There’s always plenty of chatter surrounding football transfers, but often this comprises a name and club being linked with no explanation as to how they would fit in to the team and if the signing continues the manager’s usual transfer market behaviour. With this in mind, the five players suggested below have been selected because they would suit the club and fit in to their usual recruitment methods.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United have prioritised signing young players with the raw materials they desire who they believe can be developed at the club. Importantly though, unlike Arsenal, these players aren’t usually bought to store away, they are brought in and expected to contribute. He very occasionally goes for a ready made high profile player like a Robin van Persie, Edwin van der Sar or Juan Veron, but the club mostly target younger players.
So, who should they look at this summer?
Mats Hummels – Borussia Dortmund
Scout Report Hummels is only 24 and has established himself as the top young central defender in Europe. Hummels is a strong, elegant defender. His top quality is his football intelligence, which manifests itself in his supreme interception rate and his quality pass selection. He is comfortable enough with the ball at his feet to step forward in to midfield and pick passes and has incredible field vision. He is solid in the air and a superb organiser.
Where does he fit? Hummels couldn’t have been better designed for United. From McGrath, through Pallister, Stam and latterly Ferdinand, Ferguson has always deployed a footballing defender in his back four to complement a more rugged partner. With Ferdinand reaching the end of his top-level career Hummels would be the best possible replacement.
How much? For all the attention on Marco Reus and Mario Gotze at Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp would say Hummels is his key player. They would miss him more than any other. With this in mind United would need to part with at least £20 million, if not £30 million to prise him away. But they’ve spent that before.
Toby Alderweireld – Ajax
Scout Report Alderweireld is the last remaining Belgian starlet not in England. A big, strong and intelligent defender, at only 24 he has become a leader at an Ajax side bubbling with creativity in attack. He is good on the ball and capable of picking passes from defence.
Where does he fit? Alderweireld would fit in to the footballing defender spot in Ferguson’s back line. He is right in the age window that Ferguson likes; old enough to have experience but young enough that being at United could take him to the next level. He is at a similar stage of his development to Nemanja Vidic when he arrived at the club, coming over from a lesser league ready to be turned in to the finished article.
How much? Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen both left Ajax for around £11m so Alderweireld would be in that sort of area. Any sale of Ajax’s other prized assets would affect this though.
Antonio Nocerino – AC Milan
Scout Report Nocerino is a driving and relentless central midfielder. The very definition of the ‘lung buster’, he seems to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. He is tidy on the ball but his main trait is his ability to get into the faces of opponents and hustle them in to mistakes. Fittingly he took Gennaro Gattuso’s number at Milan, and Gattuso is a player that Ferguson admired in his prime.
Where does he fit? United haven’t really had a pest in midfield since Roy Keane. They thought Owen Hargreaves was going to be, but his injury troubles robbed them of that. Nocerino would offer this dimension to the United midfield which doesn’t really have anyone like him. He would compliment the laconic passing of Michael Carrick and endeavour of Tom Cleverley nicely. He could be the ‘ready made’ player that Ferguson sometimes moves for.
How much? Probably not too much actually. Maybe £8-12m. Milan aren’t in the best financial shape but would still be reluctant to lose him.
Ilkay Gundogan – Borussia Dortmund
Scout Report A classy, elegant and technically proficient deep-lying playmaker, Gundogan is only 22 and is already starting to nail down a role in the German national team even with Bastian Schweinsteiger for company. Gundogan sets the tempo for Dortmund when in possession and is comfortable passing over short and long range. He comes deep to fetch the ball from defence before setting attacks in motion but is also a danger around the edge of the box.
Where does he fit? Although he has had a good season, Michael Carrick could still stand to be upgraded long term. Ferguson has been wary of his team’s inability to monopolise possession and territory against the top European teams and adding Gundogan to his midfield would certainly assist that. He is young but is experienced in a top league and has been outstanding in the Champions League. He could be steadily rotated in to the midfield before being given the keys in a few years time.
How much? This would depend almost entirely on if Dortmund sell any of their other desirable youngsters. They may feel like Gundogan could be replaced easiest but he would still cost a lot to bring in. It would surely be north of £15m
Iker Muniain – Athletic Bilbao
Scout Report Muniain is only 20 but has been in the Athletic first team for nearly four years. The little attacker plays at a frenzied pace with his jet-heeled dribbling and trickery. He can play in any of the attacking positions other than centre forward and offers directness that scares defences. The only downfall is that he doesn’t score enough goals for such a talent.
Where does he fit? Muniain would offer something entirely different to United’s attack. The last raw young forward with explosive pace who didn’t score enough goals that they signed was a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He has those raw materials that United look for that they know they can develop in to a world-class player. He tortured them in the Europa League last year too, which won’t have gone unnoticed.
How much? Athletic are a notoriously difficult team to buy from because they don’t give away their precious Basques cheaply. They would be looking in the £20m region for Muniain but if they can mould him as they did with Ronaldo that would be money very well spent.