An detailed assessment of Manchester United's January potential incomings and outgoings.
Areas to strengthen
Manchester United don’t really need anyone – their big injuries are either already back or on their way and they’ve got decent cover and backup in the squad.
The only reason they might be inclined to strengthen is if they sell key players, which they are unlikely to do until the summer.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson has always been reluctant to do business in January due to the inflated fees and cup-tie regulations that mean quality targets are usually bought in the summer.
Ferguson says no one will be bought in January and I’m inclined to believe he means it.
Robert Lewandowski has been linked heavily but United already have a superb strike-force and more than adequate cover, whilst Borussia Dortmund are adamant he won’t be sold in January.
Wesley Sneijder has been a target for Ferguson over the years and his fallout with Inter Milan will almost certainly see him move in January. But his wage demands are reportedly £200K a week and Ferguson is unlikely to want any prima donna drama unsettling his squad.
Celtic’s Victor Wanyama has been linked with a move to Manchester but his contract doesn’t expire until 2015 and his boss Neil Lennon is adamant he won’t be bullied into a sale. He may well end up at Old Trafford but not until the summer at the earliest.
Wilfried Zaha has put himself firmly in the shop window – he’s hailed as England’s next big thing and he’s interesting the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs. His current club Crystal Palace have reportedly rejected a £8 million bid from United already. This one looks to be a real arms race that could go down to the wire, and United are said to be favourites still - and are even willing to send him back to Crystal Palace until the end of the season on loan.
Everton’s Leighton Baines is reportedly interesting United, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain. The left-back has become one of the standout performers in David Moyes’ team. I would imagine Moyes will want to hang on to him and Ferguson will only make a move if Patrice Evra is sold.
Chelsea veterans Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are both out of contract in the summer and have been linked with United. They will almost certainly leave Stamford Bridge in the next six months but I think both of them are unlikely to want to taint their legendary Blues status by signing for a rival Premier League club.
A rumoured return for Cristiano Ronaldo sounds well wide of mark in my estimation. If it ever materializes, it'll surprise me and January is not the right time at any rate.
Federico Macheda has fallen completely out of favour and it would suit both the club and the player if he can go in search of first-team football elsewhere. Whether it’s a temporary loan move or a permanent switch, it’s unlikely he’ll be at Old Trafford by the end of the month.
Contract rebel Nani looks set to seal his departure – he’s underperformed this season and seems to have plateaued in his career.
He’s linked with Arsenal, Juventus and Real Madrid but Ferguson has insisted he will not be leaving until the summer. Unless United are offered ‘silly money’ for him, I expect he’ll stay to provide cover for Valencia and Young.
Patrice Evra has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain who have been courting a number of top left-backs but I think he’ll see out the season with United.
David De Gea is linked with interest from Real Madrid who are looking for competition to inspire captain Iker Casillas but, again, I can’t see this one materializing until the summer.
United youngster Angelo Henriquez has completed a loan deal with Wigan Athletic where he’ll reside for the remainder of the season and Joshua King has made his move to Blackburn Rovers permanent.
United have a budget of up to £50 million, if they needed it, but I think any expenditure will be largely dependent on sales of key players which would finance any re-investment.
I think Ferguson will likely postpone most of his business until the summer when players are cheaper and he’ll have a firm grip on who will be leaving.
The only exceptions may be Zaha and Sneijder whose situations are of an urgent nature. He might be tempted to take the Dutchman off Inter’s hands if he comes down on his wage demands but I think that’s highly unlikely.
The competition from Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs for Zaha could force him to act in January, against his will. United have reportedly had an £8 million bid rejected by Palace already.
I expect Nani will be sold in the summer and probably Evra and De Gea too but I can’t see Ferguson tinkering with his squad while United are in such a strong position – if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
image: © Paolo Camera