Manchester United’s worst start to a season in 24 years was probably not how David Moyes envisioned beginning his reign at Old Trafford. Yet it appears even he was less than confident about what lay ahead following their much-criticized activities in the summer transfer window. A 2-1 reversal to West Brom on Saturday followed a 4-1 mauling at the hands of local rivals Manchester City, and has prompted concerns that United may not finish in the top four of the Premier League, let alone contend for the title.
Last week, Moyes made the surprising admission that the team is not got enough. “I think maybe we've got work to do to bring in players not for the squad but to go right into the team,” he said. “We needed one or two who might have gone in [to the team]. That will happen. “
United are almost certain to be active in the January transfer window. Here are four players who could well be on Moyes’s radar.
Ezequiel Garay (Benfica) There has been much talk about United’s problems in midfield, but there are deficiencies all over the pitch including at center-back. Rio Ferdinand enjoyed a return to form last season but has begun this campaign extremely poorly, already committing numerous costly mistakes. While it is too early to suggest that this is now a permanent decline toward mediocrity, he will turn 35 in November. Given that there are still questions about Nemaja Vidic’s fitness and none of the younger understudies have yet proven themselves at the very highest level, a new central defender could well be in Moyes’ thoughts.
The most obvious target would appear to be Benfica’s Garay. He has been linked to United for over a year and it is thought that Moyes shares Sir Alex Ferguson’s appreciation for the Argentina international. The 26-year-old would not come cheap and would also be cup-tied for the Champions League, but that may not be such a big concern, if indeed it is one at all, if United’s struggles continue.
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Luke Shaw (Southampton) Moyes clearly feels that more competition, or even a replacement, is needed for Patrice Evra. His pursuit of Leighton Baines, though, made little sense. The Everton man is undoubtedly an excellent player, but he will turn 29 in December and so hardly offers a prudent long-term replacement for Evra, especially given the sizable outlay required to prize him from Goodison Park. While Fabio Coentrao was also targeted, a better alternative would be Southampton’s 18-year-old Luke Shaw. Already a regular in the Premier League, Shaw has shown that he can both defend and be a threat going forward. All the Premier League’s big guns have been linked and United would be wise to act as quickly as possible.
Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao) The pursuit of the midfielder may well be the most ignominious episode of Manchester United’s disastrous summer transfer window. The club should have been fully aware that they would have to pay Herrera’s €36 million (£30.2m) release clause in full and that the complications involved would make it foolish to try and get a deal done at the 11th hour. But that is now in the past and there are reports that United will go back in for the 24-year-old in January. While United have doubts about whether he represents value for money, sometimes those concerns have to be put to the background for a player that could provide a crucial boost to the team.
Antonio Candreva (Lazio) From Andrei Kanchelskis and Ryan Giggs to Cristiano Ronaldo, the Ferguson-era was in some ways characterized by thrilling wing play. But since Ronaldo’s departure, there has been a distinct lack of quality in that department. Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Nani all have doubts over their ability for differing reasons. United were linked to Italy international Candreva during the summer and, while not quite a world beater, he has the creative quality to certainly add something to Moyes’ side. Most often seen on the right flank, he can also cut in from the left as well as well as operating in a central playmaking role. After some impressive showings in the Confederations Cup, the 26-year-old has started the season with three goals in six Serie A appearances.