What Next for Manchester United in the Transfer Market?

Manchester United have bolstered their squad ahead of the new season with the addition of Argentine centre-back Lisandro Martinez; the club announced the transfer to supporters on July 17.

Manchester United is delighted to announce the club has reached agreement with Ajax for the transfer of Argentine international defender Lisandro Martinez, subject to medical, to player terms being finalised, and to UK visa requirements. (Via: manutd.com)

Manchester United had also confirmed the signings of 22-year-old left-back Tyrell Malacia for GBP14.5million and Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen on a free transfer from Brentford. However, with the first-team squad still looking rather substandard in comparison to the rest of the top six, it bids the question: Where do they look next?

Frenkie de Jong to Manchester United: What's Happening?

A heavily documented saga this summer has been the Frenkie de Jong to United speculation. Despite both clubs (Barcelona and United) having agreed a fee for the player, de Jong's priorities still lie in Spain, and the midfielder has no intention to leave the club.

As per the Guardian, financial difficulties at Barca have also played a significant factor in stalling the negotiations; de Jong is reportedly owed around GBP17million in unpaid wages from the club due to the wage deferral that players agreed to during the COVID pandemic in 2020. The player's agents are adamant about receiving the money and have refused to enter talks regarding a salary reduction, something Barca expects him to accept if he were to continue at the club.

At what point do Ten Hag's team call it a day?

The United faithful are now beginning to question whether the 25-year-old would be a suitable signing, given his reluctance to agree to personal terms. Is it worth the effort to sign a player whose ideal option is to stay at his current club?

For example, Angel Di Maria joined United for a British transfer record of GBP59.7million in 2014, and only one month after leaving Manchester for Paris Saint-Germain in 2015 he said:

My intention was always to stay at [Real] Madrid. I don't really know what happened on the inside of the deal - these are what representatives deal with. It happens in football.

(Via: besoccer.com)

Di Maria left after one season with the Red Devils and on bad terms after the relationship between himself and then-manager Louis Van Gaal turned sour following several disagreements. His former PSG teammate Marcin Bulka told the Polish YouTube channel Foot Truck in 2020:

Di Maria hates Manchester United. He has no good memory of the time he spent there.

In fact, when something related to Manchester United appears on television, the channel quickly changes.

As the club heads into their tenth week of negotiations for the Netherlands' international, it may be time to cut ties and look elsewhere for a like-for-like alternative and perhaps save themselves some embarrassment a year or two from now. The midfield is an area that undoubtedly needs strengthening at Old Trafford ahead of the 2022/23 campaign. Juan Mata, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic all departed the club this transfer window as free agents, leaving a gaping hole in the first-team options.

Has Man United Found de Jong Alternatives?

According to talkSPORT, United have eyed Wolves' Ruben Neves and Leicester City's Youri Tielemans as options should De Jong remain a Barca player.

Both midfielders bring experience of the highest level, having played in the Premier League and represented their national teams at the 2018 World Cup and EURO 2020 competitions. Belgian international Tielemans would likely be the cheaper option, given the fact he has one year left on his contract and has shown no desire to renew.

United Travelling Lightly in Attack?
Ronaldo still linked with an exit

Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani also packed their bags this summer after their contracts expired, leaving United's forward options looking rather depleted. It doesn't bode well that the club's top goalscorer of last season, Cristiano Ronaldo, is reportedly actively seeking a move away from the club, in desire of playing Champions League football for the remaining years of his career.

The 37-year-old has not reported back to United training since pre-season began, citing family reasons as to why he would not be training with his teammates yet.

Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of Manchester United squad for the start of pre-season tour. He's not gonna travel to Bangkok tomorrow. ??? #MUFC Man United accept to give Cristiano additional time off to deal with personal/family issue. pic.twitter.com/R8Z9XkCOST

-- Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) July 7, 2022

Ajax Frontman Still on the List of Summer Targets

According to the trusted Fabrizio Romano, Brazilian international Antony has been linked with the Reds in recent weeks, which would also mean a reunion with manager Ten Hag, whom he played under at Ajax. The issue, however, is that the Eredivisie champions have priced their star winger at around EUR80million, meaning he would become United's fifth most-expensive signing of all time if they agree to pay the asking fee. Ajax have lost numerous key players from their starting eleven this summer; Martinez to United and both Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui to German giants Bayern Munich, so their reluctance to let another important player go seems justified - hence the expensive price tag.

If Ten Hag's side fails to bolster their attacking options before the season begins and with Ronaldo's future uncertain, the responsibility falls on the likes of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to link up and provide the goals.

They've shown their capability so far in pre-season though, both Sancho and Martial bagged goals against rivals Liverpool in their team's 4-0 thrashing on July 12, and Martial and Rashford netted a goal each in their side's 4-1 win against Melbourne Victory on July 15.

If Ten Hag is set on making a statement in the transfer window, he needs to act quickly, as the Red Devils make their return to Old Trafford for their first fixture of the new campaign against Brighton on August 7.