With the signing of Jadon Sancho all but done and dusted the focus for Manchester United is now to add another world-class recruit to a squad which could be on the brink of something special.
Stellar performances from Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Paul Pogba at the European Championship emphasised the incredible talent already at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s disposal next season, the key now is to cherry-pick equally impressive players to strengthen their ‘Best XI’ even further.
A summer ago United’s ambition was to enhance the squad depth rather than the starting lineup, but with a Premier League title challenge the bare minimum in the year ahead the focus is very much on quality rather than quantity.
Another key aspect of such an approach is the fact United already have a bloated squad, one which has been further solidified with new contracts for Eric Bailly, Lee Grant and Juan Mata – as well as numerous hopeful youngsters.
United are close to agreeing personal terms with Raphael Varane over a possible dream summer signing and another centre-back is being explored given Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi will leave on loan. Eric Bailly could be cashed in on if an appropriate offer arrives.
A back-four of Shaw, Maguire, Varane and Aaron Wan-Bissaka certainly has the talent to fulfil lofty ambitions next season, though as Jurgen Klopp learned in his fledgling days at Liverpool, a strong back line must also be supported by a goalkeeper you can trust.
While it might be a tedious comparison which causes supporters to roll their eyes; there can be no denying the massive impact ‘keeper Alisson had on the Merseysiders transformation under Klopp.
Solskjaer has admitted the current dynamic between David de Gea and Dean Henderson is unsustainable for a second season, though there are no signs of either leaving the club in the current window.
It is fair to argue De Gea is still more talented than Henderson, though in the long run it is the English ‘keeper who has the higher ceiling and potential to reach a world-class status which is gradually fading from the Spaniard.
Henderson also has an advantage in that he is more vocal and better with his feet, two characteristics which make him extremely useful to the modern approach being implemented in regards to the goalkeeping department.
Although nostalgia fills Solskjaer with the fantasy for a boulder like Peter Schmeichel in goal, he knows that a No.1 with excellent distribution is crucial in the counter-attacking approach which his side excel at.
So with a deal for Varane looking likely this summer the next task will be to construct his new backline as early as possible and ensure that defenders have plenty of opportunity to get accustomed to the strengths and weaknesses of the man who protects the goal behind them.
Given that De Gea is the club’s highest earner and not a first-team regular anymore it make sense to cash-in on him if possible this summer, though at just 30 it might be seen as an unnecessarily early for a world-renowned ‘keeper who still has plenty of fuel left in the tank.
There is a suggestion United could look to loan De Gea out this season before reevaluating the situation in a year’s time after Henderson has been given a year as No.1, though such a gamble might seem too risky in a campaign where Solskjaer is doing everything in his power to conquer English football.
Adding both Sancho and Varane this summer will increase the world-class player count at Old Trafford by two, but it will also increase the pressure on United to succeed immediately as a result.
By the end of the summer United could arguably have the best defence in world football – they now need to decide on the ‘keeper to match.