Manchester United: Which Positions Do United Need to Shore Up This Summer?
Manchester United may currently be enjoying one of their most prolific seasons under Sir Alex Ferguson, but that doesn't mean questions won't be asked of the longstanding manager come the summer.
With the signature of Crystal Palace starlet Wilfried Zaha already in the books, the Glazers may still need to get out their checkbooks when the transfer window re-opens.
Certain players are nearing the retirement age, while others have drawn criticism in the press for underperforming.
This article will consider five positions that United may need to shore up, and whether or not a purchase would be necessary.
Agree or disagree, your feedback is always welcome.
Current Squad: David de Gea, Anders Lindegaard, Ben Amos.
Talk of Manchester United looking to bring in a replacement for David de Gea in the summer has only swelled in the past couple of months (via The Mirror).
This despite the Spanish shot-stopper making some game-winning saves during the period, saves that can only be described as world-class.
His mistakes, however minor, have been magnified by a tabloid culture keen on the idea of a £20 million transfer flop to sell stories.
Many, though, myself included, have backed him as being the club's keeper for years to come.
His teammates are clearly behind him, as Wayne Rooney recently spoke out on the ongoing rumours (via ManUtd.com):
I think he's been great for us over the last few weeks as he's made some great saves.
I know he got a little bit of criticism after the Tottenham game but he made five or six world-class saves in that game and it wasn't the biggest mistake I've ever seen.
We're all behind him and backing him. He's a great player for us and for the future as well.
Can we finally put this one to bed?
Should United buy?: No
Current Squad: Rafael, Patrice Evra, Alexander Buttner, Fabio (out on loan).
Patrice Evra has consistently been singled out for criticism in the recent past for poor performances at left-back for the Red Devils.
Don't get me wrong, much of it was deserved. But this season he has come close to regaining the form of the 2008/09 season that saw him named in the UEFA Team of the Year.
Rumoured target Leighton Baines is a decent player, but with Evra close to being back to his best, one might bravely suggest that the Frenchman has at least one good season left in him.
Sir Alex may decide to pre-empt another slide in form from him, though, and bring in a replacement, but money may be better spent elsewhere for now.
On the other side of the pitch, there are no real qualms about Rafael—he has had his best season to date in Manchester red.
Bringing in an inexpensive backup might be a good idea—Phil Jones and Chris Smalling aren't as suited to the role as they are to a more central position.
There are youngsters in the squad such as Marnick Vermijl and Michael Keane who are capable, but neither are yet ready for regular first-team football.
One mustn't forget about Fabio either, who is due to return from a loan spell at Queens Park Rangers at the end of the season.
Should United buy?: Maybe
Current Squad: Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones.
With five quality central defenders, three of whom are still relatively young, it would be foolish to suggest that the Red Devils need to bring in another player in the same position.
The argument for doing so is to theoretically replace the ageing Rio Ferdinand, but with the veteran defender still capable of delivering top performances, it may be a tad premature to start putting him out to stud.
Besides, if the likes of Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling aren't long-term successors to Ferdinand, then what exactly are they?
Borussia Dortmund's central pair of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic are appealing options, but spending big on either one would be a luxury rather than a necessity.
The question of Phil Jones' natural position is still one that inspires plenty of debate for fans of United.
Is the 20-year-old tall enough to cut it as a centre-back in the Premier League? Is he technically capable of playing the box-to-box role?
Or is he simply destined to be a jack-of-all-trades—decent at just about everything, but without a speciality?
Should United buy?: No
Current Squad: Michael Carrick, Anderson, Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley, Nick Powell, Darren Fletcher.
Whether it's due to an unseen master plan of his, or just pure stubborness, Sir Alex Ferguson has seemed very reluctant to bring in a polished central midfielder for quite some time.
The Scotsman has hardly been proven foolish in his hesitancy—United have racked up more points in the Premier League than at the corresponding stage of any previous season.
But that doesn't mean that the heart of the team hasn't been exposed several times, especially in the early stages of the current term.
Anderson and Tom Cleverley are terrific prospects, but the lack of a tough-tackling, rugged central player would arguably be the biggest void in the squad.
With Kevin Strootman and Victor Wanyama realistic transfer targets, this summer would be an overdue opportunity for cash to be splashed (via Tribal Football).
Youth team players Ryan Tunnicliffe and Jesse Lingard are promising youngsters but are still in the burgeoning stages of their respective careers to be asked too much of.
Darren Fletcher may yet make a triumphant return to football next season, but he is a different type of beast to that which the Red Devils require.
Should United buy?: Yes
Current Squad: Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Ryan Giggs, Wilfried Zaha (due to join in the summer).
With the £15 million transfer for Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha completed and the player set to join in time for next season, does Sir Alex really need to consider entering the market for another wide player in the summer (via ESPN)?
The answer to that question depends on the form of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young—all of whom have been disappointing for extended periods this term.
Either the Red Devils consider changing their style of football, or better alternatives may have to be sought out.
Young can be an able player on his day but lacks the standout talent that a footballer needs to possess to cut it long-term at Old Trafford.
Nani is slightly different—he has the potential to be a world-class player but infuriates fans with more blunders than the average Swindon Town player.
Antonio Valencia has also been horridly impotent this season—his lack of a left foot exposed several times while his renown burst of acceleration seems to have deserted him.
If the Glazers are going to shell out for another winger, one of the above must be sold, and for a good price too.
Finding a buyer willing to meet United's respective valuations would be the tricky part.
Should United buy?: Maybe
Which positions do you believe need to be shored up in the summer? Do United need to spend at all?