Manchester United are attempting a summer rebuild as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to put a disappointing campaign squarely in the rear-view mirror.
It is now just eight weeks until the Premier League transfer window closes and Press Association Sport’s Simon Peach has taken a look at the club’s plans and the work required.
What business do United want to get done?
While the search continues for a technical director reporting to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, the club are in numerous discussions regarding potential transfers. United normally like to adopt a three in, three out approach, but this summer there is likely to be more activity as Solskjaer attempts to improve the squad. Talented Daniel James became the Norwegian’s first signing on Wednesday when completing his move from Swansea in a deal that could reach around £18million, but that is unlikely to assuage United’s need for a more experienced attacking outlet on the right. James fits the profile of the young, British players they would like to sign where possible, as do Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Leicester defender Harry Maguire – two players that Press Association Sport understands are of interest to the Old Trafford giants. The accent on youth and promise in United’s search is clear but signing experience cannot be ruled out as the club are aware of the need for leadership within the squad.
What issues stand in the way?
The transfer market is tougher than ever, even for a club of United’s standing. Premier League sides at a lower rung than United can afford to make big signings and, maybe more importantly, reject interest in their best players, unlike when United used to be able to poach the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Carrick from Tottenham. Then there are the inflated asking prices to navigate, with Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City seen as having more of an impact on the cost of defenders than Virgil Van Dijk’s world-record move to Liverpool. United are understood to be willing to pay big bucks for the right person, but the price is driven by the desperation of the buyer as well as the talent of the player – plus, in United’s case, the size of the club has an impact on the fee. Countless individuals have been linked with a move to Old Trafford, but the small matter of an unglamorous Europa League campaign is sure to dissuade some.
Who will be leaving?
Paul Pogba has been the subject of widespread links to an exit, but there has remained an insistence from United that the France midfielder is not for sale. It would take an enormous offer for that stance to waver. Romelu Lukaku is understood to be open to a move to Italy, while the future of out-of-sorts Alexis Sanchez is up to Solskjaer – plus there is the small matter of finding a buyer capable of carrying his wages. Press Association Sport understands that Juan Mata remains in discussions with United ahead of his contract expiring at the end of June, while the impasse with David De Gea over a new deal remains. The summer exit on free transfers of Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia have already been confirmed, while James Wilson and Regan Poole, amongst others, are being released. Matteo Darmian looks set to get the exit he has long craved, while Marcos Rojo continues to be linked with a departure. The futures of the likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Axel Tuanzebe and Dean Henderson have yet to be confirmed, while United are considering forming strategic partnerships to make sure loan moves are more fruitful and that development is not stunted by the current under-23 league system.
What is next?
United are hoping to get more business done before the bulk of Solskjaer’s squad return to training on July 1. The players will undergo testing and rigorous fitness regimes before jetting off on their pre-season tour on July 7. Friendlies against Perth Glory and Leeds await in Australia, before facing Inter Milan in Singapore and Spurs in China. Solskjaer will lead United to Norway to take on hometown club Kristiansund, with pre-season rounded off with a friendly against AC Milan in Cardiff. The transfer window for Premier League clubs shuts at 5pm on August 8, with United’s campaign beginning at home to Chelsea on August 11.