The three transfers that could fix three of Manchester United’s biggest problems
With the new Premier League season fast approaching, Manchester United remain in the hunt for reinforcements to help them build a squad once again capable of finishing inside the top four and bringing Champions League football back to Old Trafford.
Last season, the Reds ended up in sixth position and were forced to settle for a Europe League spot.
This summer, they have been quick to act in recruiting key personnel in the form of Aaron Wan Bissaka and Daniel James as they look to make a big push towards their rivals next season.
However, looking at the areas United statistically struggled most in last season, who are the potential transfer solutions to improve them in specific areas on the pitch?
Keep it moving
A key staple of any top side is their ability to take command of a football match and dominate their opposition both on the scoreboard and on the pitch.
Usually, this involves taking a stranglehold of the ball and enjoying a lion’s share of possession. From there, the idea is to wear your opponent down through intricate passing sequences and through creating wave after wave of attacking plays.
Unsurprisingly, the Premier League’s top six sides all occupied the top six places in terms of highest ball possession averages across last season.
Notably though, United had a ball possession average of just 53.7 percent. That ranked the lowest of any top six side in the division.
It’s been a dwindling aspect of United’s game for sometime now. This is especially poignant when considering that three seasons ago, they ranked top of all their rivals in the same department with a ball possession average of 57.9 percent.
Although a lot of the ‘analytical experts’ will now tell you that ball possession doesn’t always equal winning results – which to an extent is true, it is a striking coincidence that the top three in this department all finished as the divisions top three sides last season.
United swooping in to capture the wildly gifted Celta Vigo midfielder Fran Beltran could prove a wise move for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
He shone brightly for Rayo Vallecano in the 2017/18 season when they secured La Liga promotion and was quickly snapped up by Celta last summer for just €8m.
Although small in size at just 5ft7in, he is a clever and versatile midfielder who proved the pivotal passing cog for his side last season averaging just short of 46 passes per 90 minutes. However, it was his accuracy within those passes that proved striking.
He had a pass success rate of 92.5 percent in La Liga last season. That success rate ranks him inside the top five across Europe’s top five divisions for players who are 24 or below and started 15 or more league matches.
He also had a pretty superb forward passing success rate and passes into the final third success rate of over 85%.
Still yet to replace Michael Carrick after all these years, the 20-year-old fits the profile in terms of age and ability, meanwhile he shouldn’t demand a huge transfer fee.
Take it past him
Unlike the stunning United sides of yesteryear, the current squad have very few ‘flair’ players regularly performing at their dribbling best. As a result, last season United ranked way down in tenth in terms of 1v1 dribbles.
The arrival of James should assist in this regard given he was averaging 5.15 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season for Swansea – more than any other United player.
Yet more support will be needed to improve to Reds in this department.
A target for a number of Premier League clubs, United should look to recruit Allan Saint-Maximin.
The Nice attacker can feature as a CF or even as a winger and boasts some stunning attacking attributes. He is strong, fast and has very quick feet when bypassing challenges from opposition defenders.
As a result, he enjoyed an average of 4.5 progressive runs and 10.42 successful dribbles per 90 minutes last season – which is pretty brilliant. In fact, no player in Europe’s top five leagues who was 24 or under could better that average.
He is heavily one-footed and relies on his right foot to create the magic, yet his ability means it rarely causes him any issues.
He managed six goals and a further three assists last season. However, his Expected assists (xA) total of 6.17 suggests he should have had double that assists total – poor finishing from team-mates the likely explanation.
Again he is young, 22 and wouldn’t demand a huge transfer fee – he could be a shrewd move for United surely?
He’s got to score from there!
United’s total of 65 goals last season ranked them an unremarkable fifth in the scoring charts – about where you would expect them to be. They also ranked fifth in terms of the number of shots they had over the course of the league campaign – 503 in total.
To follow David on Twitter, click here.
However, somewhat surprisingly they had the best on target percentage rate in the whole league with 43.54 percent of their shots at least stinging the hands of the keeper.
The fact that they still ranked an uninspiring fifth for goals scored suggests there was some poor finishing within the ranks at Old Trafford.
Step forward Mikel Oyarzabal.
Left-footed by trade, the Spaniard is comfortable playing on either side in the wide areas and enjoys roaming between the two flanks causing real havoc for defenders. He doesn’t possess great pace but does boast a brilliant technical ability.
However, it is his precise nature in front of goal that makes him such an exciting prospect. The 22-year-old netted a standout 20 goals across all competitions last season, with 13 coming in La Liga for Real Sociedad.
What is even more impressive about that total of 13 goals was the fact that he was averaging just 1.71 shots per 90 minutes. This means he had an overall conversion rate of roughly 20.64 percent.
Only four players from that 24 and under peer group across Europe’s top five leagues could better that conversion rate, and all play for significantly better sides.
Oyarzabal could be the player to convert those nearly chances into goals for the Reds.