Manchester United head into the festive period eager to continue gaining on the Premier League leaders, amidst a host of transfer speculation and rumours before the transfer window opens in January.
The habitual card to Santa might have already been sent by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, wishing for a couple of key player signings. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Ed Woodward plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, counting the pennies carefully as he looks balance the books.
Despite the winning results for Manchester United against Everton and West Brom, the latest English Premier League odds would still suggest that finishing within the top four could be a tall order – they’re trending at around the 2.00 mark to win their games against ‘lower’ opposition, while their rivals sit around 1.50. Reigning champions Liverpool remain the title favourites with the majority of betting exchange punters, while there’s also growing activity surrounding Tottenham Hotspur, who have made a flying start under Jose Mourinho.
Starting as we ended before the international break.
Let's go, Reds 👊
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) November 22, 2020
Nevertheless, if the Red Devils can make the most of their packed schedule of games through December, that situation could be entirely different heading into the New Year. United have six fixtures during what is traditionally the busiest period of the year, including the home encounter with Manchester City and a trip to Leicester City.
Off the pitch, it already seems as though Old Trafford will be a hive of activity, once the January transfer window opens. According to recent MEN reports, the club is keen to reduce what they consider to be a bloated squad, having only managed to make two sales during the summer transfer window, with Alexis Sanchez and Chris Smalling both departing for Italy.
30-year-old defender Marcos Rojo and 33-year-old goalkeeper Sergio Romero are already looking for new clubs. Both are surplus to requirements for Solskjaer, and after failing to offload them during the summer window, the club will undoubtedly be keen to get them off the wage bill in January. There’s just no point in paying high salaries to players who aren’t going to feature.
In February 2019, Phil Jones signed a new deal with Man Utd until 2023 with an option for another year.
He’s played nine Premier League games since then and hasn’t made a single matchday squad in 2020/21.
That’s about £800k in wages per league game since signing that deal. pic.twitter.com/4uVEhOQUIj
— GoalScorer Challenge (@GoalscorerC) November 16, 2020
Phil Jones is also considered a priority sale in January, having made just two Premier League appearances during the 2019-20 campaign. Although the 28-year-old has regularly been linked with a move to Burnley, the Lancashire club is also in the midst of takeover talks. However, Solskjaer has also offered hints there may still be a place for Jones in his plans, once the defender is back to full fitness.
One certainty is that Odion Ighalo will be returning to Shanghai Shenhua in China, given that his loan spell expires in January. The 31-year-old was a useful addition during the last winter transfer window, and while the Nigerian striker was hopeful of earning a permanent move, the arrival of Uruguayan international Edinson Cavani ended any speculation on that front.
As for potential arrivals, while those may depend largely on Ed Woodward getting several existing players off the wage bill, it does look increasingly Solskjaer will get some reinforcements. Whether that includes teenage sensation Ansu Fati arriving from Barcelona, given his name is often mentioned in the gossip columns, well, that would be a Christmas gift many United fans would cherish.