(Photo Credit: Reuters/Matthew Childs)
Why does success feel so much like a failure?
That’s the overriding question for this season at Manchester United. José Mourinho might have finished second and have one hand on the FA Cup, but few would suggest that the journey has been pleasant. His side have been torturous to watch all year, milling victories from footballing gristle.
The Portuguese looks set to fork out another wad of cash this summer as he tries to lay another layer of gold paint on an engine that is sputtering badly. Here are five possible signings that could help him usurp Pep Guardiola next year.
1 Toby Alderweireld
Widely regarded as the league’s best centre-back twelve months ago, Toby Alderweireld has endured a dismal year. Knocked out of the first team with an injury at the start of the season, his return to fitness was marred by the form of new signing Davinson Sánchez. With a new contract still yet to be signed, the Belgian looks certain to depart North London.
Mourinho should make a move for him urgently. Alderweireld is not yet 30 and has several years’ service still to give. United badly need a defender of his class; Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof have impressed in fits and starts only, and both could enjoy a proven performer alongside them.
2 Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
It’s hard to see where Mourinho could accommodate Lazio’s talented Serbian, Sergej Milinković-Savić. Paul Pogba might be United’s creator-in-chief, but his place in the team would be threatened directly by the 23-year-old, who doesn’t really have a weakness in the middle of the park.
Simone Inzaghi’s side has been built around him this year, and it's likely that Mourinho would do the same at Old Trafford. ‘SMS’ can pass, shoot, dribble, tackle and run better than almost any other player in Serie A. He might just be the star that the Red Devils have been craving.
3 Gareth Bale
Time will surely be up for Gareth Bale’s Spanish holiday this Summer.The Welshman has struggled this season in a club that barely wants him, even as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema stumbled through the campaign’s opening months.
Florentino Pérez has grown bored with his latest plaything, but Bale is still a phenomenal player who could ignite a side that has grown irreducibly stale. With Anthony Martial likely to sulk his way out of Old Trafford in the coming weeks, Bale would be a massive upgrade.
4 Danny Rose
Tottenham’s daring left-back has had somewhat of a squishy year under Mauricio Pochettino. Some off-colour remarks about the club’s transfer policy put him in the Argentines’ bad books, and Ben Davies was the beneficiary. The former Swansea man is uncontested at left-back, and Rose needs a new challenge.
Mourinho is the man to give it to him. Having tracked the England international for months, he should finally make his move to bring Rose to Old Trafford. Ashley Young has done a tremendous job as a makeshift left-back, but he isn’t getting any younger, whereas Luke Shaw looks brittle and lacking in confidence whenever Mourinho grants him a performance
5 Kieran Tierney
Should a move for Danny Rose not be possible, Mourinho should move for a man who has outgrown the Scottish league totally. Kieran Tierney is ready for elite competition after another barnstorming year north of the border.
Celtic’s trotting left-back is a phenomenal crosser with a nuclear engine. What’s more, he will need no adaptation to the brusque British style. At just 20-years-old, he could solve United’s left-back position for the next decade.
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