Manchester United spent a club-record amount on new signings during the summer transfer window, while Erik ten Hag was supported late in August following the team’s catastrophic start to the season.
Back-to-back defeats at the hands of Brighton and Brentford, as well as fan discontent with the club’s owners, motivated the Glazers to dig a little deeper and fund the additions of Casemiro and Antony for a fee that could exceed £150 million.
Earlier in the transfer window, United signed Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen, and Lisandro Martinez, all of whom have established themselves as first-team players in the first few weeks of the season.
Martin Dubravka’s loan move from Newcastle ended United’s summer business in terms of incomings, but the rebuild is far from complete, and United will return to the market next year.
Given the amount United spent during the summer, any potential bargain acquisitions, which could come in the form of free agents next summer, will be welcomed.
United will be free to engage with players whose contracts are set to expire outside of the Premier League in January. Here are a few of the big people who are now in that situation:
Atletico Madrid’s Jan Oblak – David de Gea is one of Manchester United’s highest-paid players, and his contract is set to expire next year. Although United has the option to extend De Gea’s contract until 2024, it may be more appealing to break ways and bring in a cheaper keeper. Oblak would undoubtedly make an excellent replacement.
Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos – United have just signed one of Real Madrid’s great midfielders, and another might be available for free in less than a year. The Kroos-Modric axis appears timeless, but it isn’t, and Carlo Ancelotti is already working with Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga to develop Madrid’s midfield for the next decade. David Moyes desired Kroos; could Ten Hag secure him?
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) – After his outstanding performance in the Champions League last season, Benzema is a lock for the Ballon d’Or. Madrid will want to keep him after Kylian Mbappe turned down a move to the Bernabeu in order to stay with PSG.
Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain) – Messi is a non-starter for United, although he is out of contract in Paris next year. Given his start to the season, Les Parisiens will undoubtedly want to extend Messi’s stay in the French city.
Other available players include:
Milian Skriniar (Inter Milan) – Jose Mourinho highlighted Skriniar as a possible target in 2018, but the board thought him too expensive, and United paid a record £80 million on Harry Maguire the following year. United appear to be well-equipped defensively, but Skriniar would undoubtedly provide depth.
Thomas Lemar (Atletico Madrid) – Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Anthony Elanga are all alternatives on the left wing for Manchester United. Anthony Martial can also play there, therefore Lemar moving to Manchester would be surprising.
Valencian Jose Gaya – Given Luke Shaw’s post-Euro 2020 decline, left-back Gaya would appear to be a plausible alternative if Malacia had not been signed and struck the ground running. However, United appears to be well-positioned at left-back right now.
Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) – Asensio broke into the Madrid scene a few years ago but has yet to reach the heights many expected of him. As a challenger to Antony, he might be an option for United as an inverted left-footed winger off the right flank.
Memphis Depay (Barcelona) – Depay was a flop at Manchester United but has subsequently found success at Lyon and Barcelona. Given Barcelona’s financial condition, he is certainly a player they would be willing to let go given their attacking depth. United requires another center-forward and could do worse than Depay, even if he does not appear to be the most tempting option.