The 2023 summer transfer window was a busy one for Manchester United manager Erik Ten Hag and his recruitment team, but it brought mixed results with the club being unable to shift some unwanted players and failing to strengthen the squad in a few crucial positions.
One of the main priorities was to sign a top level centre-forward and the club have put their faith in Rasmus Højlund, shelling out a reported £64 million for the Danish striker from Seria A club Atalanta. At just twenty years of age, he has bags of potential, but whether he yet qualifies as a top level striker is debatable seeing as he only managed nine goals in Serie A last season and has never yet reached double figures in a league campaign. However, his international record is impressive, with six goals in six games for Denmark so hopefully he can step up to the plate, if not immediately then in the near future in order to justify his elevated price tag. In my view they have over-paid for him, but that’s par for the course with United these days. At least he should be better than Anthony Martial from the off, and hopefully he’s less injury prone too.
Mason Mount, at £55 million from Chelsea, was United’s second most expensive signing of the summer. This doesn’t seem like a particularly inspiring acquisition to me. Mount lacks the flair to be a crowd pleasing entertainer an he isn’t really prolific enough for an attacking midfielder. He’s a hard worker and reputedly tactically disciplined and good at executing a manager’s instructions to the letter, so it’s little wonder that he’s valued more highly by coaches than he is by fans. However, I can’t really see where he fits nicely into Manchester United’s usual formation under Ten Hag without getting in the way of Bruno Fernandes. Again, they’ve vastly overpaid for him, seeing as he would have been available for free the following summer, and I can’t help but feel that there are plenty of better, and cheaper players in his position available around Europe. It’s an underwhelming addition to the squad.
André Onana was the third major singing of the summer for United, arriving at the club from Internazionale for £44.1 million. The Cameroon international goalkeeper is another player who has worked with Ten Hag previously (at Ajax) and he has a reputation as a ball-player who will build play from the back, create chances and help to retain possession. Those were major areas of weakness for David de Gea, who was allowed to leave the club in the summer despite having won the Premier League Golden Glove award, so Onana probably does constitute a welcome upgrade on the Spanish ‘keeper as they are probably equals when it comes to shot stopping.
There was also a change of reserve goalkeeper at United, with Turkish international Altay Bayindir being brought in from Fenerbahce to replace Dean Henderson, who was allowed to leave for Crystal Palace for £15 million. The twenty-five year old should prove to be a decent understudy for Onana.
So, in summary, United’s permanent acquisitions during the summer 2023 transfer window appear to have slightly strengthened the team in the centre-forward and goalkeeper positions for a net spend of £124.5 million when the fees received for Fred, Anthony Elanga and Henderson are taken into consideration. That doesn’t seem like particularly great value for money to me. I would have liked to have seen a big signing such as Declan Rice to play alongside Casemiro in central midfield and also a top class right-back joining the ranks.
There were a couple of last minute loan signings to bolster the squad. Moroccan international midfielder Sofyan Amrabat came in from Fiorentina with an option to buy at the and of the season. He has a good reputation from the 2022 World Cup and Fiorentina’s run to the Europa Conference League final, but it remains to be seen whether he will be used alongside Casemiro or as his deputy.
Spanish international defender Sergio Reguilón was also brought in on loan from Spurs due to an injury crisis at left-back that sees both Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia ruled out of for a prolonged period of time.
Finally, veteran Northern Irish centre-back Jonny Evans returns to United on a free transfer as cover for the injury-prone pairing of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.
The club did eventually manage to ship out quite a number of unwanted players, which has hopefully lightened the wage bill somewhat and may create more opportunities for a new generation of academy graduates, such as Kobbie Mainoo, to break through.
In addition to the aforementioned Fred, Elanga, De Gea and Henderson, the list of players who were shown the door at Old Trafford this summer includes Eric Bailly, Alex Telles, Phil Jones, and Mason Greenwood, who joined Getafe on a season-loan loan.