January transfer window: Five players Manchester United could target early in 2016

After enduring a drab December and failing to bring the electrifying brand of football the Old Trafford faithful crave the jury is still out for Louis van Gaal.

The pressure has enhanced on the Manchester United manager due to the dramatic sacking of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola stating his desire to manage in the Premier League next season.

With the January transfer window in full flow and Van Gaal’s side lacking invention, MM takes a look at five players who could reinforce United’s ranks.

Ricardo Rodriguez

Luke Shaw’s horrific injury against PSV Eindhoven was a devastating blow to Van Gaal, the former Southampton left back having made a positive start to the campaign.

United’s manager was so impressed with the full back’s attitude and performances that he labelled the season as ‘the season of Luke Shaw’.

Van Gaal has used numerous left back options to fill the Shaw void, with Marcos Rojo recently undergoing surgery, Daley Blind preferred as a centre back and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson struggling to get to grips with senior football.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager’s hand may be forced in January. Ricardo Rodriguez, 23, currently plies his trade at Wolfsburg and his game has continued to elevate with every passing year. The Swiss left back would be a shrewd addition for the Red Devils.

Rodriguez is defensively resolute but it has been his willingness to contribute to his side’s attacking play which has enhanced his reputation, while the Swiss star also possesses a wicked delivery from set plays.

Wolfsburg would not let Rodriguez go cheaply but, with United lacking depth in the left-back area and with concerns at how Shaw will recover from his horrible leg break, Rodriguez would certainly be a wise signing.

John Stones

United’s defence has endured a major upheaval since losing the influential trio of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra.

Chris Smalling’s rise to prominence has been a revelation for the Red Devils this season but the former Fulham man has struggled to conjure up a partnership with anyone at the heart of United’s defence.

Daley Blind is not a natural centre half and Phil Jones continues to be plagued with injuries. John Stones was heavily pursued by Chelsea in the summer but Everton resisted the lucrative offers and retained one of their prized assets.

Smalling’s physical presence and ever growing maturity alongside Stones’ positivity in possession and reading of the game could potentially be the best Manchester United centre-half partnership since Vidic and Ferdinand.

Van Gaal may be reluctant to fork out the £50m that it could potentially take to secure the signing of Stones but the Dutchman should be licking his lips and doing all he can to summon Smalling and Stones together.

Blaise Matuidi

The summer signings of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin improved Van Gaal’s midfield options but there is still a glaring lack of athleticism within United’s midfield department.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision not to offer young starlet Paul Pogba the measly money he craved continues to baffle the Old Trafford faithful and Pogba’s ever growing emergence at Juventus highlights the lack of dynamism the 20-time champions currently possess.

The chances of a reunion with Pogba are highly unlikely and United should switch their attentions to fellow countryman Blaise Matuidi who would significantly bolster the Dutchman’s midfield options.

Matuidi, 28, has become a key part of Laurent Blanc’s Paris Saint Germain side and will no doubt be a fundamental part to his nation’s chances of winning the European Championship this summer.

Similar to Yaya Toure in his prime, Matuidi has the pace, power and determination to drive into the opposition’s half and force them onto the back foot.

In Schweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick, United have a wealth of technical ability at their disposable but the deprivation of energy, speed and vigour is making United’s evolution from defence to attack very painful viewing.

The addition of Matuidi would add another string to the former Netherlands manager’s bow and with former Red Devils defender Blanc in charge alongside the sale of Angel Di Maria last summer, Ed Woodward should be trying to land one of PSG’s key men.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Van Gaal’s desire for an injection of pace and creativity in the wide areas has been well documented. The constant use of Juan Mata in his non-favoured false right-wing role is an experiment which fails to get the best out of the Spaniard.

Memphis Depay, the big money summer signing, has failed to ignite in the Premier League and is clearly struggling to adapt to the transition from the Dutch Eredivisie.

Depay’s poor form has allowed Jesse Lingard to gain a taste of first team action and with Adnan Januzaj returning from a turbulent loan spell with German giants Borussia Dortmund, Van Gaal has plenty of options on the wing. Yet with creativity in the team being an issue, Van Gaal may use the January window to invest in a winger.

Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has found it very difficult to nail down a regular starting berth under Arsene Wenger, and even with star performer Alexis Sanchez on the sidelines the former Saints man has been ousted due to the emergence of Joel Campbell.

Oxlade-Chamberlain’s blistering pace and versatility should appeal to Van Gaal and with the wealth of midfield options Arsenal have, the Ox may have to leave in order to land regular first team football.

Transfers between Arsenal and Manchester United used to be few and far between but with the likes of Andy Cole, Mikael Silvestre, Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck all switching allegiances in recent years, a move to the Theatre of Dreams for Oxlade-Chamberlain should not be ruled out.

Romelu Lukaku

After a summer exodus which included Javier Hernandez, Van Persie and Radamel Falcao, Manchester United’s depleted forward line required some much-needed reinforcing.

Recently crowned Golden Boy winner Anthony Martial has been a revelation since his big-money move from Monaco.

After allowing James Wilson to depart to Championship side Brighton and Hove Albion however, the Red Devils only currently possess two out-and-out number nines, Martial and club captain Wayne Rooney.

Rooney’s performances this season have enhanced United’s call to add another striker and with an ever growing reliance on Martial, the short term aim should be focused on adding a player who will add goals to a team which on too many occasions this season has been bereft of forward confidence.

A man who is currently flying and has goals and confidence in abundance is Everton’s star striker Romelu Lukaku. The former Chelsea man is one of the hottest properties in world football right now and United should be doing all they can to land the young Belgian.

At the age of 22, Lukaku has emerged into one of the best strikers on the planet and if United want to return to the elite of European football a potential combination of Martial and Lukaku would be a perfect blend of pace, strength, youth and exuberance.

Roberto Martinez forked out £28m to bring Lukaku to Goodison Park from Chelsea but with the Belgian eager to test himself in the Champions League, Van Gaal and Ed Woodward should be looking to sign Lukaku. Ignore the hefty sum to underline just how much the three-time European champions mean business.

Image courtesy of MUTV via YouTube, with thanks.

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