To say it has been a busy summer transfer window for Manchester United would be a massive understatement. We’ve already added Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Matteo Darmian, Memphis Depay and Sergio Romero, but it looks likely that the business for the summer is not finished. With Pedro and Nicolás Otamendi remaining realistic targets for United, fresh rumours around Thomas Muller, and continued noises about John Stones, we could be in for an exciting end to the window. With all the speculation going on, let’s take a look at how the starting XI could shape up for the season if Pedro and Otamendi end up joining the Reds.
In goal, we have David de Gea. Though he has not played in the first two matches of the season for Manchester United, it looks increasingly unlikely that the young Spanish shot-stopper will leave before the end of the current transfer window. With very low bids coming from Real Madrid, short of the £35 million price tag United has slapped on De Gea, it is only a matter of time before he starts again for Manchester United.
In the left back position we have Luke Shaw. Though the young English defender had some fitness issues last season, as well as competition from Daley Blind, it seems that the left back position will be all his as Blind is currently plying his trade as a center back. With a full preseason and a reported training regimen in Dubai, it seems that Shaw will have the necessary fitness to keep his spot as left back all season.
At right back we have Matteo Darmian. The young Italian right back arrived this summer from Serie A club Torino for a reported £14.4 million, and immediately he has become a favorite amongst the Manchester United faithful. After a fine pre-season and good performances against Aston Villa and Tottenham, it looks like Darmian is swiftly slotting into the team. By the looks of Darmian’s solid performances, it will be difficult for Antonio Valencia to displace him.
In the center back positions we have Chris Smalling and Nicolás Otamendi. With Smalling being the best defender United has, it looks like he will serve as the starting center back for United. Otamendi, if he were to arrive, would be immediately put into the squad. It would be difficult to see van Gaal opting to leave Otamendi out of action having just seen him arrive at the club, especially with his world-class defensive capabilities. A solid pair with decent height and frame could prove to be exactly what United needs to combat strong strikers like Sergio Agüero and Diego Costa.
In the midfield positions we have Ander Herrera and Bastian Schweinsteiger. This pick is particularly difficult because United has so many top-class midfielders, with Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and Morgan Schneiderlin also available. With Schweinsteiger near or at peak fitness, it will be difficult to leave him on the bench, especially with the commanding presence he imposes on the pitch. His half hour cameos against Tottenham and Aston Villa show that he remains an imposing figure, even if he does not have the captain’s armband. On the other side, you have Ander Herrera, a player who is struggling with the midfield abundance that exists at Manchester United. In my opinion, he is a must in the starting XI because his link-up play with Juan Mata is second to none, and he can help knit the midfield and attack together. According to Squawka, he managed 89% pass accuracy last season, and the 26 chances created prove that he is a very potent offensive weapon when he is given the start.
In the attacking midfield position is Juan Mata. Mata, at the moment, is playing out wide, with Depay playing as the number 10. The problem with Mata playing out wide is that he lacks the sufficient speed to play as a winger. In addition, Depay is looking quite constrained playing behind Rooney, without the freedom he likes on the wing. It would make more sense for Mata to play as the central attacking midfielder – he is a fantastic distributor of the ball with incredible vision, and that’s where these attributes can really shine. At the moment, the attacking midfield position is lacking creativity, with Depay not unleashing his potential due to the positional restrictions he has. If Mata played as number 10, United could recover some of that creative play that will be key to contending for titles.
On the wings, you have Memphis Depay and Pedro. Both are typical winger; players with plenty of pace and skill. Depay managed to bag 22 goals for PSV in the Eredivisie from the wing position, so it is clear that he is a real threat when unleashed on the wing. Under the guidance of his former national team manager, Depay could be the revelation of the season not just for United, but also for the Premier League. As for Pedro, with manager Louis van Gaal promising him a spot in the starting XI, his pace and flair could help him succeed in the Premier League, a league known for its speed and strength.
Playing as lone striker is Wayne Rooney. He has been widely criticized following the opening two games, but Rooney could really benefit from some flair on the wings, and a player like Mata helping to slice through opposition defences. I still believe Wayne can score over 20 goals this season. Chicharito is unlikely to get too many starts, but Rooney will need to be rested at the right times, so it’s vital that we keep him as backup.
What would your ideal line-up be this season? Let us know in the comments below…