Now United are back in England following a fairly successful pre-season, what have we learned over the summer? In my opinion, we need at least one of the following to challenge for the title: a fast winger, a quality striker and a solid centre back.
Depay can play as a striker, but with Di Maria leaving we won’t have any other serious pace in attack. If Depay is to be deployed centrally, we need another speedy winger who can deliver accurate crosses (and Pedro may well be the answer). On the other hand, Memphis is to be used mainly in a wider role, then surely an out-and-out striker is required – someone like a Benzema or a Lacazette.
As for the centre back position, yes we have Rojo, Jones, Smalling, McNair and Blackett, but this isn’t a title-winning defence. With Ramos no longer in our sights, I believe there are two alternatives that possess the quality we need. One is Otamendi – he has looked the real deal at Valencia, but would his good form continue in the Premier League? There is no guarantee. Then there is the issue of United’s atrocious record with Argentine players, most recently manifested in the situation with Di Maria. Our second alternative is Varane. The boy is young, solid in the air and in the tackle, and possibly unhappy with his limited opportunities at Real. If we can snap him up for £25-30 million, it would be great business. He seems a sure success for the future and has a decent injury record too.
Suppose United stick with Rojo/Smalling or Smalling/ Jones. I don’t believe this is going to win us titles. Yes they are young and talented, but they are not world class as of now. If Van Gaal does stick with the current crop of centre backs it will be interesting to see how we fare.
So what would be our ideal starting line-up for the opener in just 5 days time with the players available right now? I’d like to see a 4-3-3 as follows:
Darmian – Rojo – Smalling – Shaw
Herrera – Schneiderlin – Carrick/Schweini
Mata/Young – Rooney – Depay
And our ideal lineup for the season, if De Gea leaves and we sign just one more player? For me, this 4-5-1 is the way to go…
Darmian – Smalling – Otamendi – Shaw
Mata – Herrera – Schneiderlin – Shweini/Blind – Depay