The summer transfer window, and with it links aplenty suggesting that Manchester United and Erik ten Hag are keen on signing half the continent this summer.
Ralf Rangnick, during his odd interim spell at Old Trafford, revealed that he thought the Red Devils needed between 6 and 8 new additions this summer to overhaul their squad, but in the months since six players have departed, and no one new has come through the gates at Carrington.
At present, Manchester United have a total of 28 first team players heading into the new campaign, but that includes 6 returning loanees about which the future is unknown, as well as two youth players in the form of Hannibal Mejbri and Shola Shoretire.
Beyond that, several players are expected to depart. Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Dean Henderson are all keen to leave, while it is thought that the new boss will listen to offers for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
In a worst case scenario, then, Manchester United could be left with as few as 16 of the senior players that ended last season in the squad. That in itself begs the question, just how many new additions do they need this summer?
David De Gea is the undisputed no.1 at Old Trafford despite his flaws, with his shot stopping abilities still unrivalled. Meanwhile, Tom Heaton is under contract until 2023 as a third choice option for the Red Devils.
Whether they need to strengthen, therefore, depends on whether or not Dean Henderson chooses to move on in search of a chance at first team football and a return into Gareth Southgate’s England squad for the upcoming World Cup.
Should he do so, Erik ten Hag will be on the hunt for a low cost no.2, but should he stay, this could be one of the few areas that will need little restructuring this transfer window.
Total additions: 0
At present, the Red Devils have 11 defenders on their books, but that seems certain to change. As mentioned above, three could well move on in the form of Bailly, Jones and Wan-Bissaka, while Axel Tuanzebe and Brandon Williams have both returned from underwhelming loan spells and could also depart.
This would leave Manchester United incredibly light at the back, with just one right back, three centre-backs and two left-backs in their squad. They have been linked with another centre-back, and given injury and form issues amid the current options this seems a certain addition this summer.
But, in an ideal world, they could also look to add a right back to compete with Diogo Dalot for a starting berth on that flank. Alex Telles has failed to set the world alight on the opposite flank in the absence of Luke Shaw, but upgrading both flanks in one summer seems a tall order, especially with the surgery needed further forward.
Total signings: 2
Erik ten Hag appears to have his sights firmly fixed on Barcelona midielder Frenkie de Jong, whom he worked with at Ajax during their run to the Champions League semi final in 2019.
But there are deeper problems beyond that. Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have all left on free transfers, leaving just Fred, Scott McTominay, Bruno Fernandes and the returning Donny Van de Beek as options in midfield.
They must begin by fixing the continuing lack of an out and out defensive midfielder at the club, which regularly costs the Red Devils points, and in doing so avoid the Paul Pogba mistake of buying one luxury player and expecting them to fix the multiple midfield problems.
Beyond that, the Red Devils could look to their academy to find a suitable backup to Fernandes, though much depends on Ten Hag’s plans for the Portuguese.
However, it seems as though they need at least two additions in the middle of the park.
Total signings: 4
Ralf Rangnick has already warned that Manchester United need at least two new forwards this summer, and it is hard to argue with the German tactician.
Andreas Pereira and Anthony Martial are both returning from loans at Flamengo and Sevilla respectively, but neither are expected to feature heavily under Ten Hag. This leaves 37 year old Cristiano Ronaldo as the only recognised central striker in the Red Devils squad.
While Marcus Rashford can operate there, he prefers to work from the wide areas. Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga are in the same boat, while Amad Diallo is not expected to feature heavily after his time away with Rangers.
It is a threadbare attack that could well need more than two new faces, especially with the sheer number of games that could be on the horizon this season for the Red Devils should they do as well as they hope. Whether they can finance and accommodate an additional three, however, is unclear.
Total signings: 7
Manchester United are a club in crisis and have tried to fix that with huge summer outlays time and time again since Sir Alex Ferguson departed. However, this time, with the sheer amount of work needed this summer, they cannot afford to overpay on big names that don’t fit a specific plan if they want to change the direction they are heading.