Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a lot to do in the summer transfer window as the pre-season tour of Australia and China draws closer.
Manchester United have already made their first movement of the summer with a move for Daniel James from Swansea but now they need to build on the transfer with more player recruitment.
Thursday’s confirmation that Chelsea and Wolves are the first two opponents of next season won’t have done much to calm the nerves amongst fans and significant investment will be needed if United are to approach both matches with genuine optimism.
However, in order to do so United might well need to break their club record fee and using the latest estimated transfer values from the CIES Football Observatory four significant new arrivals could cost United a combined £378million, with little in the way of sales coming back into the club.
First up on the list is the necessity for a new central defender and the CIES suggest it would cost at least £70m in order to sign either Kalidou Koulibaly or Matthijs de Ligt. Given the fact Virgil van Dijk cost Liverpool £75m then it seems likely a similar fee would be required in order to bolster their defence with a new first-team quality centre back.
Contrary to the figures the latest reports actually suggest De Ligt could be available for as much as £62m, a fee which seems too good to resist given the glaring defensive issues of last season.
Solskjaer is also keen on a new versatile full-back with Ashley Young still the most experienced option on the right while there is no player capable of supplying back up to Luke Shaw on the left. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is of significant interest to the club and the CIES figures indicate £40m would be an adequate fee for the England youth international. Juventus defender Joao Cancelo is viewed as a premium option at £69m and it is perhaps no surprise to see his name linked with rivals City as well.
Ander Herrera’s departure at the end of the season has accelerated the necessity for a new central midfield signing and a homegrown talent like Declan Rice would certainly appeal to United. However, West Ham are under no pressure to sell and the figures suggest he would cost £68.7m if he was to move in the summer. Things don’t get better either when you consider his alternatives with Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele rated at a similarly high £69m.
That leaves us with only the right wing to solve, and this is where the numbers get absolutely absurd. Jadon Sancho is very much of United’s interest, but with a valuation of £160m his signature is clearly out of the question in the coming weeks. Instead the club will need to look at alternatives and Nicolas Pepe of Lille is one such candidate. His value is a much more reasonable £60m, while Joao Felix has not been given an official valuation in the figures.
In a fantasy world it would be De Ligt, Wan-Bissaka, Rice and Sancho all arriving at Old Trafford this summer. A quartet of arrivals which would roughly cost in the region of £378m. Even without the restrictions of Financial Fair Play that is simply not going to happen, and in any case sales would need to take place to secure the top talents this summer.
According to the figures Paul Pogba at £135m and Romelu Lukaku at £120m are the only two players with any noticeable resale value at the moment. Of course, whether any side would pay such astronomical fees is a completely different question. Alexis Sanchez is valued at £20m, not much but a player whose wages could be better spent elsewhere, while David de Gea has been rated at £30m.
It might be all well and good being linked with the biggest names in European football, but the figures suggest United would need to break the bank in order to truly add Champions League quality to their first-team playing squad.