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18th May 2019

Man Utd’s top transfer targets finally address a key problem

Patrick McCarry

“If you want to go fast, focus on attacking. If you want to go far, focus on defending.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to get his Manchester United squad super fit over the summer, but he would do well to focus on another area that is killing them. This summer, more than ever, United transfers will be absolutely crucial if this team are to arrest a worrying slide.

Jurgen Klopp (quoted above) initially ramped up the fitness levels of his squad and then added some attacking talents. That got the club to a Champions League final, and a third-place Premier League finish, but Klopp was already at work to shore up his side’s defence.

Virgil Van Dijk arrived in during the January 2018 transfer window and goalkeeper Alisson Becker followed that summer. This season, Liverpool conceded just 22 goals as they racked up 97 points to narrowly miss out on a league title. They will also contest the Champions League final with Tottenham, in Madrid.

But enough about a team with their act clearly together, and back to Solskjaer’s United.

An in-depth BBC report on United’s top transfer targets includes three attacking talents – Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Adrien Rabiot (PSG) and Daniel James (Swansea) – but does at least feature two defenders for problem positions.

United dropped from a second place finish in 2018/19 to sixth place – missing out on the Champions League – and they were severely hampered by conceding 54 goals. That was the worst defensive return from the top nine sides and United conceded 32 more goals than Liverpool.

United’s summer transfer priority is a centre back, an area that chief executive Ed Woodward insisted was not an issue heading into 2018/19. That centre-back is Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. The report reads:

‘The Senegal international’s hefty price is likely to scupper United’s hopes. Koulibaly is 27, under contract until 2023 with a reported 150m euro (£130m) buy-out clause in 2021, and his club have no need to sell.’

Right-back is the other gaping wound in United’s defence. For all his attacking talents, Diogo Dalot has been exposed in defence on numerous occasions while Antonio Valencia has moved on and Ashley Young as a stop-gap cannot be allowed to continue.

To that end, it is no surprise to hear that United are going up against Manchester City for Crystal Palace’s Wan-Bissaka. The 19-year-old is not said to be agitating for a summer move but may well be tempted if the Manchester clubs make serious offers.

Elsewhere in the world of United transfers, and away from that Top 5 list, the club has been linked – by Duncan Castles – with Barcelona and Netherlands goalkeeper Jasper Cilessen if David De Gea opts to leave Old Trafford over the summer.