Should Manchester United turn to Red Bull Leipzig’s Timo Werner?

As the January transfer window peers ever closer, Manchester United know they have a lot of work to do in such a short space of time. 

At best, a club can aim for one transfer to be completed in January that is a permanent move given the time restrains set in place during the winter market, but the Red Devils need at least two through the door if they are to seriously challenge for a top four place.

Given the lack of recruitment in the forward and midfield departments, it is no real surprise to see Man United suffering in the way that they are. Injuries to key players in Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba have stunted the club so far this season, with the former only just returning to full fitness.

Although Romelu Lukaku clearly didn’t fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s plans, as well as the underperforming Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United made a huge mistake in not replacing them – even if they do have a strong belief in Marcus Rashford and the youngster Mason Greenwood.

The club pleaded to fans to suggest there were no players on the market available, but there never will be that ticks every single box. Mario Mandzukic is still one name to reverberate around Old Trafford, which might be re-ignited in January, but the Red Devils left it too late and could not put a deal in place before the English-buying market closed.

Timo Werner has continually been linked with a move to the Premier League, with Liverpool and Manchester United showing the most interest. After extending his contract until 2023, there is some noise from sections of the German media to suggest his release clause is £27 million.

If this is to be believed, there will be a vast number of teams in Europe that will be queuing up for Werner’s signature in January, which already puts Solskjær’s team at a disadvantage given the league position they are in, as well as their performances.

Werner is not a traditional centre forward, with a lot of his play starting from deep and integrating others. He began his career with VfB Stuttgart, operating as a winger, in which he continues to drift in-and-out of those areas on the pitch in present day.

There is no doubt about it that Manchester United need a new striker to help alleviate the pressure placed on Rashford and Martial. While Werner is not too much older than the pair, he has a reputation of a consistent goal-scorer.

The German international already has 13 goals to his name in 15 appearances throughout all competitions, and another six assists. More than just a typical centre forward, Werner can contribute from all areas of the pitch and help others – just as he has done in tandem with his partner Yussuf Poulson.

Ultimately, it will come down to Werner’s intentions moving forward. If he wishes to start every week and become the main player in a forward line, Liverpool is not his best option, given the fact he will not displace Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.

Manchester United, on the other hand, are more unattractive in where their reputation is currently situated, but offer more game time and the ability to become a hero that helps the club get back on track once and for all.

There will be a lot more Premier League and European teams that come to the table and try to place themselves in a position to sign the German, but Manchester United are Liverpool are the two most interested presently.

For such a cheap transfer fee in the current market, whichever club does manage to land him have themselves a potential world-class striker for the foreseeable future.

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Should Manchester United be targeting Moussa Dembele?

The January transfer window might still be a few months away, but decisions behind the scenes are now being made and lists with potential targets being drawn up.

Manchester United know, given their results, they have to recruit in the winter market, even if it is not a preferred course of action. There is a reason as to why few clubs operate in January, and it is primarily due to the hike in already inflated transfer fees.

However, the Red Devils, currently sitting in 12th place, having scored less goals than Wolves, Aston Villa and Norwich, are having monumental problems at the top of the pitch and simply have to address it halfway through the season.

After moving Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez on in the summer, and then failing to replace them, there is little wonder as to why they are in the position they are in now. Mason Greenwood might have had more opportunities to play, but he is still only 17-years-old, and is not in a position to have authority in matches.

Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are the two registered centre forwards, although there is a strong case to suggest that the England international is better suited on the wing. Unlike the Frenchman, Rashford does not possess the killer instincts and composure in front of goal when tasked with a one-on-one situation.

As seasons progress, injuries occur, which is exactly what has hampered Martial and caused him to remain on the sidelines. And so Rashford is then left with the pressure to be the out-and-out goalscorer – something he does not look comfortable with at all.

One striker on the continent that has been linked with Manchester United time and time again is Olympique Lyon’s Moussa Dembele.

The Frenchman has an impressive record already this season, having scored six Ligue 1 goals in only eight appearances so far this campaign. In 2018/19, Dembele mustered up 23 goals and six assists in 52 appearances – a highly impressive tally after making the move from Celtic to Lyon.

Dembele is not the tallest of strikers, standing at 1.83m, but he does know where the space is inside the box and comes alive in close quarters. The Frenchman’s movement and precision is near enough perfection, pulling away from defenders and anticipating where the ball either might fall, or where the intended cross will end up to be on the end of it.

Lyon are usually hard negotiators and do not let their players leave easily. As seen last summer, Tanguy Ndombele finally made his move, which Tottenham had to pay over £50 million for.

Jean-Michel Aulas, the club’s President, is a famed negotiator, which does not bode well given the time restraints in January, as well as the ineptitude of the club’s negotiators behind the scenes.

Dembele is not the type of player to carry an exorbitant ego into the dressing room at Old Trafford, given he is not at the highest echelon of world football yet, but he has the potential to get there should he carry on working hard and delivering performances.

It is clear Manchester United are trying to move away from the prima-donnas of the world in Sanchez and Angel Di Maria, and instead focussing on players who can buy into the club’s philosophy and mentality.

A very well-rounded centre forward who has a history of consistency is what the Red Devils and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer need, and so bringing Dembele in during the January transfer window might just be the catalyst in scoring the department.

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Can Brandon Williams replace Luke Shaw?

After yet another away game without a win, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has some serious thinking to do about how to improve Manchester United’s fortunes between now and the end of the season. 

Sitting in 10th place in the Premier League, the Red Devils are going to be on the backfoot now and, with the limited squad they possess, will not be feared by any visiting team looking for those crucial three points.

Manchester United might have brought in three talents in the summer transfer window to bolster the team, but the club are still a number of core players away from getting anywhere close to where they want to be.

An area on the pitch that has been most disconcerting in recent years has been left back. Luke Shaw was signed from Southampton to lock down that position for years to come, but after the Englishman’s double leg break in 2015, he is yet to sustain a season without any injuries or consistent performances.

In the Red Devils’ latest Europa League fixture against AZ Alkmaar, it was Brandon Williams who stepped in at left back after a successful start to the season with the reserves. In his five appearances in the Premier League 2, Williams has four assists and has had the armband at 19-years-old.

Manchester United quite clearly rate the England youth international highly, which is why he has played against Rochdale in the Carabao Cup, as well as Rotherham earlier in the season in the EFL Trophy.

Shaw is only 24 himself with a contract that runs until 2023. It is plain to see that his attacking output is nowhere near what it should be, which is why attention is now being turned to this position by the fans in order to add another dimension to the team’s attack.

The former Southampton full back was close to exiting Old Trafford under José Mourinho’s harsh treatment, but signed a new five-year deal 12 months ago. There has been a slight improvement under Solskjær, but he is not yet regained his confidence he had when down on the south coast, nor when he first joined the club.

Williams looks hungry and motivated to challenge Shaw and begin his understudy role this season. In his 90 minutes against Alkmaar, on a poor surface pitch and in a team that is drastically underperforming, Williams came out on top and looked a class act.

Of course, the young left back is going to have moments that highlight his rawness, but at 19, it is to be expected. There is a great maturity shown by Williams in a defensive manner, which is coupled with his eagerness to get forward and try to create something in attack.

There are bound to be more twists and turns in this season for Manchester United, but one thing that is for certain is their youth are ready to make the next step and challenge the seasoned professionals who are not quite cutting it.

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Why James Garner is ready to step up in Manchester United’s midfield

With the current problems on the pitch for Manchester United primarily coming from the midfield, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has to now believe in his youth to be able to offer an alternative to this stagnation.

James Garner, who has been at Manchester United since a boy, is ready to take that next step and join the first-team on a weekly basis. The young Englishman has had a few opportunities to be in the squad, as he was on Tuesday evening against Lincoln City, but his chances have not been as regular as the other academy graduates.

Tahith Chong, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes appear to be above Garner on the pecking order, but it is arguably Garner that can make the much-needed difference that the Norwegian manager is looking for.

Unknown to the fans, but for some reason, the Red Devils failed to sign a midfielder last summer after allowing Ander Herrera to leave on a free transfer, as well as selling Marouane Fellaini in the January window. Two key players for different reasons have moved on and yet no one was brought in.

And so there is little surprise to see why Man United’s midfield is currently struggling to dominate matches and get the team on the front foot. There is, of course, also the never-ending saga of Paul Pogba’s future, who looks increasingly fed up of recent times and has put in back-to-back derisory performances against Rochdale and Arsenal.

In Garner’s six games with the reserves, six wins have been recorded, 16 goals scored and 0 goals conceded. Without the bright midfielder, Neil Wood’s side have drawn one and lost one, while also shipping six goals.

The contrast is stark when the team is with and without Garner, which is why he is an essential cog in the reserves side. However, given the current crisis in the first-team’s midfield, Garner should be fast-tracked and be given the belief that he can begin to effect matches at senior level.

While the England youth international is typically a defensive midfielder, his five goals and three assists this season at academy level suggest he has the room to operate around the box, similarly to Paul Scholes. When the Red Devils faced Lincoln on Tuesday in the EFL Trophy, Garner scored the winning goal and showed yet again his threat moving forward.

One of the biggest conundrums United have had in recent history has been the utilisation of Pogba in the team. The France international is substantially more dangerous when played in a number 10 role, which is why Herrera’s involvement was so important in order to balance the midfield and provide cover.

Nemanja Matić and Herrera who has now left, Man United need a Garner-type player who can slot in front of the back four and allow the team to move forward, as well as permitting Pogba his freedom in the final third.

At 18-years-old, Garner is, of course, going to make mistakes, but this season has already shown that the Red Devils are miles off the pace as it is. With Solskjær’s promise of bringing youth through the club, the young midfielder has to be the next player to be given a proper chance of competing for a position in the team.

Could Mario Lemina be an astute purchase for Manchester United?

In a market where transfer fees are inflated beyond belief, the asking price of around £18 million for Mario Lemina looks a smart acquisition for any Premier League club this summer.

While he has had difficulties over consistent playing time since Ralph Hasenhuttl took over from Mark Hughes last December, it does not suggest that the quality nor ability has evaded the Gabon international.

Different managers ask for different things when it comes to players and some have certain predetermined ideas of what they expect from their midfielders. Unfortunately for Lemina, he has not found himself on the right side of the fence with the Austrian coach and is, therefore, allowed to leave for the same price Southampton first recruited him for.

Manchester United, just as they have been with every other available player this summer, are linked with the former Juventus man. Some have expressed their concerns about a lack of quality, while others can see the sensibilities in bringing a profile like Lemina’s in at Old Trafford.

Marouane Fellaini left the club last January and Ander Herrera has recently joined Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. Whether or not Paul Pogba remains or leaves this summer is irrelevant, with the bottom line being the Red Devils need at least one midfielder this summer.

Bruno Fernandes is on the list for a more attacking-minded player, but there simply has to be a Herrera replacement this summer if United are to make the top four come May next year.

The 25-year-old fits the bill in terms of his ball-playing abilities, dribbling attributes  and defensive qualities, but some will always be displeased because Lemina is not a ‘big name’.

Part of the reason as to why Man United are in the rut they are in is due to targeting the bigger and more globally-appealing names of this world who disrupt the influence of the coach and create unnecessary distractions.

A huge benefit of Lemina is that he is not one of those players. Still at an age where he has plenty to give and clearly not over the hill, the Gabon international can improve United’s overall squad and also provide important versatility which sees him cover a variety of positions.

No one should be expecting Lemina to come into the Red Devils’ team and demand to be an undisputed starter. But his sense of drive on the ball would be more than welcomed when against teams that pose a low block and are hard to break down.

At £18 million, there is very little to go wrong in this deal. Manchester United need a replacement for Herrera – who can fluctuate from a defensive-minded role to an attacking one – that does not cost an arm and a leg in today’s market.

There is still plenty to be done in other positions and so a quick transaction which would see an improvement being made to the squad should be spoken about in a positive light. After all, he might just go on a rollercoaster of a journey just as Sadio Mane has before him.

A big season awaits Marcus Rashford at Manchester United

There were mixed reviews when Manchester United announce the extension of Marcus Rashford’s new contract this week, with the reported wage coming to around £250,000 per-week, should the Englishman achieve all bonuses.

While, of course, fans were happy with the club tying down one of England’s brightest talents until 2023, there were some worried about giving the size of that contract to a 21-year-old who has yet shown and fulfilled his true potential.

 

No one can deny that Rashford has talent in abundance, nor that he works hard, but fans of the Red Devils also have not seen a season in which the England international has mustered up more than 10 Premier League goals.

Rashford’s record stands at 27 Premier League goals in 111 appearances throughout his career so far. The caveat to this statistic is the fact that he has played a lot of his football from the wing position, either due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney or Romelu Lukaku standing in his way.

But with two of those already having moved on and Lukaku set to follow, this is the first season in which Rashford could be considered the main man to lead United’s forward line.

Even if Man United can activate the deal to bring Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder to Old Trafford, Rashford will have the majority of playing minutes as the club’s centre forward, which brings its own pressures.

At 21, the academy graduate has achieved a lot: from the World Cup semi-final with England to winning the Europa League with Man United, he has experienced a fair amount to shape him into the player he is today.

But, now, with Manchester United entering a new phase under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, it is time for Rashford to step up to the plate and prove he has what it takes to take his, and United’s, performances to the next level.

Fans understand that he has been a work in progress since breaking through at 18, but after seeing the likes of Luka Jovic, Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix putting in consistent performances that warrant big money, it is time for Rashford to follow suit and achieve similar feats.

The England centre forward will have the fans’ overall backing through thick and thin, but criticism will appear through the cracks should Rashford not perform this season and provide a constant flood of goals. He was made for United and now it is time to bring them back to the top.

The future is bright for Benfica’s Joao Felix

In his debut and breakthrough season, Joao Felix has replicated the impressive feats that Kylian Mbappe achieved when at AS Monaco as a teenager. 

The Benfica forward has the eyes of the world fixated on him after what has been a non-stop rollercoaster of a journey throughout this campaign. Remarkably, the Portuguese second striker has a combined 31 goals and assists in 43 first-team appearances this season.

His rise has been meteoric and it is no wonder why the biggest clubs in the world are vying for his signature at the earliest possible chance. Inserted into his contract, which runs until 2023, is a release clause of €120 million – a fee that is very achievable from Benfica’s point of view given the current state of the market.

Felix was an unknown quantity 12 months ago, having played the majority of his football in Portugal’s second division as well as Benfica’s U19 side in the UEFA Youth League. Of course, the Portuguese star was a talent when up against his fellow youth players, but no one had quite anticipated his perfect adjustment to senior football at one of the country’s biggest clubs.

What is perhaps even more staggering, however, is the fact that Felix has only really announced himself to the world since the beginning of this year. Before January, the forward had only managed to start two games in Liga Primeira, with his other four appearances coming from the bench. With that being said, he did manage to start all of Benfica’s Europa League matches.

But since the beginning of January, Felix has netted 13 goals in the league, as well as assisting his team-mates on eight occasions. His numbers speak for themselves, but perhaps even more impressively, it’s Felix’s intuition and decision making that is making him stand out from the crowd.

In Benfica’s 4-4-1-1 formation, Felix sits just behind Haris Seferovic in attack and acts as a patrolling number 10, but with more emphasis on goal-scoring that assisting. The Portugal U21 international has an immense maturity in how he plays the game, as well as his ability to understand where he needs to be at what specific moment; not many, at 19, can think and execute moves so intelligently.

And so with his newfound fame and notoriety, England, Spain, Italy and France’s biggest clubs queue up in an orderly fashion to tell them why their club is best suited to him. Benfica have made it clear, however, that a bid under €100 million will not suffice and will have to break that barrier to acquire their prize possession.

Whether or not he moves this summer, and in practice, he should remain for another season at least, Felix’s future is one of the brightest in Europe and it will be interesting to see how far he can push himself over the next couple of years.

Will Eden Hazard’s last game for Chelsea be in the Europa League final?

With the summer transfer window opening for Premier League teams on Thursday, clubs in England are now working down their shortlist to see who is and is not attainable over the next few months. 

Chelsea are in a peculiar position, due to their transfer ban for two windows being upheld by FIFA last week. The Blues are set to contest this decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but it is fair to say that they will be behind others if the outcome is reversed and they can in fact sign players.

With Christian Pulisic signing last January and joining the club over the summer, one large piece of transfer business has already been concluded – which takes the pressure off somewhat with their foresight that this ban would be coming. However, even with the American touching down in London, all eyes are on Eden Hazard’s decision and whether he will stay or go.

The Belgium international has been with the club since 2012 and has been considered the best of the bunch in those seven years in West London. Hazard has danced in front of the Chelsea faithful every other week with his name being reverberated around the stadium and has won prestigious honours at Stamford Bridge.

But with Real Madrid, who have been chasing his signature for several years, approaching their rebuilding summer with Zinedine Zidane at the helm, the Belgian’s chapter at Chelsea is drawing to a sharp close.

It is likely that Hazard’s last match in a Chelsea shirt will be against Arsenal in Baku, Azerbaijan, contesting for the Europa League final. After yet another stellar season contributing a combined 35 goals and assists in 51 appearances, it is no wonder that Zidane wants to use the Belgian to rebuild his forward line.

With Gareth Bale potentially leaving the club this summer after the French manager made it clear that he will not be in his plans next season, it makes perfect sense as to why Zidane sees Hazard as the player to come and make an immediate difference.

Although Karim Benzema has had a more prolific season than his last few, the manager is evidently also taking into consideration that the centre forward will be turning 32 by the end of this year. With Hazard alongside the Frenchman, goals should come at a more frequent rate – especially when they matter and without the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Even with a year left on his contract, Chelsea are demanding a hefty fee for Hazard. The transfer fee is rumoured to be in the region of £90 million, which would be a healthy return rate for a player who is nearing the end of his contract and has delivered on his talent for seven years at the club.

Hazard first announced that he was joining the ‘Champions of Europe’ when Chelsea won the European cup in 2012, and it would be somewhat fitting if the Belgium international bowed out by winning the Europa League for the club before heading over to the Spanish capital and starting the next phase of his career.

Is it time for Paulo Dybala to move on from Juventus?

Since joining Italian champions Juventus in 2015 for £36 million, Paulo Dybala has become a fan’s favourite in Turin over the four years he has been at the club.

The Argentina international is a magisterial player that can turn on sixpence and find the winning goal when the odds are heavily stacked against him. In the same way to Lionel Messi, Dybala is one of the most gifted players of his generation and likes to occupy the ‘half spaces’ between the opposition’s midfield and defence.

However, it has not been plain sailing for the Argentinean. There have been a few issues on-and-off the field since moving to the Allianz Stadium, and this season suggests that there might be thoughts from Dybala to leave for pastures new.

The playmaker has featured in 39 games this season from a possible 48 so far, which is not a poor record, but when diving deeper into his game time, Massimiliano Allegri has often opted to remove Dybala after 75 minutes, or not even start him.

Since the turn of the year, Dybala has routinely found himself either on the bench or not starting. There have been five games from 11 in which he has been fit enough to feature in that he either failed to come on at all or made a cameo role towards the end of the match.

For someone who is a fully fledged international player and now in the prime of his career when turning 26-years-old this November, Dybala has the capacity to be one of the leaders in any squad. His talent is unquestionable, but evidently, Allegri views him as a liability at times and does not always find room for Dybala in his very intricate system.

Which then begs the question as to what the Argentine might decide to do this summer. Around Europe’s top five league, there will be plenty of suitors, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid the more likely destinations for the playmaker.

Dybala has three years left on his contract from this summer onwards, which means Juventus are in no hurry or pressure to sell. The Bianconeri will likely only listen to offers that eclipse £75 million due to market inflation over the past number of years, but the aforementioned clubs would not be put off that price given the quality they think they are purchasing.

One of the Argentinean’s greatest strengths is his versatility, which could also been seen as a weakness in the sense that he is yet to nail down his own position and stamp his authority for Juventus. But any prospective buying club will see Dybala as a solution to many holes in their squad, with being able to fill it across the forward line and in his more preferred number 10 role.

In Dybala’s 39 matches this season, he has found the back of the net on 10 occasions and recorded six assists, which is respectable given his lack of match rhythm throughout the season and various on-going injury problems.

Dybala, however, needs to now make a choice over his long-term future. Should he remain at Juventus for his prime years, it looks likely that he will have to settle for his role in the squad that is not cemented, or he can move to a club that values him as one of their best and most important players which will entitle him to a more central role.

Dybala is still young enough to move on and make this decision, but the longer he leaves it, the harder it will be to state his argument of being one of the best overall players of his generation.

Manchester United are feeling the effects of signing Alexis Sanchez

It has been over a year since Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United from Arsenal on a free transfer, and yet the Chilean has only managed 29 appearances in all competitions for the club. 

Out of those 29 appearances, perhaps only a handful have been worth remembering. Through injuries, a lack of confidence and irregular minutes on the pitch, Sanchez has been nothing short of a disappointment by Manchester United fans. By all accounts, he is not justifying his immense £350,000 per-week deal (plus bonuses).

It was well documented back in January 2018 that to beat Manchester City to the acquisition of the Chile international, the Red Devils would have to increase their offer and make it as lucrative as possible. The club succumbed to the demands and offered Sanchez an overall package that thumped not only every other player at the club, but also in the Premier League and most of Europe.

With his pedigree and reputation, however, and with the fact that there was no transfer fee to pay, Manchester United thought they would receive his stellar, match-winning performances that he had shown in the years previous at Arsenal.

But, as of present day, that has not been the case. Injuries have plagued the 30 year old and he has yet to ignite in a Red Devils jersey. There were issues with style of play under Jose Mourinho which evidently did not help, but even when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came in as interim manager and gave everyone a lift, Sanchez remained unaffected.

Whether the Chilean is moved on at the end of the season or not is another story – and it will not be easy – but what is more prevalent than his on-pitch performances is how his pay packet is now affecting how the club operates. Given the extortionate sums Sanchez is receiving, his teammates, who are well within their rights to ask, are wondering why they cannot increase their contracts by a considerable figure.

Ander Herrera, for example, is the latest player to ask for a sizeable increase on his contract, which currently expires at the end of the season. With interest looming large from Paris Saint-Germain, the Spain international is using Sanchez’s situation, as well as the attraction from other clubs, to his advantage.

The Spanish midfielder is a classy player and has served United well over the years. He might be considered a squad player more than an essential starter, but there is no denying that he has acted accordingly and fans have grown fond of him since arriving in Manchester in 2014.

Sanchez’s teammates are now expecting similar luxury treatment after understanding the full extent of the Chilean’s contract. Especially given the fact that he has barely played for the club, the likes of Herrera and Luke Shaw feel it is well within their rights to ask for what they think they deserve with the performances they have shown.

If the Chilean never came to Man United in early 2018 and decided to opt for Pep Guardiola’s Man City instead, it would be an immensely difficult sell for Herrera to receive the £200,000 per-week he is asking for.

But alas, given the indentation that Sanchez has done to the books at Old Trafford, the average wages are going to soar with players asking for the ridiculous. There is now no sense of control over what the club can be signing these players up for, because the new ‘normal’ has increased dramatically.

So not only has Sanchez wildly underperformed during his 13 months at Manchester United, but he has also put the club in a difficult situation when trying to re-negotiate contracts with important members of the squad. It will be interesting to see how this pans out with Herrera especially, but the Red Devils have to, at some point, say enough is enough.