Manchester United, for the third week in a row, top the Premier League table following the weekend’s fixtures.
After back-to-back 4-0 wins over West Ham United and Swansea City, the Red Devils beat Leicester City 2-0 at Old Trafford at the weekend to remain atop the Premier League table, where they have been since the start of the season.
Jose Mourinho’s men are the only side in the top flight with a 100% record, and one of just three teams in the Football League to have won every game so far.
The signs are good for Mourinho’s men, with six different players having scored for United in just three games, but the Red Devils cannot get complacent — improvements can still be made, they can always be made.
The question is, can those improvements come in the shape of fresh faces? The summer transfer window is still open, so there is still time for recruitment, but Mourinho certainly isn’t the type of manager to bring someone in for the sake of it on deadline day.
Let’s take a look at the squad and discuss where, if at all, United could improve by bringing someone in before the window slams shut…
David de Gea, Sergio Romero, Joel Pereira, Kieran O’Hara
It’s safe to say that United are suited and booted in the goalkeeping department, with Argentina international Sergio Romero providing very reliable backup to David de Gea, who is arguably the best ‘keeper in the world. Joel Pereira looks a real prospect and is a solid third choice behind Romero.
Even if De Gea were to leave to return to La Liga with Real Madrid (it won’t happen this summer), United would still be fairly well off with Romero in goal — he was fantastic in the Red Devils’ Europa League success last season.
Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Axel Tuanzebe
United’s defensive selection is varied in style, experience and ability — which is no bad thing. Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo both offer a no-nonsense approach to the back line, but both can be exceptionally composed and measured when needed. Phil Jones is showing his true colours this season and looks a fantastic player, which is sure to continue if he can keep injury at bay.
Chris Smalling is probably the least fancied of the side’s senior centre-backs but to have a player of his ability as a back-up is a great measure of United’s strength in depth — and Victor Lindelof will surely join the fray soon enough, once he is accustomed to his manager’s methods.
At full-back, United are blessed with the considerable talents of Antonio Valencia, considered by many to be the best right-back in the league, alongside the versatile Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian, and the somewhat perplexing Luke Shaw.
Shaw, when firing on all cylinders, is simply unstoppable, and it can certainly be hoped that one day he will be one of the top defenders in world football. However, the double leg break he suffered near the start of the season before last seems to have taken a psychological toll and he’s not seemed his best even since fully recovering from that injury. Some feel that this is his last season to prove himself in a United shirt, but the presence of Blind and Darmian in the squad, as well as having the left-footed Rojo as an option, means that United do not need to invest at left-back.
Likewise on the other side of the defence, Antonio Valencia backed up by Darmian, Lindelof and Tuanzebe is a strong contingent, and there is no need for United to enter the market in that particular position.
Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Nemanja Matic, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini
The United midfield ticks all the boxes. Pogba is the superstar, the box-to-box athlete with pace and power as well as grace and elegance on the ball. Ander Herrera is a workhorse, always willing to put his body on the line for the team. Matic, although a new signing, looks like he’s been playing for United for years. His calm, authoritative displays in central midfield have been a joy to watch thus far. Offering even more experience than the Serbian, though, is Michael Carrick, the metronome, who reads the game so well that his dwindling pace is not a factor.
Marouane Fellaini tops off this contingent nicely with his ability to play both as a ‘bully’ and as a more disciplined figure. The Belgian is so often labelled as having an aggressive style of play that most fail to realise that he is an intelligent passer and has exceptional movement off the ball, which helps to create chances for others as well as for himself.
With pace, power, vision, movement, height, experience and defensive qualities spread across United’s selection of central midfielders, there is no need to dip back into the market for another this summer.
Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Ashley Young, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Unlike with the central midfield position, United’s base of attacking midfielders and wingers is not quite a complete one, and is the one area of the squad in which United could benefit from another signing.
Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are both fantastic playmakers; the latter has registered five assists in three Premier League games this season. However they, along with Andreas Pereira and Jesse Lingard are very prone to drifting centrally even when playing out on the wing, whilst Ashley Young cuts inside with the ball a lot even if he does have more discipline in general in staying on the touchline.
For this reason, and for the benefit of the strikers, United could do with signing a winger who loves to run to the byline and whip a cross in; right now, the Red Devils are relying on Blind and Valencia for width from full-back, but that won’t work against everyone and the attack would be so much more efficient with a true winger playing out wide, rather than having attacking midfielders, no matter how good they are, on the flanks.
Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The four above names are enough to strike fear into the heart of any defender individually, never mind as a single strike force. Jose Mourinho has an absolute monster of an attacking selection, who could score 60+ goals between them this season (they have 6 in 3 games at the time of writing).
The re-signing of Ibrahimovic was the last cog in the striking machine for United this summer, with the Swede offering a wealth of experience and a true knowledge of what it takes to be a top level striker — as we saw last season, when he had scored 28 goals before picking up the cruciate ligament injury which may keep him out until January 2018.
We already know that Lukaku can do the business in the Premier League, and it’s the competition for a starting place which will bring out the best in Martial and Rashford, both of whom would not have been enough on their own (especially if one had picked up an injury), to see United through a successful season, which is down to experience really.
United have no issues up front and it’s unlikely Mourinho will make any late move to sign a striker.