Manchester United confirmed their third piece of transfer business on Friday with an agreement in place to sign OGC Nice winger, Allan Saint-Maximin for a fee reported to be in the region of £9m. Saint-Maximin, along with Daniel James & Aaron Wan-Bissaka, will join the club when the international transfer window opens on June 11th.
These signings are the first piece of tangible evidence that Muelensteen’s rebuild of the first team at Old Trafford will revolve around the recruitment of young, energetic players, with potential prioritised over experience.
When looking at a squad which needs major reconstruction to fight for Championships it’s hard to pick one position to strengthen when there are arguments to strengthen in every area of the pitch.
With up to 25 players leaving the club this summer Muelensteen will need to work quickly to identify his first, second and even third choice targets as he looks to have his identity stamped on the club before the club start their Premier League season against Leicester City.
Squad rebuilds are not usually as drastic as the one we’re about to undertake. If we are building from the back we can tick off the goalkeeping position. David De Gea and Dean Henderson are a fantastic number 1 & 2 so that’s the first area ticked off the list.
The centre back position remains the priority. Jose Mourinho had identified the need for a defender last season and unfortunately the board were unable to get a deal done. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailley will be retained meaning two replacements need to be identified.
At full back the club are in a healthy position, Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot & Aaron Wan-Bissaka have potential in abundance leaving only cover for Shaw required.
In central midfield there is always uncertainty over Paul Pogba’s future and with the departure of Ander Herrera & Nemanja Matic there is some work to be done in the middle of the park. We will be looking for two Deep Lying Playmakers and a Box-To-Box midfielder.
With the acquisitions of Allan Saint-Maximin & Daniel James the attacking areas are strong with Martial, Rashford and Lukaku set to stay with the club there may only be one more signing needed to bolster the attack.
Identifying playing staff is all well and good, but to make sure you approach the right players, first you need to understand your playing style. In a throwback to the Fergie era we’ll have a 4-4-2 system to revert to when we’re approaching squeaky bum time. We’ll also be running two variants of a 4-3-3, one more controlled, the other very attacking. This United team will be fast, energetic and determined. These tactics, I hope, will get the best out of the players we’re looking to bring in to the club.
Deals - Out
At the time of writing there have been 16 players leave the club, most notably:
Ashley Young to Arsenal for £5m
Scott McTominay to Burnley for £7.5m (plus add-ons)
Matteo Darmian to Burnley for £9.5m (rising to £13m)
Marcos Rojo to Watford for £11.5m (rising to £16m)
Sergio Romero to Young Boys for £7.25m
Nemanja Matic to Lyon for £21.5m (rising to £27.5m)
Chris Smalling to Monaco for £13.25m
Alexis Sanchez to AC Milan on loan (Milan are paying £100k p/w wages, £275k p/m loan fee with a £6.75m mandatory fee agreed for next summer)
Phil Jones to Eibar on loan (Eibar are paying £40k p/w wages & a £95k p/m loan fee)
The plan was never to maximise our income, in-fact, quite the opposite. A decision was made to take a hair-cut on a number of players to rejuvenate the atmosphere around the club.
Deals – In
First through the door was Scottish full back, Kieran Tierney. Tierney has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and will compete for the left back position with Luke Shaw.
Next in was the first of our playmakers, Bruno Fernandes, signed from Sporting Lisbon. Fernandes was arguably Portugal’s best player at this summer’s Nations League and has been linked with a move United for some time.
Tip: During the contract negotiations, Fernandes’ agent asked for £115k p/w in wages – when checking his scout report I was advised that he would be looking for a minimum of £80k p/w. Agents can be fickle so you need to be careful not to annoy them making them cancel negotiations so I decided I would meet them in the middle. I would offer £95k p/w and increase the Agent’s fee to help grease the wheels which would save me nearly £4m over the course of a 4-year contract. It’s not a huge deal for Manchester United, but for smaller teams this can really help you maximise your profit year on year.
The next player to walk into Carrington was Chucky Lozano. The explosive Mexican winger was a bargain signing from PSV Eindhoven at £20m and will fill the remaining attacking slot in the squad.
A day later and the Sky Sports News ticker flashes yellow with the news that Slovakian central midfielder, Stanislav Lobotka, has joined Manchester United.
With the squad taking shape, United find themselves in a familiar situation with no new central defenders signed. There was a deal to be done though, Abdoulaye Doucouré joined from Watford providing the squad with some much-needed Premier League experience and quality.
Centre backs at United are like buses, you wait for ages to sign one and then two arrive at once and it’s two defenders that have been linked with the club over the summer. In come Harry Maguire from Leicester & Issa Diop from West Ham.
With so many new recruits it is important to integrate them into the playing squad as soon as possible. With 12 friendlies arranged there will be plenty of opportunity for the squad to familiarise themselves with our 3 tactics and we’ve included a Team Bonding session every week leading up to the start of the new season.
It’s been a busy summer for Manchester United and as the transfer window draws closer there is still plenty of work to be done.
In #3 we will look at squad depth and the tactics that we will start the season with and as we said in the opening post we would love for this save to be interactive with our community so if there’s any subjects you want us to cover please ask in the comments or on Twitter.