B/R Football Ranks: Manchester United's January Transfer Targets

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportOctober 11, 2019

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Manager of Manchester United waves to the fans following his side's defeat during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Cardiff City at Old Trafford on May 12, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at the wheel for the foreseeable future because Manchester United's board is refusing to press the panic button on the back of a horrendous start to his first full season as manager.

It is expected he will still be in charge when the January transfer window comes around—a time that will most likely determine in which half of the table they finish the season.

The summer business has been heralded a success, with Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire considered by most as three of the team's best performers this term.

But they have to get the next signings right, too, in significant areas of the pitch.

United offloaded Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku in August, and they will prioritise signing a striker in January, but an experienced midfielder is also high on the agenda, according to B/R sources.

During this international break, and with United sitting 12th in the table, it is no surprise to learn that they are already looking to make progress with the names they want to sign. Jason Burt of the Telegraph reported that primary targets are expected to be pursued "within weeks."

In the summer, United looked for hungry, young, talented players who could make an impact on the first team—and largely that will be the case again. But this time, there will not be such a homegrown feel.

For example, sources told B/R that Norwegian trio Erling Haaland, 19, Sander Berge, 21, and Kristoffer Ajer, 21, are all names on the club's current transfer shortlist

But big, impactful names are also being studied because game-changers are needed immediately.

Here we take a look at some of the high-profile names being linked and whether you should believe the hype.

                

The Favourite: Mario Mandzukic

United looked into this deal last summer as a back-up option to Paulo Dybala once that deal went stale. At that stage, it was difficult to do. Mario Mandzukic needed convincing, and there was not time to negotiate the right terms. United were also open to including him in a deal that could have seen Romelu Lukaku join Juventus in part-exchange.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

United have retained that interest, and sources are convinced the club will make a firm offer to sign him in January.

It is no coincidence that various outlets have been pushing this story in recent days—he has not figured for Juve all season. But B/R is told a verbal agreement has not been reached, as suggested in Tuttosport (h/t the Mirror).

            

A Good Bet: Moussa Dembele

Manchester United's scouts have been tracking Moussa Dembele's displays all the way back to his youth days at Fulham, and his natural instinct for goals is believed to be something Solskjaer admires.

Lyon's french forward Moussa Dembele (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the French L1 football match between Amiens and Lyon (OL) on September 13, 2019 at the Licorne stadium in Amiens. (Photo by FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP)        (Photo credit shou
FRANCOIS LO PRESTI/Getty Images

Now 23, he is in Ligue 1 with Lyon, where he has six goals from eight league games this term. Sources told B/R that there is a real belief that the player fancies a move to Old Trafford, and there is a genuine expectation an offer could land in January.

While pace is a key part of his game, his all-around style of play is better suited to playing centrally than the way in which Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial operate—neither of whom thrives with his back to goal.

The main concern in getting this one over the line midseason is that it is going to take a huge offer. Lyon are an ambitious team in their own right, and indications from France suggest the side will desperately try to hang on to him until the summer.

         

Interesting Option: Aleksandr Sobolev

This would be a low-pressure buy given Aleksandr Sobolev would cost around £15 million from Russian Premier League side Krylia Sovetov and has a great eye for goal.

KRASNODAR, RUSSIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Ruslan Kambolov (L) of FC Krasnodar vies for the ball with Aleksandr Sobolev of FC Krylia Sovetov Samara during the Russian Premier League match between FC Krasnodar v FC Krylia Sovetov Samara at Krasnodar Stadium on Sept
Epsilon/Getty Images

The 22-year-old frontman has scored 10 times in 12 league games this term, and United scouts are running the rule over him regularly.

A report from The Sun claimed Arsenal are also interested in signing Sobolev—and the player himself is even surprised by the fact that he is being linked with a switch to Old Trafford.

But United are no longer the powerhouse they once were, and smart signings have to be considered at a time when they are going to struggle to sign the biggest names. 

           

Big Doubts: Erling Haaland

With 18 goals from 11 matches for RB Salzburg this season, Haaland is the brightest young hotshot in European football.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Erling Haland of Red Bull Salzburg celebrates after scoring a goal to make it 3-3 during the UEFA Champions League group E match between Liverpool FC and RB Salzburg at Anfield on October 2, 2019 in Liverpool, United Kingd
Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Solskjaer, a fellow Norwegian, knows all about his career path, and the teenager fits the type of player United are trying to recruit. He's highly ambitious and has the eyes of almost every elite club on him already.

He was born in Leeds, so a move into Premier League football could make sense for the teenager. Apart from the fact that his father, Alf-Inge Haaland, was on the wrong end of a notorious tackle from former United captain Roy Keane in 2001. That surely pours some doubt over whether his son would ever sign for the Reds.

             

Surely Not: Gareth Bale

He is linked with a return to England during pretty much every transfer window, so the latest rumour comes as no surprise.

BBC Sport's Guillem Balague reported Bale is not happy at Madrid after he was left out of the UEFA Champions League squad to face Club Brugge. Since then, TalkSport's Kevin Hatchard has reported that he could even move to United on a short-term loan.

That's a new one, as Bale is usually linked with a permanent move, but the story stems from the fact that Zinedine Zidane would be happy for him to find a temporary home.

Bale probably isn't going to do that. He's been keen on United in the past—but that wasn't this United team. Sources say we should expect him to hold out for something else at the end of the season.

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