Manchester United need Sir Jim Ratcliffe to be ruthless about one position

Manchester United supporters will be hoping for an instant impact from Sir Jim Ratcliffe once his investment in the club is ratified in the coming days.

The British billionaire is set to finalise his 25 percent stake in United at the start of next week, with further big changes anticipated at Old Trafford following news of Richard Arnold’s departure.

John Murtough could also be replaced as part of a mooted review of the club’s sporting structure, but for many fans, the real gauge of change will be within the club’s approach to the transfer market, with eyes already on January.

It might be wishful thinking to expect any significant changes to United’s transfer policy so close to the next window, but there will certainly be an entirely new level of scrutiny when it finally opens at the start of next year.

United typically start planning for the next transfer window as soon as the previous one closes, with both short-term and long-term targets shortlisted as they plan for the future and the permutations they might face.

The Manchester Evening News revealed in mid-September that United have provisionally targeted four significant signings next summer, plans that could change once Ratcliffe’s investment is confirmed.

At the top of their list is a centre-back with Edmond Tapsoba, Jean-Clair Todibo, Jarrad Branthwaite, and Gianluca Mancini among those who have already been linked with a move to Old Trafford.

United are anticipating departures in every area of the squad and there is even an argument to suggest they might need to sign two defenders in order to properly strengthen the position.

Ratcliffe’s recruitment team could have a final say on who they end up targeting to strengthen the position next year, but just as important will be who they decide to get rid of to facilitate a move.

Harry Maguire was the most likely candidate to leave and would have been allowed to depart last summer had an appropriate offer come in for him, but against all the odds, he has transformed his fortunes and reclaimed a starting role.

Lisandro Martinez is arguably the only other untouchable in the position right now, with the World Cup winner highly rated by Erik ten Hag and certain to get straight back into the side when he is fully fit.

It is less certain regarding the three other senior centre-backs though. Raphael Varane is highly-rated but his injury-proneness and poor performances have seen him fall down the pecking order. He could be moved on next year as United look to free up funds and sign younger options in the department.

Victor Lindelof remains a valued rotational option, though he wants to be playing regular football and it is unlikely he will ever get that at United again. It is inevitable that United will trigger the one-year extension in his current deal, but there would be little sense in offering him a new long-term contract on top of that.

Then there is Jonny Evans. He was only signed as a short-term back-up option but has been heavily relied upon in recent weeks, even usurping Varane in the pecking order. He has proven to be a good temporary solution, though it would be another sign of regression if they kept him beyond next summer.

United already need a new centre-back even if he were to stay and the argument to sign another is fuelled in part by the fact that he and another central defender could quite easily leave the club next year.

It is quite easy to make a case for Varane, Lindelof or Evans to leave the club, while there are even doubts about Maguire’s long-term suitability for the side, even after his recent resurgence.

Ten Hag’s hands are tied to how many changes he can actually make in that department and he’ll need the ruthlessness of Ratcliffe to help him solve them.

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