The transfer window seems to be picking up pace now the players are back from their summer holidays. Quite clearly ending the 2014/15 season Manchester United lacked the squad to seriously challenge for the Premier League title.
After last summer's transfers were more miss than hit lets take at the two latest signings and their possible impact.
While the midfield is a key area needing work its the defence that is the weakest part of the Utd squad. I believe the view Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling , Phil Jones and Luke Shaw are the 1st choice back four. All but Valencia are young and have plenty of room to improve but when you look at the champions back four Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta the gap is huge.
To be fair losing Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic Patrice Evra in one summer left an obvious need to buy experience. The club failed to do this last summer and the young replacemenst were taught some tough lessons. Phil Jones is constantly caught out of position while Smalling is unsure with any ball over the top and has below par are marking during set plays. Valencia tries hard but makes consistent mistakes defending and has little confidence coming forward always looking to pass the ball backwards as soon as he faces resistance. I thought Shaw showed occasional sparks of quality but couldn't stay fit for more than a couple games at a time. Daley Blind possibly looked Utds best defender when he came in as cover for Shaw late in the season and may start 2015/16 as first choice.
The rebuild started this week with a signing that surprised me. Don't get me wrong I'm really excited that Matteo Darmian has joined from Torino. Darmian is a fantastic player and is there such a thing as an italian defender who cannot defend?
Darmian was the AC Milan youth captain and is the Itlay 1st choice right back/wing back. He won an award as Italian national team player of the year in 2014 and has proven he warranted the move with a consistent string of high rated performances for club and country.
Many England fans will be aware of him after winning man of the match against us in last summers World Cup. Darmian is well known for his intelligence when following a tactical plan and can play either side of the pitch. Most eye catching are his relentless driving runs from deep. He is very much the modern day full back.
The surprising part for me is that he has joined us. Top Italian players tend to stay in their homeland. Did you know that 70% of the players playing in Serie A are Italian? I'm sure the chance to player for Manchester United was a big part as was the bigger finances of the EPL but still Italians normally are home birds. Darmian was in my prefered signing list coming in to the window but one I had little hope of happening. I am really happy with this one, really happy.
Next up the side desperately need a quality and experienced centre back to guide and teach the young Smalling, Jones and Rojo. I will never say never after the Darmian signing but I see no way Sergio Ramos will be joining us. First up Real do not sell their best players. Second I fail to see why Ramos would leave sunny Madrid for windy, chilly and rainy Manchester. If there is a Mrs Ramos she may be putting her foot down on that one. Seems to me basic wage negotiations by both club and player and I expect him to stay at Real.
So who would fit the bill. The most likely is Valencia and Argentina rock Nicolas Otamend. Stories that super agent Jorge Mendes is involved and has been the man sorting many of Utds big deals. Otamend is an aggressive old fashioned CB. Firm in the tackle and very strong in the air he is the nasty fella type the Utd defensive need. Anyone who was man of the match against Barcelona and Madrid as he was last season must be good.
One weakness that may prove one are to work on is his pass distribution and ability on the ball. We saw that LVG's system required this as part of his possession tactical approach. Early season you could expect this exploited by opponents in the 100 mile and hour EPL.
Overall once more I would be very happy with Otamend. Rojo in particular could benefit as partner if the new man cannot speak english. Do you think he is the correct option? Do you think Ramos will arrive or is a late in the window panic buy on the cards?
Once again the 2014/15 midfield selection wasn't a match for the Chelsea and Arsenal powerhouses. There were though signs of improvement as the season progressed. Michael Carrick calmed everything down when he played but was injured most of the season. At 34 he is coming to the end so this season look for LVG to manage the games he plays a little more. Ander Herrera spent the first two thirds convincing LVG but when he did he looked excellent. Should he continue his progress look to him being the story of 2017/18 transfer window when Barca and Real come sniffing.
The club need two central midfield players in my view. One has been signed with the arrival of German/Bayern Munich hero Schweinsteiger. At 30 he should be in his prime although I suspect its at the latter end of it. Nevertheless that version will have a real impact at Old Trafford.
Should he stay fit Bastian brings plenty to the squad and 1st team. The captain of Germany has excellent technique, passing and reading of the game. Most of all it's his experience and leadership that are the positives purchased. Utd had the second youngest squad in the EPL 2014/15 and many times it showed. Schweinsteigers a leader and player many of the younger players will look up to.
In my view the side still need a reinforcer in midfield. That man in my opinion is Morgan Schneiderlin. Schneiderlin is the player I most wanted before the window opened. Now if I can have both Bastian and Morgan. Schweinsteiger will make a noticeable difference on the field and I suspect off it as well. He is a fantastic signing and just the type needed at this moment in the team's development.
RVP moving on
Radamel Falcao has gone, Javier Hernandez looks available when his collarbone heals, James Wilson needs seasoning and now Robin Van Persie looks like he is heading out. Fenerbahce look his likely destination and the club seems to think the deal is close to done and dusted.
This will leave Utd very light in attack. Both Memphis Depay and Marouane Fellaini both can cover the role perhaps but surely there will be a new forward to come in. With Utd following the Madrid model of star signing each window we wonder who that maybe.
Could the Madrid player coming the opposite way be Karim Benzema? There is plenty of talk about his relationship with Angel Di Maria. I sure hope Benzema is a bid made but I doubt the move will happen.
The sunday papers have suddenly linked Christain Benteke for the spot. Tekkers is some way off the standard needed and while still a good player would need to improve in many elements of his game. Wayne Rooney won't at this stage lose any sleep concerned of losing his starting spot.
Harry Kane remains linked and he has qualities that suggest he would be a success. After just ¾ of a season of 1st team football he may need more time to see if he is the real deal.
There have even been reports of a World record bid made for Gareth Bale last week. The odds fell as a result but that move seems out of reach unless you consider Real's desire for DDG exceeds the desire to keep Mr Bale. Just a thought however unlikely.
RVP leaving the EPL is a shame. Still the club's best finisher by a mile he will take some replacing. Some of us will be glad he's gone while others will be sad. Nobody thought will be as sad as this young fan.