Yes, it’s December, which not only means Christmas shopping for many of us, but it is also a time for football fans to start dreaming up their ideal January signings. Especially now for United fans following the extremely disappointing results in the Champions League. With the prospect of the Europa League and FA Cup putting extra strain on our injury depleted squad, reinforcements are a must for an increase in quantity as well as the clear need for more quality. At the time of writing there are only three and a half weeks until the winter transfer window opens and most fans by now will have seen enough of their teams to know what is missing, but buying in January is a tough task. The majority of players we all want will be cup tied, and involved in domestic and continental title pursuits; players like Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic, Lewandowski and Muller who might (and in some cases probably will) be available in the summer, quite simply are not for sale in January. The calibre of player available to clubs like United are usually a level below what most have already got, playing at smaller clubs but having terrific seasons. Players who fit this profile are those like Wilfried Bony, who was lighting up the Premier League last season for Swansea, but in reality he was never going to usurp Sergio Aguero in the long run. All of that said, there may well be some outlandish but interesting possibilities for United this January.
So what do United need?
A lot of fans have turned on van Gaal and that is their right, but a lot of us also think that we are one click away from looking absolutely breathtaking. What we saw against Wolfsburg on Tuesday night in my opinion was the end results of unlearnt lessons by a large section of the fan base following that game at Leicester. What has made us successful over the last season and a half was being solid defensively and keeping possession of the ball, our two worst results this season have come in the games where our opponent had the ball more than us, Arsenal and Wolfsburg. In my mind ideally we need to get back to what we do best, but improve the quality of our forward players, and bring in some individual flair to excite the fans.
It has become clear over the last few weeks that despite having a lot of the ball, there is a lack of imagination and thrust in the final third to penetrate stubborn defences. Enough has been said by me and others on Rooney over the last five years, there is no need to delve into that other than to say we need more. We first need somebody who has lightning pace to get into the spaces and make the runs that will inevitably lead to goals, and we also need somebody who has the imagination and ability to make that pass to them. A prerequisite for both of these should also be that any player brought in is experienced as this is also severely lacking in our forward line. One might argue that Martial is the man with the pace but he is only 19 years old and inexperienced at the highest level of the game, he will get there but it probably isn’t going to be this year. It can also be argued that we already have players who can unlock defences with a pass like Mata and Herrera, but these players have had numerous chances and none have been able to usurp Rooney due to a lack of consistency.
Having highlighted what is needed it is then the case in January of finding who is available, and to do that you have to assess your targets, the prospective players intentions and the needs of the selling clubs.
So first let’s look at United. European success quite simply will not come to United this year neither in Champions nor Europa Leagues, and after the debacle of the last couple of years nor should we expect it. This year was our return to the Champions League and it will have given valuable experience to youngsters like Lingard, Memphis and Martial, but also to Borthwick-Jackson and Varela. I personally don’t get the fixation that many United fans have with the FA Cup, fans of the other big European powers look at their domestic cup competition for what it is, a nice bonus prize, and this is how I also see it. I won’t cry a river if we don’t win it and I wouldn’t really be arsed if we played the kids and got knocked out in the first round. Clubs like United have bigger fish to fry, and whilst we are in the midst of the most wide open title race in recent years, it would be absolutely criminal if we get bogged down in a cup competitions and lost players to injury and suspension for vital league games.
All of that said, one of the key points in the opening paragraph of this piece about not signing players because they might be cup tied becomes moot. But it is true that teams still in Europe’s premier competition will be unlikely to sell, and players from clubs still involved would also probably be unwilling to move away. But scour Europe’s leagues and there is one team who are relatively cash strapped, have immense talent on their books, have no chance of winning a domestic title, and underperformed so much last year that they are not playing in this seasons Champions League. That team is of course Borussia Dortmund, and they have one player who has been tearing the Bundesliga apart, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Top scorer in the league with 17 goals, he is lightning quick and at 26 years old is in the peak of his powers. Equally adept out wide as in central areas up front, one could easily imagine him playing alongside Memphis and Martial in the years ahead and putting the fear of God into Premier League defences. This would be no short term deal and he is certainly better than anything we have currently.
Would he want to come? Why not? Dortmund will likely win nothing again this season and he could see a United team that is lingering in wait, level on points with Premier League favourites City, as a great opportunity to win his first ever league title. We could offer him a salary that nobody else in Europe could match, and the prestige of being a United player would see his personal profile increase exponentially if that is the kind of thing he is interested in. Would Dortmund sell? Well any player is available at a price, and United should force their hand if they have true ambitions to win this year. If it costs £70m so be it, I am not the club accountant and it’s not my money, I am a fan, and I personally couldn’t give a monkeys ass how much a player costs as long as my team is better for it.
If that deal is a logical but complicated one depending on multiple parties, the next one I will propose is a bit outlandish but should be relatively easy to complete. The fans want someone who will bring some joy back to Old Trafford; the team has regularly needed someone to come on in the last 10 minutes unlock stubborn defences with a bit of magic, a pass or dribble, to break the deadlock; our young forward players need “their Cantona” or “their van Nistelrooy”, a player to be in awe of, look up to and be encouraged by in the same way the Class of 92 and Ronaldo and Rooney were by those legends respectively, to aid their development. I therefore propose offering a short term deal until the end of the season to… Ronaldinho!
Yes I know he hasn’t played in Europe since he was in Milan nearly 5 years ago, and he is most certainly not the player he was at Barcelona, however his exploits in Brazil have been very impressive. In 2013 he helped Atletico Miniero to the clubs first ever Copa Libertadores title, and in 2014 their first ever Copa Sudamericana, the South American version of the Champions League and Europa League respectively. He was instrumental in both.
He would cost United nothing in terms of a transfer fee as he is a free agent as of September, and there might be something inside him that wants to win one more title in Europe before he heads off to Gremio for retirement. At 34 years of age he would not be the answer alone, but alongside a player like Aubameyang United’s attacking options would look a lot healthier. The aura of the man alone, that of a two time former world player of the year, would frighten Premier League defences and give our young players some great experiences for their careers ahead, just like Henrik Larrson did with Ronaldo and Rooney. And in the short term, if a few 20 minute cameos even change the result of one game, that could be the difference between winning nothing and winning our 21st league title. We should definitely take the gamble.
For more red views, follow me on Twitter @vinaldo7