Whether it's Louis van Gaal or someone else who takes the reins at Manchester United in the summer, this will be the Red Devils’ most important transfer window in recent memory. New players need to be brought in, but, more importantly, many old players need to be offloaded.
The summer clearout starts at the back. Age has caught up with the stalwarts of the Sir Alex Ferguson years – Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic – and they can no longer be relied on for an entire season. Vidic is already on his way to Inter Milan, Evra will likely follow him elsewhere, and Ferdinand is out of contract in the summer. With Chris Smalling still developing and Phil Jones not looking convincing enough, one can expect at least three new defenders at the club for the 2014-15 campaign.
United have also been screaming for a creative midfielder since Paul Scholes first retired. The Manchester outfit twice thought that they had their replacement, first with Shinji Kagawa and then with Juan Mata. The problem is that neither has had a long enough run as the creative fulcrum of the side.
Mata's talents are wasted on the wing, and United are in dire need of at least two wide players to allow him to play in the number 10 role. To make room for fresh faces, the ineffective Nani must be moved on, and Ashley Young will likely find himself on the bench for long stretches of the campaign.
Up front, United have two world-class strikers in Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, while Danny Welbeck is a perfectly capable backup. The forgotten man, however, is Javier Hernandez. The Mexican poacher has been almost entirely phased out in the past two years, and United should sell him while he is still likely to command a decent fee.
While one transfer window may not be enough to elevate United above the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea, a summer makeover of the squad would be the vital first step in the club's revival.