag, on the other hand, has had some success in laying the groundwork for Manchester United to last for many seasons. The January transfer window offers another chance to improve.
Following the Netherlands’ successful 2022 World Cup campaign, speculation about a possible move for Cody Gakpo has already begun. With Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure, a vacancy has opened up in Manchester United’s attɑck, and Gakpo has the technical and physical attributes to fill it.
Ten Hag is undeniably looking to strengthen his midfield. Frenkie de Jong was United’s top summer transfer target, but the Dutchman refused to leave Barcelona even as the Catalan club tried to force him out. Six months later, ten Hag is reportedly still interested in luring de Jong to Old Trafford.
And not for no reason. In the center of the field, Manchester United is lacking a ball carrier. De Jong, a 25-year-old midfield dribbler, would add a new dimension to their attɑck and make it easier to break down opponents who use a low defensive block.
Casemiro joined United from Real Madrid during the summer transfer window after it became clear that de Jong would not join the club, but the Brazilian is a different type of midfielder. Casemiro is a better passer than many people realize. He does not, however, contribute to the formation of overloads in the same way that de Jong does.
De Jong and ten Hag were Ajax teammates, and the latter is looking forward to reuniting in the Premier League. Manchester United are still a work in progress under the Dutch coach, and bringing in de Jong from Barcelona in January or next summer would bring them much closer to completion.
The problem for United is that if de Jong stays at Camp Nou, he will have few options. Moises Caicedo has been linked with a move to Manchester United, but the Ecuadorian is just as talented as de Jong on the ball. Another player on United’s radar is Jude Bellingham, but he is a more traditional box-to-box midfielder, and fitting him into the same midfield unit as Bruno Fernandes would be difficult.
Manchester United can only do so much in the January transfer window, when completing transfers for top targets is more difficult. However, they did sign Fernandes in the middle of the season a few years ago, and the Portuguese quickly established himself as a key player for them. United must work to improve on what ten Hag has already established as long as the window remɑins open.