Richarlison Over Antony: The Transfers Man United Need To Do After De Jong

Frenkie De Jong is a promising start, but there is so much more to be done at Old Trafford
18:05, 27 Jun 2022

With Manchester United’s summer business continuing to revolve around Frenkie de Jong, discussion about other problem positions have been neglected. One man does not make a team, and even if Erik ten Hag does land his number one target, there are still major improvements needed elsewhere. United are coming off their worst Premier League season ever, and have lost Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic and Edinson Cavani among others. Signing De Jong would be an encouraging start to this brave new era, but United cannot afford to think he is the final piece of the puzzle.

In that spirit, The Sportsman has compiled a list of players the Old Trafford hierarchy should consider if and when they land the Barcelona midfielder. Do not consider this a list of genuine transfer targets United are pursuing. Rather, it is a group of players that would improve United and address some of their weaker positions.

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Christian Eriksen (Free Agent)

The one player in this piece with legitimate links to a possible move to Old Trafford. Eriksen spent the second half of last season at Brentford after Serie A rules surrounding pacemakers forced him to leave Inter Milan. The midfielder’s comeback from the cardiac arrest he suffered at Euro 2020 has been inspirational, with the Dane back to his imperious best.

Due to the short term nature of his deal with The Bees, Eriksen is due to become a free agent in a matter of days. He is understood to be weighing up offers from Brentford and United, with Newcastle United and former club Tottenham Hotspur also linked at various points.

The Eriksen deal is one the Red Devils should work hard to do for a number of reasons. For a start, Eriksen’s creativity can strap a rocket to a midfield that looked pedestrian last season. Secondly, a player of his class in his prime years is rarely available for free. With major surgery needed on a United side that logged their worst ever Premier League points total last season, signing a player of Eriksen’s quality for nothing is a no-brainer.

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Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Here is where we start to break off from the transfer rumour churn. While the Wolves holding midfielder has been linked with United in the past, those rumours have gone quiet in the wake of the De Jong transfer. But signing Neves would address a problem De Jong’s capture simply wouldn’t; the defensive midfield position.

De Jong often plays from a deep starting position, but he is noted for his dribbling. The Netherlands international likes to drive forward from midfield with the ball to kick-start attacks. At United, there is not a clear partner that would allow him to do this. Fred struggles for discipline as a sitting midfielder, and looked far more effective when Ralf Rangnick deployed him further forward during his interim tenure. Scott McTominay becomes easily overwhelmed when asked to screen the defence on his own, hence why ‘McFred’ has become codified as an ever-present pairing.

Neves can get forward, but works best sitting in front of the back four. He is effective at screening a defence, and could launch attacks with long balls from deep either to the flanks or a rampaging De Jong. With Wolves struggling to land any of manager Bruno Lage’s targets as of yet, an injection of funds from selling the 25-year-old would probably be appealing.

Richarlison (Everton)

A target for Spurs, it seems strange that a side as desperate for a proven forward as Manchester United have not been linked with Richarlison. Ten Hag is expected to try and raid his former club Ajax for Antony, but Richarlison is a lower-risk alternative to his fellow Brazilian.

Unlike Antony, Richarlison has Premier League experience. Everton’s talisman has played in England since 2017, initially at Watford. He has averaged a goal every three games in a Toffees side that has been in flux throughout his tenure, fitting into the systems deployed by several different managers. 

Another advantage he has over career-winger Antony is the fact he can be deployed anywhere across the frontline. As well as providing back-up and competition for Cristiano Ronaldo, he would be an option if Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Anthony Martial continue their patchy form. Antony may have more potential, aged 22 to Richarlison’s 25, but United have potential in spades. With Anthony Elanga and Amad Diallo already in the squad, they need proven quality. Richarlison is exactly that.

Tariq Lamptey (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Aaron Wan-Bissaka is a brilliant defender. Positioning, reading of the game, tackling. He is inspired when it comes to protecting his goal. But he is a right back, and the demands placed on that position in the modern game are far different than they were even ten years ago. United lag behind because their first choice right back is a consummate defender who offers precious little in attack.

This is part of the reason Jadon Sancho has switched over to the left hand side. At Borussia Dortmund, the winger was used to playing with full backs who would get forward and support him in attack. With United’s right side featuring a raw Elanga or an underperforming Rashford last season, it would make sense for Sancho to move back across. Tariq Lamptey would allow him to do just that.

The Brighton starlet averaged 9.28 progressive carries per 90 minutes last season, demonstrating his mettle as an attacking force as well as a defensive one. The 21-year-old has shown bags of potential during his time on the south coast, as well as impressive ambition after swapping Chelsea for the Amex. It seems increasingly likely his next move will be a big one, and United would do well to swoop before a bidding war breaks out over his services.

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