Welcome to the third installment of Transfer Window Worries. This column will highlight issues in the current squad shown in the first half of the season. Additionally, it will present three possible players who could be brought in to address the problem. The first will be an elite player who, if signed, would be the ideal fit. Secondly, a star-quality player ready to take the next step in their career. Finally, a safe signing who would bring much needed depth to the team.
Transfer Window Worries: Right Wing
Manchester United have struggled to break down compact defenses at times this season. This is due to their tendency to predominately mount attacks directly from central positions, seldom attacking the flanks. According to Squawka, almost 60% of Manchester United’s chances originate from inside the box or directly outside of it. Conversely, less than 10% of opportunities come from the right wing.
The limited usage of the right flank comes down to the type of player that Manchester United play in this position. Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan all thrive centrally and drift inwards when deployed as wingers, leaving all attacking responsibility to Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young. However, against stronger opposition the right backs struggle to get forward due to defensive obligations. When Valencia or Young aren’t in the lineup, the Red Devils are completely void of right-sided width. Manchester United need a direct, powerful winger who shines in 1-on-1 situations and will whip crosses into the box or get a shot on net.
The Superstar Signing
Cristiano Ronaldo seems to be getting better with age. Marco Asensio is on the fast track to stardom. There are rumours constantly linking Los Blancos to players of Eden Hazard’s or Neymar’s ilk. One player who seemingly has no place in Real Madrid’s future is Gareth Bale. The Welsh talisman would, however, be an unbelievable addition to the current Manchester United squad.
Needless to say, a transfer of this magnitude would likely occur in the summer rather than January; it would also depend heavily on the 28 year-old’s fitness level. Yet in good health, Bale is the perfect candidate to solve the Red Devils’ right wing woes. Most importantly, he is a supremely powerful runner whose pace can change a game in seconds – his sensational goal against Barcelona in the 2014 Copa del Rey is the perfect example. Bale is also accustomed to the Premier League’s physicality; he seems to thrive when muscling past defenders as opposed to beating them with tricks.
Furthermore, Bale’s experience playing with Ronaldo and Karim Benzema would translate well into the current Manchester United set up. Both the aforementioned attackers are terrific finishers, yet Bale has the ability to predict both their runs into the box and deliver crosses that beg to be finished. Manchester United are a team who like to crowd the middle of the pitch and their attackers would welcome deliveries as precise as Bale’s.
The Top-drawer Transfer
Lazio’s young star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is a massive reason for their current league standing. Yet the reason they will likely remain in the top four and potentially overtake Inter Milan, is Felipe Anderson’s return from injury.
Anderson burst onto the Serie A scene in the 2014-15 season, scoring 10 goals and assisting another 8. He suffered a dip in form the following year, but rediscovered his quality last season, registering 5 goals and 13 assists in all competitions.
Felipe Anderson, Lazio 16-17. Player development is not linear. Tough year last ssn, but this year… whooboy. pic.twitter.com/F8DbzSU5hA
— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) November 14, 2016
The graphic above reveals key components of Anderson’s style of play. He has the ability to play in any attacking position, but is at his best on the right wing. He successfully beats players with pace and outstanding dribbling, and has the presence of mind to link up frequently and intelligently with his central attackers. The Brazilian seldom plays through balls, yet averages almost 2.5 key passes per match. This demonstrates his ability to play decisive passes through compact defenses, something Manchester United desperately need.
At 24 years of age Anderson will be looking to establish himself in the Brazilian national team. However with many Brazilians playing in larger markets, he has been limited to just one full cap. A high profile move to a big market club would be beneficial for both the player and the team.
The Safe Solution
In recent days Manchester United have been heavily linked with PSG’s Lucas Moura. The Brazilian winger would be a quality short term fix, yet likely not the ideal move. For a more in depth analysis on Moura’s potential signing, see here. With Moura a signing who would provide depth, it seems prudent to provide another solution who is already with the club. That player is Marcus Rashford.
Rashford currently finds himself in a difficult situation in his career. A player of his promise needs to be playing consistently, yet is stuck sharing time with Anthony Martial on the left wing. As a result, his confidence is suffering. Yet against Derby County the English starlet seemed to simplify his game when he moved to the right. He would take one touch beyond his defender and either deliver a tantalizing cross or fire a shot on net.
Martial is the more intricate dribbler of Manchester United’s two prospects. He is more comfortable maneuvering compact areas inside and allowing Luke Shaw to overlap. Rashford’s dribbling isn’t as tight and he often runs into trouble cutting inside. On the opposite flank, Rashford beating his man to the right guides him away from other defenders and into a threatening area. A string of matches playing a simple and direct game could do wonders for his confidence.
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