Manchester United have been much improved during Louis van Gaal’s tenure at the club but they have failed to mount a serious title challenge since winning the Premier League in 2013.
This season, however, the Red Devils have started the campaign incredibly well and sit just two points behind Manchester City and Arsenal as they start to attract some interest in the title markets. Van Gaal’s side earned a point against the ‘noisy neighbours’ in their most recent fixture, while they were ousted 3-0 by Arsene Wenger’s men earlier this month.
United boast one of the most talented squads in England’s top flight but there are still a number of positions where they could strengthen in the January transfer window. Wayne Rooney has struggled for form as the focal point of United’s attack and, although Anthony Martial has stepped up to the plate, it would be foolish to suggest that the youngster is the right man to lead the frontline on a permanent basis.
Rooney has failed to inspire confidence at the beginning of the campaign, and some United fans have criticized him after each and every match. Other than his hat-trick against Club Brugge, the 30-year-old simply hasn’t been good enough and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see United look elsewhere in January.
Alexandre Lacazette was phenomenal for Lyon last season, while the Reds were linked with Tottenham forward Harry Kane throughout the summer – both would be suitable replacements for an ageing Rooney.
Another potential candidate, and one that would excite many United supporters, is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The Borussia Dortmund forward has been instrumental for the Bundesliga side this season, scoring 17 goals in 13 appearances. In fact, Aubameyang has scored in all but two of Dortmund’s matches this campaign – an incredible achievement. His best years are ahead of him and United must act quickly to ensure that they beat Europe’s elite clubs to his signature.
Room for improvement
Defensively, the 13-time Premier League champions have talent in abundance but could improve their back four further if they are willing to invest heavily.
Supporters have been crying out for Ed Woodward to invest in Borussia Dortmund star Mats Hummels, but this doesn’t appear plausible, for the time being at least. The Germany international has played a pivotal role for both club and country over the last few years and, at 26 years old, is in the prime of his career.
Another possibility is Real Madrid’s Rafael Varane. While the Spanish giants aren’t exactly fans of United right now after this summer’s fiasco over David de Gea, the Red Devils could swing a package deal involving the Madrid-bound goalkeeper in order to attract the France international to move to Old Trafford. Varane is one of Europe’s most talented young defenders and while it would be foolish to assume that he could replicate his form in England, his natural talent suggests that he would be worth the gamble.
However, Van Gaal doesn’t necessarily need to spend in January. United’s squad is deep, and they have plenty of talented stars all over the field. Last season, Chelsea won the league with one main striker and United could emulate this achievement if they perform at their very best. Rooney’s confidence is clearly shattered and now is the time for Van Gaal to allow Martial the opportunity to start as United’s sole front man.
The Dutchman is known for his ruthlessness and it’s time for him to live up to this reputation. With Martial leading the line, United can challenge for the title. However, it may be fairer to suggest that next year could be United’s year to go all the way.