Jadon Sancho’s return to Borussia Dortmund on loan this January rather sums up Manchester United’s recent transfer business.
The Red Devils have lacked a defined strategy in the market, often signing talented players with no cohesive plan on how to utilise their qualities once they arrive at Old Trafford. This has not only had a negative impact on the pitch, but also on the club’s bank balance.
As a result, not only will Man Utd have to look to offload a number of players next summer, but they will also have to be savvy in the transfer market. Looking at the pool of free agents currently floating around Europe’s elite leagues may be one solution, especially when it comes to beefing up the periphery of the squad.
Here are five free agents Erik ten Hag could target in the 2024 summer transfer window.
A man that has come close to joining Man Utd in the past, Adrien Rabiot may once again be on the Red Devils’ radar. The Juventus midfielder’s current deal expires in late June, with no official contract extension in place with the Italian giants just yet.
While there are rumours suggesting the 28-year-old may commit his future to Juve soon, Man Utd can conduct talks with the Frenchman this January about a pre-contract agreement.
Rabiot has often been a much-maligned figure in Italy given the inconsistent nature of his performances, but the midfielder really blossomed in Turin last season. He was one of Juventus’ standout players during a difficult campaign and has been integral for the Serie A side in their title bid this term.
The former Paris Saint-Germain academy product would certainly help bolster Man Utd’s iffy midfield, Rabiot boasting plenty of technical qualities. However, he does seem the sort of character that may swiftly turn into a problem figure at Old Trafford.
Tosin Adarabioyo was eager to make a Craven Cottage exit in last summer’s transfer window and is seemingly set to rebuff any contract offers that come his way from Fulham – perhaps understandably given Tottenham Hotspur and Milan are interested in him.
The centre-back has also missed much of this campaign after undergoing groin surgery, but has returned to the starting lineup for the Cottagers since late November. However, he has still been impressive in his limited game time this term, the 6’4 defender boasting good physicality, athleticism and technical prowess.
Man Utd have struggled when it comes to centre-backs this season, especially given injuries suffered by the likes of Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez. With Jonny Evans and Raphael Varane out of contract in the summer, the Red Devils should be targeting a new central defender.
One stumbling block is that, due to Adarabioyo playing in the United Kingdom, Man Utd can’t approach the 26-year-old until the summer window.
Despite the fact that he will be 38 in September, Olivier Giroud continues to be a relentless force in the opposition penalty box for Milan. The former Arsenal and Chelsea forward has scored nine goals and provided five assists in Serie A this season, a better tally than Rasmus Hojlund enjoyed in the entirety of last season in the league with Atalanta.
Scoring goals has been a major problem for Man Utd this season, with only Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and Burnley having netted fewer than the Red Devils in the Premier League. Hojlund has been misfiring for Ten Hag having endured a tough start to life in England, the Dane scoring just once in the league this term.
Given Giroud’s ruthlessness in front of goal, he could be the perfect mentor for Hojlund at Old Trafford. The £72m summer signing has the physical traits to make him a success in the Premier League, but could do with Giroud’s tactical intelligence and killer instincts.
Another midfielder who has already been linked with a move to Manchester, Guido Rodriguez’s Real Betis future remains uncertain. While the Spanish side are extremely keen to tie him to a new deal, the Argentine looks unlikely to accept any offers from his current club.
There have been suggestions that Man Utd could look for a cut-price deal for the midfielder in January, but they also have the possibility to discuss a pre-contract agreement with the 29-year-old in the winter window.
The combative Betis midfielder has earned plenty of plaudits in Spain as a holding midfielder, someone capable of breaking up play and acting as a destroyer in central areas. Those are certainly attributes Man Utd lack, especially when Casemiro is absent.
Another player that Man Utd would have to wait until summer to approach, Wilfred Ndidi has been in sparkling form since dropping into the Championship with Leicester City. The Nigerian international wasn’t at his best when the Foxes were relegated, but has flourished in a more box-to-box role under Enzo Maresca.
The 27-year-old is out of contract with Leicester in the summer, although he will almost certainly be a Premier League player next season, even if he were to stay at the King Power Stadium. Ndidi has produced four goals and six assists in all competitions and could offer Man Utd stability and versatility in central areas.
Ndidi also boasts plenty of Premier League experience and is a player who is arguably approaching his peak years in midfield.
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