Manchester United have all eyes focused on the transfer window ahead of what is set to be a busy period for the club.
While 2020-21 season saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side make progress, the campaign ultimately ended in disappointment with the Europa League final defeat by Villarreal.
The European Championship this summer means fans itching for action to watch will not be disappointed but it does complicate matters for United in the market.
Solskjaer has his shortlist for his three main targets this summer, consisting of Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, West Ham’s Declan Rice and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.
The trio are all set to be involved heavily with their respective nations this summer, with England and France both expected to venture deep into the competition – with the final falling just over a month before the start of the new Premier League season.
But the door is open for United to complete the deals and, while patience will be necessary, it could see Solskjaer have his dream starting line-up for next season.
Defensively, Varane has topped the pile for United in their search for a new central defender and the World Cup winner, 28, would come in as the partner in the middle of the park for Harry Maguire. United are also monitoring the Villarreal defender Pau Torres but Varane is the preferable target as the Reds are keen to sign a player with experience.
Either side of that pairing will be Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, following successful campaigns for the pair, while Dean Henderson or David de Gea will surely occupy the gloves.
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In front of them, Declan Rice would be a significant upgrade on United’s deep-lying midfield options and he can form a solid partnership with Paul Pogba, potentially allowing United to get the best out of their World Cup-winning midfielder.
Rice has helped propel West Ham to European football for the first time in over a decade and is a player United have been tracking for some time.
However, securing the signature of the former Chelsea youngster will not be an easy task with David Moyes already making it clear the club do not want to sell, with Rice still having three years remaining on his contract in east London.
Of the trio, it could be Rice that is the most expensive transfer to secure and it may require sales to raise funds. Jesse Lingard, following his successful loan stint in east London, could come into play, while it’s likely that one of Dean Henderson and David de Gea will also be on their way out.
Having Rice alongside Scott McTominay would provide additional protection to the defence, allowing Shaw and Wan-Bissaka to have more involvement pushing forward, although a more likely option would be to utilise Pogba as his partner.
Bruno Fernandes, the first name on the teamsheet, would have attacking freedom, with Pogba able to have an impact in a role where he can be the catalyst for turning defence into attack.
That could work well for United, particularly with the option of partnering McTominay with Rice for matches when they would need to be more defensively solid, and would add further depth to the midfield.
In the forward areas, Sancho is an easy fit on the right-side of the attacking trio – an area of the squad where United have had a number of players utilised but haven’t seen someone truly grab the opportunity.
With Edinson Cavani, Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, there’s depth within the attack for rotation and changes, which will be necessary for any assault on Manchester City’s Premier League crown.
Cavani’s form has made him a key asset for Solskjaer, although his age means he cannot play every minute – but Greenwood is learning significantly beneath him and can step up when required.
On the left, Rashford and Martial are the leading suitors, though Pogba can also fill in here if he remains at the club, but there is a sense that it may be too many pegs for a single hole – with the pressure on Martial in particular to improve.
Those sorts of difficult decisions have two benefits though. Firstly, the depth within the squad is a massive boost and something United have been crying out for.
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It will also test Solskjaer’s leadership and the decisions he makes. Elite managers have to balance things accordingly and keep their squad happy, which is no easy feat, but is the difference between contenders and pretenders.
Solskjaer faces his biggest test ever next season, with the Norwegian entering the final 12 months of his contract and seeing questions emerge over his long-term suitability once again, so this is another challenge for him to deal with.
Ultimately though, the biggest beneficiaries will be the supporters returning to Old Trafford as the first team line-up that can be created is one that is capable of shining on a weekly basis.
United potential XI: Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Varane, Shaw; Rice, Pogba, Fernandes; Sancho, Cavani, Rashford.