Manchester United January transfers: Ronaldo replacement and right-back

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Manchester United typically do not make signings in the winter window, feeling that clubs are reluctant to let go of genuine talent mid-season. This time, however, there is pressure to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.

Manager Erik ten Hag told reporters at United’s training ground in Spain during the World Cup half-time break that he wants to boost his attack: “We do everything in our power. We are researching every opportunity and do everything we can, if the opportunity arises, to sign them.”

On here, the athletic analyzes the possibilities for moves in and out in the coming month and who will make the final decision on the deals.

Last three expenses of the January window

2022: £0

2021: £0

2020: £47 million

How much money is likely to be available this month?

Since the summer when United went over budget by £100m, this winter window has been seen as a preservation rather than an increase. United’s Q1 financial results detailed the extent of the problems – a total debt close to £1bn, with just £24.3m cash in the bank (as of June 2019 they had £308m).

But Ronaldo’s departure increases the need for a centre-forward and Ten Hag could still exert his recruiting influence to see the money available. Agents are wondering what United for sale means for signings, but some think it would make sense for owners, the Glazer family, to dip once more into the revolving line of credit to boost their chances of playing in the Champions League in Europe. next season. Qualifying after losing this season would increase the club’s value.

Who makes key hiring decisions?

Ten Hag’s voice is most prominent on the identities of targets – he had a crucial influence on Antony’s search and cost over the summer – but he works closely with an increasingly data-driven recruiting team. Ten Hag has a good relationship with director of football John Murtough, and final approval comes from Joel Glazer. This will continue even during negotiations over United’s future ownership, with “business as usual” being Old Trafford’s mantra.

Joel, the most involved of the Glazers in club affairs, continued to communicate with chief executive Richard Arnold about United’s management.

Erik ten Hag dominates transfers (Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Steven Brown, United’s head of recruitment, oversees scouts and collects information. Dominic Jordan, the club’s first director of data science, sifts through the stats. Murtough’s deputy Andy O’Boyle is also involved in the discussions.

Murtough takes the lead in dealings with agents and executive counterparties, with Arnold occasionally stepping in when large sums are being committed.

Which position is the priority?

Finding a striker who fit Ten Hag’s ideal was the overriding requirement, even before Ronaldo’s departure last month. Anthony Martial could do the job but has already been sidelined with three separate injuries this season. He cannot be invoked.

Marcus Rashford played up front, but is most effective coming from the left, and could be needed there with doubts about the return of Jadon Sancho. Teenager Alejandro Garnacho is expected to have more game time, and Antony and Anthony Elanga are options on the wings, but the situation is quite difficult.

A right-back from rivals Diogo Dalot, who has started 20 of United’s 21 games this season before losing his first post-World Cup match against Burnley in the Carabao Cup last Wednesday, could be another requirement. Aaron Wan-Bissaka played just four minutes all season before being named in the squad to face Burnley, but he has done well, including his first assist for 18 months.

Ten Hag said afterwards: “It is clear that Wan-Bissaka has a future. He’s had some good years at Man United and since the start of this season he’s had a lot of illnesses and injuries. Since the restart he has been fit and can train with the team.”

It was a position that Ten Hag wanted to strengthen in the final days of the summer window, with talk of American international Sergino Dest moving to AC Milan on loan from Barcelona.

Who are plausible targets?

Cody Gakpo was discussed again. United agreed personal terms with their representatives in the summer and the player himself was preparing for a move, but Ajax raised Antony’s price, which prohibited further spending. Since then, Gakpo has had a good World Cup and Ten Hag’s fondness for him has remained. The Scouting department team is in line with this thinking.

Gakpo’s best position is at left back, although he started in midfield for the Netherlands in Qatar. The uncertainty around Sancho means flexible players will be especially useful.

In the summer, PSV Eindhoven hinted that a bid of €50m would be required for Gakpo, a fee protected by his contract until summer 2026. PSV are also aiming to win the Eredivisie title for the first time in five years and believe in Gakpo is central to that goal. There are hints that they need to sell, so there may be room for maneuver.

Ten Hag is with the same agency as Gakpo. the athletic Murtough is reported to have met with Kees Vos, CEO of the SEG agency, in Carrington in the last fortnight. Voss is a regular at Old Trafford and the two see each other regularly.

Ruud van Nistelrooy, his PSV counterpart and former United hero who left the Dutch club for Old Trafford 21 years ago, said last week: “If I can choose, I prefer (he leaves) in the summer, but it can also be now. . You know there comes a time when you can’t say no.”

Any money spent will come out of the summer budget and Ten Hag must decide, along with Murtough and Joel Glazer, whether this is the right decision.

United could opt for a more experienced, low-cost striker.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s contract with Bayern Munich expires in June, so the Cameroonian international – who turns 34 in March – could be available. Purchase summer 2015 Memphis Depay, now at Barcelona and February 29, was offered to the club in the previous window. However, there are few attractive options in this mold.

At right-back, United looked to Manchester City academy graduate Jeremie Frimpong from Bayer Leverkusen. But they are only expected to look for a loan signature in this position.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting could be another short-term attacking option for United (Photo: Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

Who could be leaving?

Wan-Bissaka was available in the last window and United will hear offers now too. Crystal Palace reached out to bring the 25-year-old back to Selhurst Park but were unprepared to offer anything close to the £50m fee United paid for him to move in the opposite direction in 2019.

Under the circumstances, Murtough convinced Ten Hag to give Wan-Bissaka more attention to see if he could regain his former good form, but his only Premier League appearance to date came against Liverpool in August as an 86th-minute substitute. He started in recent friendlies in Spain, however, before continuing against Burnley with Dalot out after being injured in Portugal’s final World Cup match. Dalot, who replaced João Cancelo in the Portugal squad, will not be away for long. A loan exit looks more likely for Wan-Bissaka.

United are also expected to talk about Brandon Williams, who returned from injury in games against Cadiz and Real Betis. Williams was loaned out to Premier League strugglers Norwich City last season and it may be that a permanent transfer now makes more sense, with Ten Hag’s view of the situation being influential.

Axel Tuanzebe, who had two loan spells at Aston Villa and Napoli last season, is available. But he is currently working his way back into fitness after the injury. Tom Heaton may want to secure regular football after falling behind Martin Dubravka in the pecking order.

Which World Cup star would be perfect for United?

An alternative to Gakpo is Gonçalo Ramos.

Replacing Ronaldo in Portugal’s starting line-up for a World Cup qualifier and then instantly scoring a hat-trick in what is his first cap shows he has a mindset of granite, while his finishing in that match against Switzerland was sharp. His overall game was also good.

The season continued to be productive for the 21-year-old, who emerged after Darwin Nunez’s sale to Liverpool in the summer to score 15 goals for Benfica.

Ten Hag likes Ramos, but again, cost would be a factor.

(Main photo: Gonçalo Ramos, Cody Gakpo, Jeremie Frimpong; all Getty Images)