A few weeks earlier, the then-temporary Manchester united manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made an interesting statement vis-a-vis the goal he had set for him and his coaching team.
“We want to build this team where it’s worthy of Manchester United’s history”.
Build a team worthy of United’s history! That is no simple task when you consider Sir Alex Ferguson spent 26 years at Old Trafford winning 38 trophies, crowning United the most successful club in England.
Two seasoned veterans have attempted to right the ship at Old Trafford. Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho both had a good start but were then discarded when results went downhill.
Solskjaer knows a lot about this club, having been an integral part of Fergie’s team for a long time. He will use United’s money wisely and attempt to spend it like his old mentor did before him.
Let’s take a look at what options Solskjaer has on the market and how he can emulate Ferguson’s transfer strategy.
Young British Talent
Sir Alex was known for favoring the signing of young British talent, even if it came at an expensive price. Wayne Rooney was signed at the age of 18 for 25.6 million pounds, with Ferguson admitting this request “raised some eyebrows” on the United board. Rio Ferdinand was also brought in at a young age on a then world record fee for a central defender. Both were pillars of United’s success for many years to come.
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The United fans and board will hope Solskjaer possesses a similar acumen with respect to transfers.
A few players who currently fit the bill and could potentially be prised away from their current teams are Jadon Sancho (Dortmund), Declan Rice (West Ham) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham).
Sancho only joined the German team last year, from United’s bitter rivals Manchester City, and has impressed in a campaign where Dortmund is challenging Bayern Munich for the title and could very well win the Bundesliga. The young Englishman also made his debut for the Three Lions this year.
A move back to England for Sancho would most likely cost United north of 80 million pounds but that would a long term investment. He could be the long term replacement for Juan Mata, whose contract expires at the end of the season.
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Another player who made his England bow recently is Declan Rice. The West Ham holding midfielder, who can also play at center back, is a promising young player. He could replace the aging Nemanja Matic at Old Trafford. Manuel Pellegrini has already admitted that he could lose the player if the latter maintains his current form but West Ham will make sure the appropriate price is paid for their asset. We know English players command a premium in the Premier League but when Manchester United is involved, prices are further inflated. A 40-50 million pounds offer should be enough to tempt West Ham.
Last but not least, we take a look at Ryan Sessegnon, a young left-back who is held in high regard at his club, having made his debut aged just 16.
United already have Luke Shaw settled in this position but there currently is no competition for the Englishman. Sessegnon did not have the best season as Fulham played under three different coaches this season and were ultimately relegated with six games left to play. This might a good opportunity for United to sign the left-back at a reasonable price.
Sir Alex was not shy when it came to promoting players from the youth teams. He famously unleashed the Class of 92 on the Premier League at the beginning of his journey with United and won multiple trophies thanks to that decision.
Solskjaer has only been manager for a few games but has shown he is willing to trust players from the academy.
Graduate Andreas Pereira has seen more game time since the Norwegian replaced Mourinho and Solskjaer was not afraid to send on Tahith Chong and Mason Greenwood against Paris St Germain in the Round of 16 return leg when United needed a goal.
Who is ready to make the leap from the academy? Currently, it looks like the only reasonable options are Mason Greenwood, Joel Pereira and Axel Tuanzebe, with the latter most likely to do so given his successful loan experience at Aston Villa. As for goalkeeper Joel Pereira, it depends on whether one of the current three first team goalkeepers at United move somewhere else.
Angel Gomes is another player who is highly rated in United’s youth team but he does not look physically ready for the Premier League and could benefit from a loan move to an easier league first.
If it were my call, I would promote Tuanzebe only and send Greenwood, Garner, Chong and Gomes on loan.
Proven Premier League Stars
Young players certainly were a priority for United under Ferguson but he also raided fellow Premier League teams for seasoned players from time to time. Michael Carrick, Teddy Sheringham, Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspurs and Robin Van Persie from Arsenal come to mind.
Similarly, Solskjaer could sign Toby Alderweireld from Spurs this year for a fraction of his market value. The Belgian has not renewed his contract and will be available for a mere 25m pounds in the last two weeks of August. United have had some dismal defensive performances this year and Alderweireld could be their number one alongside Lindelof for the next few years.
Another player which comes to mind is Christian Eriksen. The Danish playmaker would cost much more than Alderweireld but would be an upgrade on Ander Herrera or Fred in midfield. He would also provide creativity when Paul Pogba has an off game, which has happened too many times this season. The Dane could be prised away from Pochettino’s team due to the lack of trophies and relatively low salary cap at Spurs.
Solskjaer has a massive task ahead of him to try and bring United on the right track and avoid wasting money as his two predecessors did. He will surely be wise to use his mentor’s proven strategy in the market and plan for the long term. I expect the majority of new signings going forward to be under 25, with the odd seasoned veteran signed when it’s in United’s favor to make a deal.
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