Five players Manchester United should sign this summer

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

Mats Hummels

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

Toby Alderweireld

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

Antonio Nocerino

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

Ilkay Gundogan

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

Iker Muniain

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.


Europa League final: La Liga’s second tier Athletic Bilbao and Atletico Madrid fight for glory

Whilst much of the talk around Europe over the last couple of weeks has been about Barcelona and Real Madrid’s inability to reach the Champions League final, two of the teams in their shadow have made sure that there will be one all-Spanish final this season. Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao will meet in the Europa league final on the May 9th in Bucharest.

Atletico’s season has been turned around by the appointment of Diego Simeone in December, after a run of poor form in the league that left them in danger of not qualifying for European football at all next season. As things stand now though they are in fifth place and still have a chance of getting into fourth and with it Champions League football next season.

Los Colcheneros have not finished outside the top 10 since 2005 and have twice finished inside the top four. Their consistency is even more remarkable considering the almost constant sales of their best players such as Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero and Diego Forlan. Also in this time they have proved their strength on the European stage by winning the Europa League in 2010 and then beating Champions league holders Inter Milan in the Super Cup later that year.

The main man behind Atletico’s success this season though is their new scoring sensation Radamel Falcao. Signed for a club record €40 million in the summer of 2011 after an incredible record of 73 goals in 83 games for Porto, he has lived up to expectations. His record of 33 goals in 46 games this season has proved his ability and the Colombia international is still improving. If Atletico have long-term ambitions to break into the Primera Division top four again and stay there, they must keep hold of players like Falcao.

Atletico’s run to the final has been fairly comfortable and scare free. They comfortably finished top of a group containing Udinese, Celtic and Rennes, before cruising past Lazio, Besiktas, Hannover 96 and maybe a little surprisingly, Valencia, winning home and away in every round.

There is no doubt they will face a stern test in the final though in the form of Marcelo Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao. Former Argentina and Chile coach Bielsa joined at the start of this season and has turned the San Mames outfit into one of the most exciting and attacking teams in Europe. This style of football, which has already been compared to Barcelona’s, has seen Bielsa linked with the Chelsea and Camp Nou jobs in some quarters. Since finishing 17th in 2006-2007, the Basque team have made steady improvements year after year and currently sit tenth in the table; the appointment of Bielsa may be the final piece of the jigsaw.

Bilbao’s improvement this season was evident in the Spain squad for the friendly against Venezuela. Javi Martinez, Andoni Iraola, Fernando Llorente and Iker Munian were all included with only Barcelona having more players from a single club in the squad. Much like Atletico though, Bilbao must hold on to these players if they have long term ambitions of making the step up to Champions League football, but with a number of English clubs already being linked with 19-year-old Munian, Llorente and Martinez, this may be difficult.

Bilbao’s route to the final has been nothing short of exceptional. After coming top of a relatively easy group with the exception of big spending Paris Saint-Germain, they have upset some big European names in the knock out stages. After winning through on away goals against Lokomotiv Moscow they caused the upset of the competition by knocking out Manchester United. Incredible attacking performances home and away gave them victories in both games and in truth the 5-3 aggregate scoreline could have been much worse for the English champions. From then another high-scoring victory over Schalke followed although they did need a late Llorente goal to get past Sporting Lisbon in the semi-final.

There is no doubt that this could be one of the biggest seasons in Bilbao’s history with the chance of a cup double as they meet Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final later this month. Victory in both of these finals will certainly put Athletic Bilbao’s name on every European football fan’s lips.

Both teams attacking styles will surely mean a great spectacle and an open game in Romania’s capital city on Wednesday and it may come down to a battle between two of La Liga’s best strikers in Falcao and Llorente to determine who takes the Spanish bragging rights in Europe this year.

By Chris Newman

Five playmakers Manchester United should target as Paul Scholes’ replacement

Paul Scholes took the option to retire at the end of last season, but Manchester United missed the playmaker’s creativity and guile so much that the 37-year-old came out of retirement to aid the Red Devils in their title charge.

Sir Alex Ferguson chased Wesley Sneijder as a potential replacement last summer, but with the Dutchman out of form and sure to be an expensive option, here are five alternatives that the Scottish manager has witnessed first hand, and who will be in his thoughts once the transfer window reopens.

Eden Hazard

By now, the talent and ability of the Belgium international is evident for all to see, and Hazard is one of the hottest prospects in European football. The 21-year-old’s attacking abilities helped Lille to the Ligue 1 Championship last term, and he has matured with the chance to play Champions League football this campaign.

With Hazard already admitting that he will leave the Stade Lille-Metropole this summer, suitors such as Manchester City, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Tottenham are all in the hunt for the starlet, but Sir Alex has also made it across the channel to watch him in action.


Iker Muniain

Given Athletic Bilbao’s excellent performances over two legs to dump United out of the Europa League, the English champions are more than aware of this Spanish prodigy’s talent.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men have evolved into an excellent side this season, with the 19-year-old schemer catching the eye in the process. With the ability to be the future of Spain’s creative midfield once the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta retire, the bigger boys of European football are sure to be circling San Mames in the near future.

Christian Eriksen

A product of the fabled Ajax youth academy, Eriksen has technical ability and poise in possession in spades. The 20-year-old has won the Eredivisie, experienced Champions League football and also faced United this term in the Europa League.

As one of Denmark’s shining lights, Eriksen will be given a chance to star at Euro 2012 this summer, which may make it difficult for the Amsterdam Arena outfit to hold onto their superstar.

Nicolas Gaitan

Benfica’s exciting attacking midfielder has been linked with a move to Old Trafford since he proved a thorn in the English team’s side in the Champions League earlier this term.

The Argentine has skill and pace in bundles, but whether he has the passing range and guile of some of the other candidates remains to be seen. Sir Alex may still try to sign the South American, but as more of a winger or second striker.


Luka Modric

The Tottenham talisman is the life and soul of a much-applauded Spurs side; the Croatian is also the White Hart Lane club’s most prized possession. Another excellent season under his belt, Modric will more than likely be the subject of attention this summer.

Spurs fought off advances from Chelsea a year ago, rejecting a £40 million offer, but the eastern European playmaker’s future depends on where Tottenham finish in the Premier League this term. The most expensive of the five options but arguably the most gifted, Sir Alex budget will play a part in any potential move for Modric.

Honourable mentions must also go to Adam Mayer of AZ and Younes Belhanda of Montpellier. The duo have been pivotal in their team’s current campaigns, with the underdog sides both fighting for their respective titles. The pair may be a bit inexperienced to step straight into the United first team, but have the potential to make a move to the Premier League this summer.

Published – Bleacher Report

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