Manchester United Transfer Rumours: 10 Signings That Could Help Avoid Fall-off

Jared Dublin@jareddublinAnalyst IIJune 14, 2011

Manchester United Transfer Rumours: 10 Signings That Could Help Avoid Fall-off

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United (L) and Mike Phelan assistant manager of Manchester United show their dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadiu
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    With Manchester United confirming the signing of Blackburn Rovers and England U-21 defender Phil Jones, manager Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking to make additional key acquisitions over the coming months.

    Jones joins Chris Smalling as another promising young defender who could be the future centre-back pairing for club and country. However, Ferguson must improve other areas in order to avoid a fall-off next campaign.

    Dimitar Berbatov's future is still undecided, but the Bulgarian striker seems determined to fight for his place at Old Trafford. Along with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Michael Owen, United have a surplus of quality attacking options.

    Unless Berbatov leaves the English champions, Ferguson will not be in the market to sign first-team strikers in the transfer window. United's midfield is the No. 1 priority for the Red Devils this summer.

    Paul Scholes' retirement has left a vacancy in the center of midfield. Giggs has emerged as more of a playmaking threat from the center, instead of a dictator and pass-master like the former Ginger Prince.

    Ferguson will be searching for creative, ball-playing central midfielders to fill the void left by Scholes. In addition, United would like to sign an attacking, goal-scoring winger that could provide a Cristiano Ronaldo-like spark in the final third.

    The UEFA Champions League final defeat to Barcelona revealed that the 19-times English champions need major reinforcements heading into next season.

    Here are 10 signings that could help United avoid a fall-off.

Honorable Mentions

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    MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 10:  Karim Benzema of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring his side third goal during the La Liga match between Real Madrid and Getafe at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on May 10, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Image
    Angel Martinez/Getty Images

    Honorable Mentions:

    Karim Benzema—Real Madrid

    Erik Torres—Chivas

    Raphel Varane—Lens

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain—Southampton

David De Gea

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    MADRID, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 30:  Goalkeeper David de Gea of Atletico Madrid celebrates his team equalizing goal during the UEFA Europa League group B match between Atletico Madrid and Bayer 04 Leverkusen at the Vicente Calderon Stadium on September 30, 2010
    Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Name: David De Gea

    Age: 20

    Club: Atletico Madrid

    Position: Goalkeeper

    Projected Transfer Fee: £18.3 million

    De Gea has emerged as the best young goalkeeper in the world. The Atletico starlet has been impressive in La Liga and looks to be the heir apparent to Iker Casillas as the Spanish No. 1. With the retirement of Edwin Van der Sar, Ferguson must find a long-term replacement in goal.

    After extensive scouting of goalkeeping prospects, such as Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer and Ajax's Maarten Stekelenburg, United believe that De Gea is the best successor to the legendary Dutchman.

    Although reports have stated the Spaniard is set to join the English champions, United and Atletico have yet to confirm the deal. Atletico have offered a contract extension to the young star, and there is still a slight chance that he will stay in the Spanish capital.

    De Gea will wait until after the European U-21 Championships to decide his future.

    Ferguson will be looking to make the deal as soon as possible. While the Spaniard's move to Old Trafford looks almost certain, at the moment United are still without a top-quality keeper.

    De Gea has the shot-stopping ability, composure and command of the area to be the United No. 1 for the next decade. Although the Spaniard has a tough task in replacing the great Van der Sar, he has all the tools and instincts to become one of the elite goalkeepers in the world.

Ashley Young

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Ashley Young of Aston Villa scores from the penalty spot during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers at Villa Park on February 26, 2011 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Laurence G
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Name: Ashley Young

    Age: 25

    Club: Aston Villa

    Position: Winger

    Projected Transfer Fee: £16 million

    Young looks set to sign for United in the coming days. However, the Red Devils have yet to confirm a deal taking the Aston Villa winger to Old Trafford. With the fee set around £16 million, United will be paying fair value for a top-quality England international should the transfer be completed.

    Although Park was sensational on the left for the Red Devils during the final months of the season, Ferguson has been searching for an impact winger in the mold of a Cristiano Ronaldo. With Giggs moving into a central playmaking role and Nani's dip in form during the latter stages of the campaign, United need reinforcements down the left to balance the exceptional play of Antonio Valencia on the right flank.

    While Young may not have the world-class ability of a Ronaldo, he offers the versatility and movement to have a similar influence on United's style of play. Young's pace and crossing ability have been key to his success at Villa. However, the England international has developed an eye for goal and improved his movement along the front-line as well.

    The winger's quickness and dribbling skill make him one of the most difficult players to mark and contain in the EPL. Although Ferguson will most likely deploy Young on the left of his traditional 4-4-2, the Englishman could also drop in the hole behind a central striker. For £16 million, United could be getting a proven dangerman with EPL experience, and an explosive winger that could propel them to more domestic and European trophies.

Shinji Kagawa

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    SEVILLE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 15:  Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund runs with the ball during the UEFA Europa League group J match between Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on December 15, 2010 in Seville, Spain. The match ended
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Name: Shinji Kagawa

    Age: 22

    Club: Borussia Dortmund

    Position: Attacking Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £10-15 million

    Borussia Dortmund's Japanese playmaker has been sensational for the Bundesliga champions this season. Although the playmaker suffered a serious injury blow in the Asian Cup, Kagawa contributed eight goals in 18 league appearances for his club.

    Along with German wonderkid Mario Goetze, the Japanese star was an instrumental creative force in Dortmund's title-winning campaign.

    With Giggs nearing the end of his illustrious career and Scholes already hanging up his boots, United has a serious long-term playmaking void. Although Young looks set to sign for the Red Devils, the England international is not the type of player to unlock defenses with his ingenuity or inventiveness.

    Kagawa's versatility would make him a great addition to the current United squad. The Japanese star has featured on the left or in the center of Dortmund's attacking midfield trio. While he might not have the defensive awareness to consistently play in the middle of Ferguson's 4-4-2, he could feature on either wing or play a similar creative, floating role as Giggs.

    Kagawa's late runs into the box and ability to find the net would relieve some of the pressure on Rooney, Hernandez and Berbatov, giving United a genuine goal-scoring threat from midfield. In addition to his contributions on the field, Kagawa would be an exceptional marketing asset and instant icon for the Red Devils' Japanese supporters.

    Ferguson will be looking to add a new dimension to the midfield, and Kagawa could provide that creative spark that United need.

Alexis Sanchez

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    PALERMO, ITALY - FEBRUARY 27:  Alexis Sanchez (C) of Udinese scores his team's fifth goal during the Serie A match between US Citta di Palermo and Udinese Calcio at Stadio Renzo Barbera on February 27, 2011 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/G
    Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

    Name: Alexis Sanchez

    Age: 22

    Club: Udinese

    Position: Winger

    Projected Transfer Fee: £30-33 million

    Udinese's electric winger has become one of the most sought-after players in this summer's transfer window. Manchester City, Inter Milan and Barcelona have all emerged as serious contenders in the race to land the Chilean star. Sanchez has just come off his best season in Serie A, contributing 12 goals and six assists in 31 appearances.

    World-class wingers are in high demand this summer, as Udinese will only consider selling the Chilean for a bid in the region of £30 million. Although Sanchez has excelled out on the flanks, he is equally adept playing upfront.

    The Udinese star has developed into a rare combo, attacking winger-striker. Sanchez's lightning pace, dribbling skill and goal-scoring ability have likened him to Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Ferguson will be in the market for an attacking spark and the Chilean would be an excellent fit in United's system. Although he may not provide 20-30 goals, Sanchez could be United's dangerman down the left. The Udinese winger can unsettle opponents with his sheer pace and drive to take on defenders.

    Sanchez would most likely force the departure of Portuguese winger Nani, as the Chilean will be demanding regular first-team football at his next club. The Chilean's direct running and genuine speed would be perfect for United's counter-attacking style of play. Ferguson will have to shell out a significant portion of his transfer budget to land the Udinese star. However, the Chilean could prove to be the best fit out wide for the Red Devils.

Lassana Diarra

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    BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 03:  Javier Mascherano of FC Barcelona (L) fights for the ball against Lass Diarra of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the Camp Nou on May 3, 2011 in Barce
    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Name: Lassana Diarra

    Age: 26

    Club: Real Madrid

    Position: Defensive Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £15-18 million

    Real Madrid's midfield enforcer has been linked with multiple English clubs amidst rumours that he will be leaving the Spanish capital. Diarra did not cement a place in manager Jose Mourinho's starting 11 last season, as he primarily featured as a backup for Sami Khedira.

    With the arrival of Nuri Sahin, there will be more competition for a regular place in the first-team, casting doubt over Diarra's future with Madrid.

    United's loss to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Final emphasized Ferguson's need to reinforce the midfield. Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher were solid in the middle this season. However the former is more of a deep-lying passer and the latter has emerged as a defensive-minded central midfielder.

    Neither player brings the tough-tackling and high pressure defense of a true midfield enforcer. Diarra would give United that natural shield in front of the back-four, allowing other players more attacking freedom.

    Although the Frenchman does not have the composure and passing ability of United's current group of central midfielders, he would provide strength and determination to a midfield that lacks natural defensive qualities. Diarra shows exceptional tenacity and hunger to win back possession.

    As Ferguson looks to bolster the squad, the Madrid enforcer would be an excellent ball-winning midfielder for United as they seek a fourth Champions League title.

Jack Rodwell

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    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 16:  Jack Rodwell of Everton in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Blackburn Rovers at  Goodison Park on April 16, 2011 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Name: Jack Rodwell

    Age: 20

    Club: Everton

    Position: Defensive Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £15-25 million

    Everton's 20 year old midfield dynamo is one of the brightest English talents of this generation. Rodwell has the potential to become an elite box-to-box midfielder. The Everton starlet put on impressive displays against the likes of Manchester United and the other English giants in recent years. Although he may not consistently be at his top form, Rodwell has shown glimpses of world-class ability.

    While manager David Moyes occasionally deployed the Englishman in an attacking role this season, Rodwell excels as a defensive midfielder. The youngster boasts outstanding athleticism, strength and stamina. In addition to his physical qualities, Rodwell has impressive tackling technique and good positional sense when tracking back defensively.

    Although the Englishman has been impressive when marking opponents and breaking up opposition play, he is also technically gifted on the ball. Rodwell has underrated vision, and has shown the ability to pass and finish with both feet. The Everton starlet's combination of physical, defensive and technical qualities makes him the ideal, modern box-to-box defensive midfielder.

    Ferguson has been a long-term admirer of the Everton starlet. Rodwell has great talent and unbelievable potential.

    With Everton's financial struggles, United will be looking to capitalize on the opportunity to sign premium English talent for a slight discount. The Englishman is a complete midfielder, and his all-around contributions could be key as United look to bolster the midfield. Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones will become solid England players in the future, but Rodwell has the promise to become one of the best midfielders in the world.

    The Everton starlet could become the midfield cornerstone at United for years to come.

Charlie Adam

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    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 07:  Charlie Adam of Blackpool on the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Blackpool at White Hart Lane on May 7, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Name: Charlie Adam

    Age: 25

    Club: Blackpool

    Position: Central Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £10 million

    Although recent reports claim that Adam is on the verge of joining Liverpool, the Blackpool captain could still be on the move elsewhere. With Scholes' retirement, the Scotsman could be seen as a relatively cheap replacement for roughly £10 million. The Merseysiders have emerged as the frontrunners to acquire Adam's services, but the Reds' crowded midfield could open the door for Ferguson to make a late swoop for the central midfielder.

    Out of the midfield options available to the United manager, none have the range of passing and technical ability to assume Scholes' role as the deep-lying pass-master and dictator. Although Carrick has shown glimpses of being able to orchestrate from deeper positions, he has developed into more of a holding midfielder that plays square passes and keeps possession. The Blackpool captain would give Ferguson a different option in the middle of the park.

    Adam has world-class ability in his left boot. The Scotsman can dictate the tempo, spread the play and hit exceptional cross-field diagonals. While he does not have the defensive qualities of Carrick or Fletcher, his expansive range of passing would be a great fit for United's 4-4-2 formation and counter-attacking style of play.

    In addition to his contributions from the run of play, the Blackpool captain has emerged as a set-piece specialist. Adam delivers top-quality corners from both sides, and possesses a thunderous free-kick.

    Although Adam is not the natural or ideal replacement for Scholes, he would be a great, cost-efficient signing. Ferguson needs a ball-playing, pass-master in midfield if they are to continue their domestic dominance and make another run at a Champions League Final. Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder are more talented players that could be on the move to Old Trafford, but the Scotsman would be a smart acquisition for £10 million.

Wesley Sneijder

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    MILAN, ITALY - APRIL 23:  Wesley Sneijder of FC Inter Milan during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale Milano and SS Lazio at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on April 23, 2011 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
    Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Name: Wesley Sneijder

    Age: 27

    Club: Internazionale

    Position: Attacking Central Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £30-35 million

    For Ajax, Real Madrid and now Inter Milan, Sneijder has proven that he is a world-class talent. The playmaker was instrumental towards Inter's treble-winning season and the Netherland's impressive run at the 2010 World Cup. Although he has become one of the key figures for manager Leonardo, United and Chelsea are still hoping to lure the player to England.

    The Dutchman's attacking qualities and technical ability makes him one of the most dangerous playmakers in world football. Sneijder can pass over distance and shoot from long range with both feet. His technique with either foot allows him to keep the passing tempo and rhythm. Sneijder's range of passing and telling through-balls make him a dynamic threat with the ball at his feet.

    The Dutchman has the ability to produce absolutely spectacular long-range goals as well. With both feet, Sneijder can strike the ball with real venom and accuracy. In addition to his outstanding shooting technique from open play, the Dutchman is a set-piece specialist. With his power and curl, Sneijder can deliver breathtaking goals from dead-ball situations.

    Although Sneijder would be a great addition to the current United squad, he will not be the player to replace Scholes in midfield. The Dutchman has exclusively played as a No. 10, in the hole behind the strikers. However, the Englishman featured as a deep-lying pass-master towards the latter stages of his career. Instead of slotting in for Scholes, Sneijder would provide a different dimension in midfield. If Ferguson stays with his 4-4-2, the Dutchman will most likely feature as the attacking central midfielder. However, his lack of defensive qualities would force United to sign a true enforcer in the mold of a Lassana Diarra.

    The Inter Milan midfielder could be the world-class playmaker and creative threat to reinvent United's midfield. Sneijder has a fiery personality, and would excel in the EPL. At 27 years old, the Dutchman is in his prime footballing years. If Sneijder is open to leaving Serie A, Ferguson will take advantage of the opportunity to acquire a player of his caliber.

    With the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal fighting to dethrone United next season, the Dutchman could be the midfield signing to deliver a record 20th league title to Old Trafford.

Samir Nasri

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 05:  Samir Nasri of Arsenal runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Sunderland at Emirates Stadium on March 5, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Name: Samir Nasri

    Age: 23

    Club: Arsenal

    Position: Attacking Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £10-20 million

    Nasri's stalled contract negotiations with Arsenal have put United on high alert. The Frenchman has failed to win trophies at the Emirates and could be looking for a move to a more ambitious club.

    Nasri was sensational for the Gunners last season, contributing 16 goals in all competitions. The French playmaker was exceptional out on the left, forcing Andrei Arshavin to the substitute's bench. With Wenger's tight financial policy and reluctance to spend, there is a strong chance that Nasri will look for higher wages and a better shot at winning titles with United.

    The Frenchman would give United a natural playmaking threat, with the versatility to play out wide or through the center. Nasri's close control and dribbling ability would add class and skill to a predominantly direct United squad. Park, Valencia, Darren Gibson, Anderson and Fletcher are all solid players, but none have the Frenchman's technique, creativity and flair. Nasri has the ability to unlock defenses and play the killer through-ball. The Frenchman's skill on the ball and exceptional vision would be instrumental in United's possession and buildup play.

    With Nasri's unsettled future at the Emirates, Ferguson could steal the player for a bargain price around £10 million. Although it is unlikely United will land the Frenchman for such a significant discount, Wenger will not want to lose Nasri after his contract runs out next season. Ferguson will be monitoring the Frenchman's situation closely, as he tries to lure the midfielder with better wages and title-winning football.

    Nasri would fill the gaping void in United's first-team squad, as Ferguson clearly lacks a natural playmaker. Giggs excelled in that role last season, but the Arsenal star could be seen as the long-term solution.

    Nasri has experience playing at the highest level, and with his impressive 2010-11 campaign, United will be looking to do all they can to land the talented Frenchman.

Luka Modric

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    BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Luka Modric of Tottenham controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur at Villa Park on December 26, 2010 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty I
    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Name: Luka Modric

    Age: 25

    Club: Tottenham

    Position: Central Midfielder

    Projected Transfer Fee: £25-30 million

    Although Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp has reiterated that Modric will not be sold in the transfer window, the elite clubs of Europe will still be fighting to sign the midfielder.

    While United face stiff competition from Chelsea to land Modric, Ferguson will still feel that his side is the favorite to acquire the Croatian midfielder. With Tottenham failing to secure Champions League football for next year, United will try to lure Modric with the prospect of playing in Europe's premium competition for consecutive seaons.

    Although I previously wrote an article about Modric being the natural replacement for Scholes, it makes sense to highlight some of his qualities here as well. The Croatian star has exceptional technique and vision. Modric is also a serious threat from outside the box, as he boasts a thunderous long-range shot. Although the Croatian has similar technique and defensive tenacity as Scholes, the Tottenham midfielder can play with both feet. Modric can operate in tight spaces, and his ability to pass and shoot with either foot makes him a world-class playmaker.

    Out of all the available midfield options, the Croatian would be the best fit for the current United system. In Ferguson's favored 4-4-2, Modric would excel in the central midfield position. In addition to his attacking qualities, the Tottenham star has showed a willingness to apply pressure on the ball and fight for possession. Modric is a true central midfielder, creating in the attack and tracking back in defense.

    The Croatian has all the tools to replace Scholes as United's midfield dictator and pass-master. Although Ferguson will be looking to make key additions in the summer, he does not want to completely reconstruct the midfield. Modric would be the ideal fit in the center of United's midfield. Tottenham are unlikely to sell the player for anything less than £25 million. While it may take the majority of United's transfer budget to acquire the midfielder, Modric could be the long-term replacement for Scholes and the man to lead the Red Devils to more domestic trophies and a fourth Champions League title.