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Six players Man Utd should consider signing in the January transfer window

Six players Man Utd should consider signing in the January transfer window

The Red Devils badly need to strengthen their squad after a harrowing first half of the season – but who should they look to recruit?

Manchester United have made some of their shrewdest signings during the January transfer window, bringing captain and current talisman Bruno Fernandes to the club in 2020 as well as snapping up Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in the same window in 2006.

The club have also made their fair share of regrettable transfers in the winter. Alexis Sanchez (2018) remains one of the club’s worst ever signings while Wout Weghorst and Odion Ighalo also joined in the first month of the year and each left without scoring a single Premier League goal.

Erik ten Hag may have stated that he does not expect to do much business this January and sporting director John Murtough has also sought to temper expectations about United’s activity in the window, saying the club prefers to buy players in the summer and that the Premier League’s financial fair play rules limit what they can do.

But United badly need some fresh legs and new ideas in their squad after making their worst start to a season in almost a century and cannot afford to pass up the chance to strengthen, even if it means looking at short-term loan moves.

And after Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS finally confirmed their 25% stake in the club, there is an added incentive for Ten Hag to bolster his squad as he tries to convince his new superiors that he is worth keeping on as manager.

Here are some of the players United could feasibly recruit when the transfer window opens on January 1…

Youssef En-Nesyri
Youssef En-Nesyri (Sevilla)

United have looked desperately lightweight in attack this season and if they are to bring in players then a striker should be their main priority. Anthony Martial’s powers are fading with almost every appearance and the Frenchman can never be relied upon to stay fit for long. Besides, he is set to depart the club in the summer.

The £72m ($92m) Rasmus Hojlund, meanwhile, is still a work in progress, as evidenced by the fact he has only just scored his first Premier League goal after 1024 minutes of action. The Dane, who is 20 and playing only his second season in Europe’s top five leagues, is too young and inexperienced to be carrying United’s attacking hopes on his shoulders. He needs an experienced hitman to share that weight of responsibility with.

And Youssef En-Nesyri would fit the bill perfectly. United know all about the Morocco striker, after he scored twice in a 3-0 win for Sevilla which sent the Red Devils out of the Europa League, but he has been admired across Europe for some time due to his remarkable ability in the air and his confidence in one-on-one situations.

He has scored 62 goals in his four years with Sevilla and this campaign has managed to net five times in La Liga – more than any United player has managed in the Premier League – despite his side having an abysmal season and hovering above the relegation zone. The striker would be attainable for around £20m ($25.5m), according to reports, representing great value as he is only 26.

Serhou GuirrassySerhou Guirrassy (Stuttgart)

Guinea international Serhou Guirassy is in a similar category to En-Nesyri and only marginally older at 27. He has averaged around 10 goals per season throughout his career but is in the form of his life at the moment, scoring a stunning 17 Bundesliga goals this campaign, a tally only bettered by Harry Kane.

Stuttgart signed Guirassy permanently from Rennes last summer for around £8m ($10.2m) and might be interested in making a quick buck on him if the right offer arrived.

But they would be unlikely to let him depart mid-way through the season as he has propelled them up to third in the Bundesliga and boosted their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in 15 years. Unless, of course, United made them an offer they couldn’t refuse.

Joshua Zirkzee

Joshua Zirkzee (Bologna)

Another affordable striker is Bologna’s Joshua Zirkzee. The Dutchman spent four years in Bayern Munich’s academy and made a handful of appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring four Bundesliga goals in the 2019-20 season.

He has grown in confidence after loan spells spells with Parma and Anderlecht and is in his second campaign with Bologna, scoring seven times this season in Serie A.

Bayern took out an insurance policy on him when they sold him to Bologna in 2022, inserting a £19m ($24m) buy-back clause into his contract. If United could sign him for even £25m he would be a tempting option to ease the burden on Hojlund. And it is no secret that Ten Hag loves a signing with Dutch roots.

Marc Guehi

Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace)

After a striker, United’s next biggest priority is central-back. Injury problems have meant Ten Hag has had to field 10 separate partnerships at the heart of his defence this season and last week he had to call upon 19-year-old Willy Kambwala, handing him his senior debut away to West Ham.

Jonny Evans has also been called upon much more often than he would have imagined when he agreed to do pre-season training with the team over the summer. Evans has been outstanding given the circumstances but he feels like a sticking plaster rather than the long-term option, especially with Raphael Varane edging closer to an exit and Harry Maguire approaching the last year of his contract.

That’s where Marc Guehi steps in. The Crystal Palace defender is one of the best young defenders in the Premier League and is exactly the type of player United should be targeting. He has only missed two Premier League matches in the last two seasons and last year became the youngest captain in the Premier League after he was handed the armband at the age of 22.

In addition to his leadership qualities and maturity he has bags of quality on the ball and has excelled for England as well as Palace. He will not come cheap though and the Eagles are likely to demand at least £50m ($64m) for him while they are also more likely to negotiate in the summer rather than mid-season, especially after being dragged into the relegation scrap.

Jarrad Branthwaite

Jarrad Branthwaite (Everton)

Jarrad Branthwaite has been one of the biggest success stories of Everton’s season and the Toffees are at last reaping the benefits of plucking him from lower league Carlisle in 2020 and bringing him into their Under-23 side before loaning him out to Blackburn Rovers and PSV Eindhoven.

United made a late swoop for him last August but Everton resisted and in October tied him to a bumper new contract, driving up his price. According to some reports he is now worth around £100m ($128m), which would put him beyond the club’s reach at least until the summer. But if United want to truly return to their former glories, they need to be going after players like Branthwaite, who is set to be a future England star.

Edmond Tapsoba

Edmond Tapsoba (Bayer Leverkusen)

Burkina Faso international Edmond Tapsoba has been one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga in the last four seasons and has continued to excel this campaign, playing every match bar two in Bayer Leverkusen’s charge to the top of the table under Xabi Alonso.

The 24-year-old is renowned for his ball-playing abilities and courage in building from the back, attributes that Ten Hag greatly admires but are severely lacking in his current crop of players. United made enquiries about Tapsoba last summer but their hopes of getting him for a bargain were ended when he signed a long-term contract with Leverkusen in September, until 2028.

But he would still be cheaper than alternatives in the Premier League and as Liverpool and Manchester City can testify with the signings of Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias, paying big money for the right defender is more than worth it in the long run.