Transfer Focus: What Manchester United need to do in the January transfer window

With the January transfer window quickly approaching, we take a look at the business that may be conducted by some of the top clubs in Europe. Here's a look at Manchester United..
By Brendon Netto

This Season's Stats
                  Premier League: 1st
Champions League: Round of 16
FA Cup: Third round
Capital One Cup: Fourth round (eliminated)
Games: 25
Won: 19
Lost: 6
Drawn: 0
Win %: 76.00%
GF: 58
GA: 36
GF ratio: 2.32
GA ratio: 1.44

Their Season So Far

Manchester United have always been slow starters but oddly enough, they currently boast a six-point lead at the top of the Premier League despite a surprisingly poor defensive record so far. Sir Alex Ferguson’s high profile summer signing, Robin Van Persie has made a big impact on their striking department which has been firing on all cylinders.

In fact, there offensive proficiency has enabled them to keep winning games despite conceding goals and falling behind. The character of the team has played a big part in that as well but their sheer ability to score goals have consistently gotten them out of hot water and may have even papered over the cracks in their defence.

Their attack has bailed them out

Apart from enjoying the view from the top of the league table, United have also progressed to the knock-out stages of the Champions League as group winners but were eliminated from the Capital One Cup in the fourth round at the hands of Chelsea.

Having beaten Arsenal at home and Chelsea, Liverpool and most recently Manchester City away, Sir Alex will be pleased with the position in which they find themselves now. With nearly all their defenders fit again, the Scot will be hoping that his side can instil some solidarity in defence while maintaining their attacking flair.

What They Need

With the likes of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all fit and available, United are pretty well covered in the striking department but could do with reinforcements in midfield and perhaps defence.

Nani came close to leaving the club in the summer and is expected to make his exit come January. With Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia the only other wingers in the squad, securing the services of at least one more wide player seems to be the order of the day.

Earlier in the season, United even resorted to playing a diamond midfield and the absence of recognized wingers through injury was one of the reasons for what was a strange system for a team that has always heavily relied on width.

In need of midfield reinforcements

It’s widely suggested that United’s central midfield is still a position that needs to be addressed. Paul Scholes is still one of the best passers in Europe but his inability to track back owing to his age makes him a liability in a two-man midfield when United lose possession. Anderson has once again showed glimpses of his ability to be the answer to the side’s midfield problems but the midfielder remains prone to injuries.

With Rio Ferdinand well into the twilight stages of his career, there has been talk of the club looking to bring in a top-notch defender but with the likes of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans at the club, Ferguson seems set to give them the opportunity to make the step up.

Disappointingly enough, Sir Alex has ruled out any signings in January but the United boss has been known to put up a smokescreen in the past.

Prime Targets

Tom Ince:

Another Ince at Old Trafford?

The Blackpool winger has reportedly caught the eye of Sir Alex owing to his performances for the Championship side this year. The son of the former United and Liverpool midfielder, Paul Ince has bagged 13 goals and 9 assists in the second tier of English football this season.

He has decent pace but it’s his dribbling and trickery that sets him apart. He’s been turning defenders inside out for fun since making the move to Blackpool last season and he would be a good addition to United’s options on the flanks. However, Liverpool are close competitors along with United in the race of the youngster’s signature.

Kevin Strootman:

Someone to bolster the midfield

Manchester United have been missing a typical box-to-box midfielder for a while now and Kevin Strootman has been linked to the club over the last year or two. The 22 year old has emerged as one of the most exciting talents in European football and the Dutch press have tagged him ‘the new Mark Bommel’.

VIDEO: Kevin Strootman amongst United's potential transfer targets

The youngster has expressed his desire to play at the top level but the possibility of a move in the summer seems much greater. United are one of several clubs linked with the Dutch international.

Wesley Sneijder:

Another shot at signing the playmaker?

Wesley Sneijder is the one that got away from United’s point of view. They were close to signing the Dutch superstar in the 2011-12 summer as a replacement for the then retired Paul Scholes but the deal faced several obstacles involving the transfer fee and the player’s wages and negotiations eventually came to a halt.

As Inter Milan attempts to reduce their expenditure, they have tried to coax Sneijder into taking a pay-cut but the player has refused to do so and as a result he has had to endure a spell on the sidelines. The Dutch playmaker still has plenty to offer at the age of 28 and with his asking price certain to drop significantly since the last time United tried to sign him, the Manchester outfit may find that the deal is likely to fall within their budget this time around.

If the league leaders were to land the midfielder, it certainly would add even more creativity to the side and the prospect of him linking up with the likes of Rooney and Van Persie would delight the Old Trafford faithful. The player's wife has stated that the family are preparing to leave Milan.

Wilfried Zaha:

A speed-king out wide?

Wilfried Zaha has made quite an impression this season. His blistering pace and box of tricks has made him stand out and even led to a call-up for the senior England squad. He is more of a raw talent at the moment but he is already a nightmare for any full-back and that shouldn’t change if he makes the step up to the Premier League.

United and Arsenal have been the two clubs most linked with the 20 year old but given that Arsene Wenger has publicly voiced his interest in the Crystal Palace youngster, the London club may have the upper-hand.

Who Could Leave

Nani is the one player who looks set to make for the exits. The Portuguese winger attracted interest from Zenit Saint-Petersburg over the summer but nothing transpired. Sir Alex has reportedly grown frustrated with the 26 year old’s continued inconsistent performances having expected him to mature into a more reliable player by now.

AS Roma, Inter Milan and AC Milan have all shown an interest in signing the Portuguese international whose demands for an improved contract have further infuriated United.

Who do you think Manchester United should sign? Leave your comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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