The January transfer window came and went without much incident for Manchester United, in terms of incomings at least.
While several stars made their desire to leave Old Trafford well known, with Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek being the lucky few to get their wishes granted, there were few other issues resolved.
While the winter window is notoriously difficult to do business in, United never looked to make any moves despite agents repeatedly linking them with players and the obvious need for improvement in several areas of the team.
Now United go into the rest of the season with a weaker squad as they aim to finish in the top four and with several problems still left to fix when summer comes around.
1 – Manager has to be hired as soon as possible
MEN Sport reported in January that the club were working on hiring their next permanent manager before the end of the season but it hasn’t come to pass yet.
United’s lack of activity in the market probably has much to do with the fact that any player interim boss Ralf Rangnick signed may not be favoured by whoever comes in to take his place, so the sooner that person is in the better so plans for the summer market can be put in place.
Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag remain the frontrunners, while Brendan Rodgers is also under consideration, but all three are currently in work and hiring them at all, let alone during the season, could yet prove difficult.
The new manager is the biggest and most important task United have this year and another misstep could have disastrous consequences.
2 – Still need a defensive-midfielder
The biggest gaping hole in the United squad remains in defensive-midfield, which has been there for some years now.
Although Fred and Scott McTominay have had several good individual moments and performances, they have rarely worked well as a partnership and United’s other options are either too young, ageing, out on loan or leaving in the summer.
Declan Rice is the top target and he would be a great solution, but competition for his signature will be fierce and the price steep.
The issue must be resolved in the summer either way or another season of drastic underachievement will likely be on the cards.
3 – Replacing the exodus
United have got themselves into a situation where they will almost certainly be losing four first-team first players – Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata – for nothing this summer.
With Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek potentially wanting to turn their loans to permanent departures as well, the first-team squad could look a little light on numbers.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it’s been repeatedly stated how bloated the squad is at present but it all depends on how the club go about replacing those who leave.
There doesn’t have to be the exact same number of incomings as exits, but instead a few quality signings that can boost the squad and can then be supplemented by the steady stream of promising talent from the academy.
4 – Contracts to be sorted
What might be slightly worrying for the club, however, is looking forward a year to the players whose contracts are expiring in 2023.
At present, Cristiano Ronaldo, David de Gea, Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Fred, Diogo Dalot and Nemanja Matic are all out of contract at the end of next season, as well as Phil Jones and Tom Heaton – who are likely to depart.
That leaves seven first-team regulars coming to the end of their deals which is going to lead to a busy and expensive 18-months for United. Some pretty important players, too. On big money.
Some big decisions are going to have to be made on who will be offered new deals, whose one-year options will be triggered and who will be placed up for sale but if United aren’t careful and swift they may leave themselves in a precarious and costly bargaining position.
5 – Goalkeeper situation
United have two stoppers in their ranks who want to be first choice and it’s untenable. It has been left unresolved for too long. David de Gea has deservedly kept the spot all to himself this season with a brilliant resurgence which has left Dean Henderson on the outside looking in after once appearing set to be named No.1.
Henderson wanted to leave last month to get back playing regularly again but Rangnick didn’t want to leave his squad hanging dry should anything happen to De Gea. Which couldn’t have improved the academy graduate’s morale much.
Now United are in an even stickier situation considering De Gea’s contract. Do they renew the 31-year-old’s notoriously massive deal and allow Henderson to leave, only then to see the Spaniard’s form drop again? Do they keep Henderson unhappy on the bench for the remaining three years of his deal, with his transfer value depleting every year or try or cash in but then get left needing a replacement? Do they make Henderson No.1 next season even though De Gea’s been excellent?
It’s a really difficult conundrum that is hard to tell the right answer to but it needs answering.