Four players Manchester United should target this summer

Recruitment Analysis
Holly Williams

Holly Williams


With the 2016/17 season closing its doors, the summer transfer window opens. The time of the year where changes are made to better-respected squads for the short break before the beginning of a new campaign. Where small clubs make little to no changes and big clubs look to make even bigger changes, buying the top prospects throughout the world. Clubs like Manchester United look to do such things in order to bring back their winning ways in top flight football.

In recent years, the red half of Manchester have fallen down a slippery slope, going through what is now their third manager in four years since the step down of Sir Alex Ferguson. With the criticism of spending too much and not winning (much), United look to make the most of the summer and sign key players that suit manager José Mourinho’s schemes. Being linked to just about everybody who is anybody, there are smart choices and bad choices that can be made.

So who are some top candidates to wear a red jersey this summer? Here are four picks that could benefit and complete Manchester United’s squad.

Andrea Belotti

Club: Torino
Nationality: Italian
Age: 23

The 23-year-old striker has been one of the top talking points of Serie A this season. Reaching 26 goals, the young Italian has had the best run of his blossoming career. What he has been most recognised for is his ability to finish and contribute from anywhere on the pitch. Scoring from every way possible, showing he is versatile with his feet and strong in the air, Belotti could be the cure to end United’s dry scoring spell.

Examples of Belotti finishing chances from Holly Williams on Vimeo.

His smart movement on and off the ball, as well as linking up with United’s talented midfield, could help produce and more importantly finish chances that are so strategically created.

Andrea Belotti could be yet another aerial threat in Mourinho’s attack. With the likes of Marouane Fellaini, it gives more options to the middle, as well as in set pieces.

Having the skill to both poach and find the right space to open up for quick passing or one touch shots will help the Red Devils find the back of the net.

And lastly, by using his physicality, it would be an easy transition for him in keeping up with the intense style of the Premier League.

With the still undecided future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the pressure on the mildly less experienced Marcus Rashford, Andrea Belotti could be an amazing addition to the United’s squad to break the ties.

To see a deeper analysis of Andrea Belotti, visit our brother site and check out another piece I wrote.

Christian Pulisic

Club: Bourissa Dortmund
Nationality: American
Age: 18

Another youngster who has quickly and quietly appeared on everybody’s radar.

Having a breakout season, impressing domestic and foreign fans alike, Christian Pulisic has been recognised for his immense amount of talent and potential. Starting off with his flexibility to play in just about any attacking midfield position, whether that is on either flank or even directly in the middle, the young American shows he has the intelligence to adapt and excel in the offensive build-up. Despite not starting frequently, Pulisic often made an impact on the game. His movement both on and off the ball have been extremely impressive.

With the speed and agility to find pockets of space for teammates to lay off passes or drag away defenders, he has proven to be very attacking minded. an element Manchester United have lacked in recent seasons is the absence of attacking momentum. Players have fallen short in creating an initial offensive opportunity in the opposition’s final third.

In the photo above, we see Pulisic use his agility to avoid the oncoming defender to find an open target in Ousmane Dembélé. Claiming the ball in the middle of the pitch, he dodges a defender and uses a brief window of open space to initiate an intelligent through ball into the opposition’s 18-yard box.

In this series, Christian Pulisic’s defensive work rate is something to be fondly looked at.

As he is seen at the end of Dortmund’s attack, the opposing goalkeeper hands the ball off to start a quick returning play. Taking the opportunity to come from behind, the American begins to chase and catch up on his opposition. Making it all the way back to his own half, he then dispossesses and abruptly ends the attack whilst proceeding to foul the opponent. In certain situations, many would take a foul over a potential goal given up.

A slight setback to signing such a young and underdeveloped player is undoubtedly his lack of experience. Although he wouldn’t see much first team play (even with José Mourinho’s new-found love of playing youth), being part of Manchester United comes with a lot of pressure and responsibility which could come into effect of his growth.

Virgil van Dijk

Club: Southampton
Nationality: Dutch
Age: 25

Since stepping onto the Premier League soil in 2015, the Dutch centre-back Virgil van Dijk has had an amazing outburst in both personal and campaign statistics. Despite being injured for a majority of this season, the numbers he put up for a minimal amount of play time looked as though he could have equalled if not surpassed his own figures.

What van Dijk brings to the pitch is an amazing work rate, both defensively and offensively. Never afraid to move up with the ball and work through the middle is a great skill for a centre-half to have, as long as he can make it back to defend.

Manchester United have struggled to find a perfect pair of centre backs all season, mainly due to multiple injuries. Although the contrast of van Dijk and United’s own Eric Bailly are not much different, the pair would be the best bet for Manchester. Seeing as they both like to play higher up, interacting with the midfield, the assurance of one of them staying back at all times would need to be undoubting. As for partnering van Dijk with Chris Smalling or Phil Jones, this could leave viewers on edge during a counter attack. Neither of the two English centre-backs is composed enough to hold a back line to themselves while van Dijk would move forward.

In this play, van Dijk simply pressures his opponent to make a silly mistake on the flank.

Making his approach all the way to Stoke City’s final third, aggressively attempting to retain possession for his team in an ideal spot, Virgil van Dijk chases after his adversary, putting him in a rushed panic. In an attempt to release the ball before getting dispossessed, the opposition mistakenly kicks the ball out of play, resulting in van Dijk winning the ball back for his side.

The Dutchman is also very good at possession, something United are very familiar with. Continuing to play the Mourinho way would consist of lots of possession and adaptability. With van Dijk in the back, it could allow him being the beginning of the attack. Playing higher up in the pitch, linking close with the midfield, he could accompany Manchester United’s close and quick passing game.

Victor Lindelöf

Club: SL Benfica
Nationality: Swedish
Age: 22

To save the best for last is an understatement. When it comes to discussing the perfect signings for Manchester United, a player that tops the list is Victor Lindelöf. Coming off of yet another Primeira Liga win, making this the 4th time in the last five years, the young centre-back has had a great season. With 1744 passes in the league, topping those of any defender, Lindelöf has seemed to have caught the attention of José Mourinho.

As stated previously, United’s defensive situation has been nonetheless a little frustrating. Next, to the lack of goals, the constant change to the back four was up there in the difficulties of this season. The absence of the proper modern flow in centre-backs has shown deeply in how United played throughout the season.

Victor Lindelöf’s characteristics go hand in hand with Eric Bailly. When a defender as aggressive and forward thinking as Bailly, a calmer more composed counterpart such as the young Swede, would be ideal. While one plays high, the other plays deep. If Bailly were to move up in the attack, Lindelöf could stay back, holding the line and waiting for a possible counter from the opposition.

Here we see a counter attacking play in action. Creating a 3 v 3, Lindelöf breaks off to approach a 1 v 1 situation. Firstly, Lindelöf looks back to see a man making a forward run on the right side of the pitch. Assuming possible scenarios, he keeps an equal distance between the man with the ball and the unmarked player.

Once the ball was passed, a fourth defender has joined Benfica’s final third, now making it a 4 v 2. With the space Lindelöf had given, it allowed him to turn and square up with the opposition after the ball had been played off. Now producing his perfect 1 v 1 position. As the Benfica defence closes in, the opposing attacker sees no clear option but to go for a shot which is then deflected.

Lindelöf used his defensive awareness to end the threat his team was facing. Without panicking, he held a firm line which then collapsed to narrow in on the danger itself, resulting in a stoppage of play and extending the time for his side to reform and fall back.


There is no doubt in any Manchester United fan’s mind that changes need to be made during this summer transfer window. In order to recollect their top spots in Europe, improvements are in order to make this happen.

Knowing United, cash is never an issue but keeping in mind, any interest they have adds peak value and pressure to said player and expectations through the roof.

With José Mourinho’s keen eye for signings and his lack of disappointment from last season, the fans should trust in the Portuguese manager to make the smart and proper decisions, to better demonstrate what Manchester United is capable of.

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