Manchester United’s crushing 3-1 derby defeat to Manchester City in the last round of Premier League fixtures left José Mourinho’s side streets behind their main rivals, with prospects of a successful season looking increasingly slim.
Mourinho’s men currently lie 8th in the Premier League as we return from the November international break, 12 points behind leaders City and seven points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur after just 12 league games, with a minus goal difference to boot.
After making their worst start to a campaign for 29 years, performances had improved in recent weeks, notably after successive away wins at Bournemouth and at Juventus in the Champions League.
But defeat at the Etihad brought United crashing back down to earth. If Manchester United are to even make the top four now this season, investment is likely needed in January to shake-up their jaded squad.
United are currently odds against with bookmakers to make the top four this season, with all five of their major rivals fancied ahead of them and Mcbookie betting offers for 2018 have the Red Devils available at a best-price of 9/2 to qualify for next season’s Champions League through their league position.
With the transfer window opening in a little over six weeks, here are three signings that United could target in the new year to improve their fortunes and close the gap on their rivals:
Manchester United have struggled to keep clean sheets so far this season but David De Gea shouldn’t take much of the blame, having kept his side in many games this season.
At centre-back rather, consistent errors have been made. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf are the latest pairing but neither are really the authoritative leader at the back United need. Mourinho appears to have fallen out with United’s best central defender, Eric Bailly, and the Ivorian international has not played in over a month.
Toby Alderweireld at Tottenham would provide such a solution and Mourinho came close to signing him in August, just missing out before the summer deadline. With the 29-year-old’s contract running down at Spurs however, the Belgian might be available at a bargain in January.
Mourinho may try and sign the Belgian again at the earliest opportunity, with United 11/2 favourites with Ladbrokes to sign him before 1 February.
Tottenham have kept five clean sheets in the 11 Premier League fixtures that Alderweireld has started this season, including the 3-0 thrashing of Manchester United at Old Trafford in August.
The former Southampton man is also averaging more clearances and tackles per game than both Smalling and Lindelöf this season.
Another player who is running down the remaining months of his contract, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey will also be available for a cut-price deal in January or faces leaving the Emirates on a free in the summer.
The centre of midfield might not be a priority for Mourinho, but if the opportunity to sign Ramsey presents itself he would surely be a great addition to the squad and at 27 still has some years left of his prime to become a great value signing.
Though United already have Paul Pogba as the attacking midfielder and with Juan Mata another option there, Ramsey could still hold down a place in United’s first team.
The Welsh international has four assists and one goal in 12 Premier League appearances (6 starts) already this season – Pogba is the only United midfielder to be involved in more goals than Ramsey so far this season, and even then the 2018 World Cup winner has played more than 400 minutes more in the Premier League this season.
If there’s one area where United need reinforcements other than at centre-back, it’s probably at centre forward, where Romelu Lukaku has been in terrible form of late while Alexis Sánchez remains out of the fold.
Anthony Martial’s return to the side and Marcus Rashford’s return to form have meant that United have not struggled for goals in recent weeks, but this side remains light on firepower. So why not consider Javier Hernández?
The Mexican is still only 30 and doesn’t appear to be enjoying life at West Ham, while he could provide competition for places up top as well as being an impact player off the bench.
After joining the club, Mourinho spoke of his disregard for the transfer policies of his United predecessors and was quoted as saying, “I would never sell Chicharito”.
Chicharito previously scored 37 goals in 103 Premier League appearances for Manchester United, of which 54 of these were from the substitutes bench.