Manchester United: The Reds' Weaknesses and Players Who Can Fix Them in January

Jake NisseFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

Manchester United: The Reds' Weaknesses and Players Who Can Fix Them in January

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    United beat Aston Villa 3-0 on Sunday, but their season has been a struggle thus far.
    United beat Aston Villa 3-0 on Sunday, but their season has been a struggle thus far.Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

    As they stand at eighth place in the Premier League, and have lost five games already, it's no surprise that United have been having some struggles.

    With 16 games played, these struggles cannot be considered flukes, but rather weaknesses that could last throughout throughout season.

    However, the January transfer window is on the horizon, and if David Moyes has any sense, he will buy some players to get United back on track.

Weakness: Not Having a Variety of Goalscorers

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    United have had no players other than these two celebrating too often
    United have had no players other than these two celebrating too oftenAlex Livesey/Getty Images

    While United have scored the sixth most goals in the league—disappointing for them but respectable nonetheless—more than half of these goals have come from just two players.

    With seven and eight goals respectively in EPL action, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie have carried most of United's goalscoring load on their shoulders.

    They've done their part, but after Danny Welbeck and Adnan Januzaj, whose six goals combined have been spread out over only three games, United have had little insurance for their two alpha dogs.

    United's struggles to score goals consistently certainly is a result of their more simple, long-ball tactics, but can also be attributed to their lack of squad depth compared to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City.

    Should the Reds have any chance to contend for a top-four finish, they need at least one more attacker they can consistently rely on to score.

Transfer Possibilities: Stephan El Shaarawy and Alexandre Pato

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    If they bid for him, United could possibly land Italian starlet Stephan El Shaarawy
    If they bid for him, United could possibly land Italian starlet Stephan El ShaarawyGabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

    Though they have an illustrious history as being a world-class team, United are not playing like one right now, meaning they won't be attracting too many players of that caliber.

    However, while they might not make any massive-money deals, they could cash out on players like Stephan El Shaarawy and Alexandre Pato. Both of these players are young, talented and somewhat out of favor, making for a lower asking price.

    El Shaarawy has not yet scored for AC Milan this season, and according to InsideFutbolthe Italian side could let him walk in January if they get a good enough offer.

    Meanwhile, Pato's career has somewhat entered into a state of oblivion, as the Brazilian star has been out of the limelight playing for Corinthians in Brazil. He has scored only nine goals in 30 appearances this season.

    Both of these players could provide United with some pace and youthfulness at the striker position, and they could possibly get their careers back on track at Old Trafford as well.

Weakness: Lack of Production from the Central Midfield Position

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    Michael Carrick has been in exemplary form this season.
    Michael Carrick has been in exemplary form this season.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Despite signing Marouane Fellaini over the summer, United have not seen their central midfield problems disappear.

    Michael Carrick has continued to be a stud, but the players beside him, or replacing him in the XI, have failed to be as consistent as the Englishman.

    Tom Cleverley, at least right now, is nothing more than a nice option off the bench, as he is a solid tackler but does not excel in any single facet of the game.

    Fellaini has not yet been the defensive presence United have wanted him to be, playing skittishly and also contributing little on the offensive front. 

    Phil Jones does the best he can when played at center midfield but is simply playing out of position and can do little else but act as a defensive destroyer.

    Lastly, Darren Fletcher has just returned from his two-year injury hiatus, but, like Cleverley, he can't be counted on to be anything more than a nice bench option.

    These four players have just one goal and zero assists between them, and their lack of production is a major reason for United's struggles.

Transfer Possibilites: Koke and Michael Bradley

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    United have already inquired about Koke's availability
    United have already inquired about Koke's availabilityGonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Similar to their (hypothetical) pursuit of strikers, United will find it tough to reel in elite midfield talent in January due to their poor form this season.

    While it seems they have little shot of getting him, United have inquired about Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke, who has eight La Liga assists thus far. 

    Per Alex Richards of The MirrorKoke is not keen on a January move to United. However, United must make sure to re-establish their interest if the Spanish youngster somehow has a change of heart.

    At age 21, his future is extremely bright, and it is a positive that United are at least realizing where they need help.

    The current situation of Roma midfielder Michael Bradley is very different at the moment. After earning 24 Serie A starts last season and earning lots of acclaim, he has started just four games in Italy's domestic league this season.

    Due to the fact he is out of favor, it is possible United could snatch him up for cheap in January, and they would be adding a solid piece to their midfield.

    As a box-to-box midfielder, the American's work rate, vision and occasional shocking goals could propel the Reds to a second-half surge.

     

Weakness: Inconsistent Defense

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    Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are both talented, but their age has reduced their pace and has made them questionable every-week starters
    Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are both talented, but their age has reduced their pace and has made them questionable every-week startersMichael Regan/Getty Images

    Much like United's offense, the Reds' back line is not bad, but it certainly needs depth.

    Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand are all savvy, solid players, but they can no longer be relied on to start every single week at their respective ages.

    On the right flank, Rafael leaves little to desire, and Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are capable replacements when their numbers are called.

    All of these players are at least decent, but none of them are really world-class, as United's once fortress of a defense has been compromised with age.

    They have let in only the seventh fewest goals, but their inconsistent play has made them prone to defensive lapses and mistakes, as they've only produced five clean sheets this season.

Transfer Possibilities: Winston Reid, Luca Antei

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    Winston Reid is on Arsenal's radar and he should be on United's as well
    Winston Reid is on Arsenal's radar and he should be on United's as wellCharlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

    Though there has been much talk about buying Leighton Baines from Everton, as reported by ESPN as well as numerous other sources, the left-back is 29, and United would see him aging in a few years just like Patrice Evra.

    Instead, it'd be smarter to target younger players such as West Ham's Winston Reid and Sassuolo's Luca Antei. At ages 25 and 21 respectively, these players are already major contributors for their clubs.

    Reid in particular has earned lots of praise, as The Daily Mail's David Kent reports that Arsenal are planning a £6 million coup for the defender in January.

    That price is not a high one for a player of such high caliber, and United should be aiming to purchase him in January.

    Both Reid and Antei have immense talent, and for their low prices, it would be worth spending on them.

    Information from ESPNFC was used in this article.