With the January transfer window in the Premier League coming to a close, most clubs will be giving a sigh of relief that it is all over. All the stress of maybe losing your best player, or trying desperately to tie-up that last minute deal! However, at Manchester United, Sir Alex draws upon his vast experience in football to plan ahead, thereby eliminating the pitfalls of plotting a transfer coup. We are going to take a look at the likely targets for the next transfer window in this summer 2013, with the aid of some interesting information from some of my most valuable sources, both inside the club and in the local media.
Rio Ferdinand will be 34 by the end of this season. Whilst it appears that careful management has lengthened his career, father time is still catching up. Rio may be offered a one year extension to his contract, however, he may decide to either retire and take a media job, or have a last hoorah in the MLS. Either way, with Vidic also creaking a bit with injuries and also being on the wrong side of 30, Sir Alex is lining up an experienced central defender. Smalling and Jones are progressing nicely, but are still very young, so it looks like Ezequiel Garay of Benfica is the man for the job.
United have a good relationship with Portuguese clubs so there will not be any problems in that direction. The only stumbling block will probably be the fee. Garay is one of the leading central defenders in Europe at the moment and there is a disparity between United`s valuation and that of Benfica. However, this is normal sparring at this stage of proceedings. Garay has made massive improvements since his move from Real Madrid after a disappointing early career and is a most sought after player. Sir Alex has watched him a number of times and I expect an offer for him in the summer early in the window.
Sir Alex will not put all his eggs in one basket. He is also keeping an eye on another central defender, Angelo Ogbonna. Ferguson sees Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna as a possible addition to his Old Trafford squad, with the Italian international looking impressive over the past 18 months, during which time he has helped his side into the top tier and secured a spot in the Italian national team set-up.
In the midfield area, we need look no further than Victor Wanyama of Celtic. Wanyama looks a lot older than his 21 years of age would suggest and is highly rated in the defensive midfield role, a position that is eluding Sir Alex as he searches for a midfield enforcer. My sources have sent me a quote from Kenyan FA President Sam Nyamweya who has made it abundantly clear that Celtic midfielder Victor Wanyama is heading to either Man United or Arsenal “soon”. Arsenal have since distanced themselves from Wanyama, so that leaves a clear run for Sir Alex. The 21-year-old Celtic star is valued at around £10m, more than ten times the £900k fee that the Glasgow side paid Germinal Beerschot just over 18 months ago.
That leaves the striker position. Whilst United have plenty of cover in this position, it is likely that Sir Alex will gradually mould Rooney into a midfield general, with his exceptional passing ability and ability to power forward behind the main striker. With that in mind, I am therefore resurrecting an earlier article of mine from last year regarding Robert Lewandowski. It is common knowledge that there is a pre-contract arrangement in place for him between United and Dortmund with a fee in the region of £18m being mentioned. With Lewandowski – scorer of 40 league goals in 83 games for Dortmund – believed to be on his way, it seems inevitable that Rooney will make the midfield role his permanent position. It would also reunite Lewandowski with his old Dortmund partner, Kagawa. All in all, it leaves Sir Alex with plenty of options up front, although there may be a few worried looks in the direction of Welbck and Hernandez!
One final mention should go to a very young player who Sir Alex has been giving a trial recently and has extended his stay. That is usually a sign that he will be signed. That player is Jeff Schlupp, who is currently at Leicester in the Championship. Schlupp, a 20-year-old Ghana international who was born in Germany, has been at Old Trafford throughout January aiming to enhance his understanding of the game and will stay until the end of the week. The decision to send Schlupp to Old Trafford is all part of a wider relationship between the two clubs, with United selling Ritchie De Laet and Danny Drinkwater to Leicester and loaning Michael Keane and Jesse Lingard. I expect Schlupp to sign either in this January window, or more likely in the summer.
Sir Alex usually does his serious stuff early in the summer before he goes away on holiday, so I expect to see a flurry of activity once the season has ended.