With the January transfer window now active, Manchester United must surely bolster its squad to stand any real chance of winning a record-breaking 19th title come May. While Sir Alex Ferguson is notoriously reluctant to risk spending big in January, United could look to home soil for the best solution and in some cases, good value too.
West Ham United’s Matthew Upson has surpassed all expectations in recent years and now is truly integral to England’s World Cup hopes given Rio Ferdinand’s prolonged injury absence. Although it is unlikely United will move for the defender given his ripe old age – 30 – the former Arsenal would be an excellent recruit. Upson, hardly likely to settle for a place on the bench when Rio returns, is now the complete modern centre back who reads the game well – Potential fee: £15 million given West Ham’s financial crisis.
26 year-old Roger Johnson at Birmingham City has been nothing short of superb this season. The defender has managed the transition from Championship to Premier League with ease and is now in contention for an England call. Johnson, a traditional centre-back who deals with just about everything, is a key figure in Birmingham’s outstanding form this campaign – Potential fee: £15 million with Birmingham unlikely to want to part with their star defender.
Bolton Wanderers Gary Cahill has proven all the critics wrong since his move from Aston Villa 18 months ago. Cahill has progressed into a player everyone on the verge of the England squad, with a very bright future ahead. The defender is, without doubt, Bolton’s best player and given the club’s current managerless predicament Cahill would relish a move up to Old Trafford – Potential fee: £20 million has been mooted in the press.
Former United youth player Ryan Shawcross has flourished at Stoke City. Manager Tony Pullis has transformed the United academy player into the stalwart of Stoke’s defence, with the defender’s form attracting the attention of the Premier League’s biggest clubs – and Manchester City. Although Shawcross recently signed a new deal at Stoke, very few turn down the call from Sir Alex. Shawcross is a young centre half who United could mould into a great defender – Potential fee: £12 million, given that he is unlikely to turn down a return home.
Luka Modric at Tottenham Hotspur is the most talented footballer outside the top four and his rapid progression under Harry Rednapp makes the Croatian an ideal buy. Modric could be the creative edge United has lacked in recent months, although his small physical stature may entail a change in United’s tactical system – Potential fee: more than £15 million.
Arsenal’s Abou Diaby would provide the perfect remedy for United’s seemingly static central midfield. Diaby, who has recently signed a new contract at Arsenal, has become an increasingly influential and dynamic figure for the Gooners. A move is extremely unlikely, but could prove a masterstroke – Potential fee: at least £25 million.
West Ham’s Carlton Cole is superb, on his day, with pace, strength and goals galore this season. This day, however, is not so easy to predict but Gianfranco Zola has moulded the player into a terrifying centre forward. A fantastic signing if United could retain the same intensity – Potential fee: £20 million with the Hammers desperate sellers.
Spurs’ Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has not lived up to expectations since the player’s £16 million move from Spartak Moscow in 2008. But the 28-year old is a proven goalscorer and the type of traditional centre forward United really needs. Pavlyuchenko, who excelled at Euro 2009, has fallen behind Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch in the White Hart Lane pecking order. A quick fit, who would run to Old Trafford if the option was available, judge Pavlyuchenko not by his current predicament – Potential fee: As low as £5 million proving excellent value.