Moyes may be preaching caution in terms of January spending, but with United struggling to make Champions League qualification look easy, perhaps Moyes needs to think big...
I've left Koke off this list on purpose, because I'm scared of jinxing it. I probably shouldn't put anyone on the list on that basis, but still—enjoy!
Not since Eric Cantona have Manchester United signed a player with such a (if you’ll excuse the euphemism) “storied” history. Those who follow Spanish football closely over at the Mirror suggest that Ever Banega, the Argentinian midfielder, could be just the tonic for United’s ailing midfield. Creative AND combative, Banega’s talents meant Pep Guardiola singled him out for special attention when Barcelona faced Valencia in the Copa Del Rey. And when Pep’s singling you out for special attention…
Unfortunately Banega has a history of off-field shenanigans that makes Mario Ballotelli’s look like…well, ok, Mario Ballotelli’s off-field shenanigans are not diminished in comparison with anyone’s, but Banega is at least almost a match for him.
What is for sure is that United need improvement in both numbers and quality in central midfield, and that we need them sooner rather than later. Banega is not cup-tied, plays for a team who are not competitive in their league and has a personal history which will mean his price tag is manageable. If Moyes is prepared to throw caution to the wind, he could do (and has done) worse.
We need midfielders. He is one. His name seems like it has massive potential for good chants. Ok, as Andi Thomas points out, if that was the only criteria, we would sign Blaise Matuidi, but it is far from the only reason Gundogan seems a good fit for United.
A defensive midfielder (remember those?), Gundogan’s time at Dortmund has seen him rise in prominence and become a mainstay of the German national team.
The eight caps he has received so far would surely be more were it not for the five-month lay-off he has faced this season. Signing a star player from a team still in the Champions League in January might seem far-fetched, but there are things which suggest it may not be quite as much of an outside bet as it seems. Gundogan’s contract negotiations are reportedly something of an issue. Under most circumstances the selling club would probably seek to recuperate some value from the transfer, but since Borussia reportedly gave Lewandowski a payraise for his final season at the club, rather than selling him last summer, it is certainly not to be taken for granted that they will look to cash in on Gundogan.
The Newcastle United central midfielder would certainly improve United’s squad, but question marks remain about whether he would improve it “enough” to commit to a long-term signing. Moyes has said he is only interested in bringing in players who will improve United’s level for the foreseeable future, and it is not clear whether he thinks Cabaye fits the mould. However, with Champions League qualification for next season hardly guaranteed, and the sense that summer strengthening may be highly dependent on that qualification, improving the squad immediately may be necessary.
A transfer that has been discussed amongst United fans for a long time because it seems really logical, rather than one where there is a clear indication of mutual interest.
Of all the people in this list, this seems one of the more likely to actually sign. A hair’s breadth away from joining United in the summer, Coentrao is probably available on loan and would provide a high-quality option in an area of the pitch where United have very little flexibility.
Patrice Evra’s performances have not matched his own highest level, and he desperately needs cover—Alex Buttner might have a strong Instagram selfie-game, and often contributes to forward play well, but has huge problems with defending, an example being the goal conceded against West Ham in which he caused the spring in an offside trap to severely malfunction.
Signing Coentrao would certainly be a highlight of this transfer window. (I’ll get my coat).
United were not linked with Herrera for that long in the summer, but so much incident was packed into the time in which we were that it feels fair to quantify our attempts to add him to our ranks as a “saga."
Part two of the saga is apparently up and running. Herrera is a wonderful player, gifted in possession, who ran rings around United’s midfield two years ago in a Europa League tie. Many United fans would be delighted to see him arrive, but the issues around valuation in the summer may not have gone away.