Manchester United enter the New Year with a renewed focus upon their minds.
Gone is Ole Gunnar Solskajer and it will also mark the end of Ed Woodward’s time at Old Trafford but that isn’t the only change afoot in the northwest.
Ralf Rangnick is the interim manager and he now has a hugely important transfer window on the horizon that he needs to get spot on if United are to seal Champions League football again.
On the chalkboard
There are several areas of the Red Devils team that could do with improving but it’s in defence where notable upgrades are required.
Solskjaer brought Raphael Varane to the club in the summer but he’s had an injury-hit spell in English football since penning terms from Real Madrid.
Attracting vast critics, he cupped his ears to the fans after scoring for England during the last round of international fixtures in 2021.
It’s easy to see why he’s copped stick, too. So far this season, United’s defence has been abysmal and as of October 12th, they had failed to keep a clean sheet in 12 consecutive matches at Old Trafford which happened to be their longest run since February 1964 – a mere 57 years.
A big reason is due to Maguire’s shoddy displays with the skipper averaging a diabolical rating of 6.56 according to WhoScored, ranking him as the 14th best player in the squad. Therefore, he is evidently not captain material.
Rangnick could provide an instant fix to this problem by signing Jules Kounde.
A teammate of Varane at international level, United are in a battle with Chelsea to sign the Frenchman next summer but the club’s interim boss must ensure it’s his side who end up luring him to the Premier League.
Rated at £54m by Transfermarkt, the Red Devils may have to part ways with quite a sizeable sum of money but that shouldn’t deter them. After all, he’d be a superb capture by the United hierarchy.
Maguire and Kounde have won the same number of aerial duels (2.4) per game as each other this term, but the latter beats the Three Lions international for passing accuracy (88.8%) and interceptions a match (0.8). He also gives away fewer fouls an outing than the player he could replace by joining United.
The fact Kounde outperforms Maguire in a number of key defensive attributes, while also improving upon his pass success rate – an area the United defender usually thrives in – is particularly promising.
Described as “sensational” by European football analyst, Marcus Bring, there are plenty of positives to his game.
More praise was offered by Football Espana editor, Alan Feehely, who said of the Sevilla centre-half: “Jules Koundé could have joined Manchester City in 2020 and Chelsea in 2021. He didn’t get either move. Instead of sulking, he put his head down and took his game to new heights. Became a starter for France. Make no mistake; he’s a special person and player. An absolute baller.”
On that evidence, he’d certainly make for a very good signing this winter. Rangnick must bring him to Old Trafford.