As the 2017-18 season draws to a close, there is still the prospect of United claiming silverware, with an FA Cup Final appearance against Chelsea, and if they were to lift that famous old trophy, it would be their third major tournament win in three years. That’s a pretty good record and testament to Jose Mourinho’s ability as a winner.
But there’s no doubt that United fans judge their teams and their managers on success in the two competitions that really matter: the Premier League and the Champions League. Finishing as runners-up this season is a significant improvement on last year, but the gap behind City is too big for comfort, particularly with a fast-improving Liverpool side.
In fact, fans who check out the odds on next year’s Premier League winners market with Stakers will find United the current third favourites for the title, behind their two big rivals.
It is clear that if they are going to move to the next level, the team needs some work. So which players is Mourinho likely to target this summer? Here are four possible purchases:
The German midfield maestro is one of the most sought-after players in the world. An accomplished passer of the ball, Kroos is the sort of player United desperately need to help them control games against the better sides in Europe.
Kroos is at his peak now, and it would need a hefty fee to persuade the Spanish giants to part with him, but there could be big changes at the Bernabeu this summer and Mourinho could well succeed where David Moyes and Louis van Gaal failed by bringing the German star to Old Trafford.
It seems that Anthony Martial may well be on his way out of the club this summer, but there is a ready-made replacement in Willian. Despite Chelsea’s poor season, the Brazilian has been in great form, contributing 13 goals and 12 assists for the Blues. Mourinho is a big fan of the forward and given the likely departure of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte and the inevitable resulting upheaval, United could have a chance of stealing Willian away.
One of the most highly-rated midfielders in the world, Fred has been tracked by Manchester City for some time. A strong, adept tackler with a solid all-round technique, the Brazilian has all the tools required to run the United engine room alongside Nemanja Matic. And by swooping to snatch Fred from City’s grasp, as they did with Alexis Sanchez, United would send a message to their rivals. Fred won’t come cheap. Shakhtar Donetsk are likely to ask for a fee around £50 million but even at that price, he could be a good value signing.
A talented young centre-half, Maguire has been immense for Leicester City in this campaign. An old-fashioned defender in the Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister mould, he has the potential for further improvement and it isn’t hard to see him forming a handy partnership with Bailly or Smalling. At around £40 million or possibly less, he is a relatively cheap option and will be able to slot right into the United defence.
Mourinho knows that there is work to do if his United side are to dethrone City and make their mark in the Champions League, but if the club can acquire reinforcements of the calibre of Kroos, Willian, Fred and Maguire, United fans will go into the new season with a sense of excitement and optimism.