Considering Manchester United are one of the biggest and most historic teams not only in the football but sports in general, being linked with some of the biggest names in the game on a regular basis is part for the cause.
The summer transfer window is a period of both frustration and excitement for United fans. Reports claiming ‘a deal for *insert world-class player’s name here* is on the cusp’ have become tiring.
Over the years, there have been some corkers. No English club generates as much buzz within the transfer rumour mill as Manchester United – and the media are always keen to exploit that.
Rather than the typical ‘Here’s how United could look if they sign all of their targets this summer’ pieces we see annually without fail, I thought it would be fun to compile all of them into one.
So here it is, the squad United could have right now if the last few years’ tabloid transfer tripe came true:
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) August 31, 2015
Manchester United’s fax machine is the greatest signing of the 21st Century. All joking aside, you would struggle to find a better keeper in the 2010s than David De Gea.
Granted, Manuel Neuer has been the world’s best keeper up until the last year or so, but even then, I’d still pick Spanish Dave to occupy the space between the sticks over the big German, mainly because of his age.
De Gea is still only 27-years-old, five years younger than Neuer. Which is remarkable when you think of the service he has already given to the club.
If he had left United for just £30million three summers ago, I don’t know how I would have coped. Thankfully, United could ask for at least four times that fee in today’s market, and rightfully so.
Left centre-back: Sergio Ramos
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) April 22, 2016
Ever since the departure of both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, being linked with a big name centre-half has become part of United’s yearly routine.
Possibly the most extravagant of names to be included on that lengthy list, Sergio Ramos’ Manchester United transfer saga in 2015 pretty much epitomised United in the Van Gaal era.
Reports suggested United submitted a £30million bid for the Spanish enforcer, as Ramos looked unsettled at Madrid, stalling the extension of his contract.
I’m partly thankful this didn’t happen, Ramos would have stuck out like a sore thumb in the 2015/16 side. And by that, I mean that he was too good for us.
United made do with the partnership of Daley Blind and Chris Smalling in front of De Gea that season, a relatively inoffensive combination given how average the team performed that year.
Thankfully, Ramos serviced United in a much different way recently, as his challenge on Mohammed Salah ultimately denied Liverpool a Champions League trophy.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) April 21, 2016
Another top-class centre-back who is no stranger to being linked to United. When Mats Hummels approached the end of his Borussia Dortmund career, United were the first to be attached with the German’s signature.
Though, this rumour has a more deep history than some of this previous, dating since even the David Moyes era.
Ultimately, Hummels decided to sign for Dortmund’s rivals Bayern Munich in the summer of 2016. A move which I highly doubt he regrets given he’s since revealed he rejected the chance to join the Red Devils not too long ago.
Munich have been one of the most successful clubs in the world throughout this decade, and Hummels has played a key part in helping them along the way.
Whether he will eventually get bored of winning everything there is to win in Germany is an issue I’m sure we’ll see addressed in the near future.
Right centre-back: Raphael Varane
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) March 17, 2018
Now we get onto a centre-back whose signing is/was a tad more realistic.
Raphael Varane’s link to Manchester United through his ties with manager Jose Mourinho is more logical than the others, as it was Mourinho who helped the Frenchman flourish at Real Madrid in the first place.
2012/13 was Varane’s breakout season, his famous performance against Barcelona caused the French prospect’s popularity to erupt.
As Ramos’ long-time partner Pepe had seemed to be reaching the end of his career at Madrid, Jose realised he needed to start looking a replacement – and that came in the form of Varane.
Given United’s struggles in that area of the pitch in recent seasons, most fans would jump at the chance to sign the 25-year-old.
If Varane does for some reason decide to leave the Bernabeu in the near future, his ties with Mourinho could be a key influencer in a potential move to Old Trafford.
Right wing-back: Dani Alves
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) May 26, 2015
Before Antonio Valencia flourished into one of the Premier League’s most reliable full-backs, the right-back position was certainly an area of weakness for Manchester United.
In 2015, there was not a player on the planet who matched up against Dani Alves in that area of the field, certainly in terms of being the complete full-back.
Despite his age, Alves is still a devastating threat in attack and a trustworthy defender at the back. A player who would have been very much welcome at United.
Ultimately, Alves signed a new deal at Barca before moving to Juventus and then onto PSG.
Meanwhile, United have secured the signature of a long-term solution at right-back in Porto’s Diogo Dalot.
Nevertheless, it probably won’t stop United fans from thinking what could have been.
Left wing-back: David Alaba
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) November 23, 2016
There’s no doubting that during Bayern Munich’s dominant spell as Europe’s best team a few years back, David Alaba helped to complete what was a truly remarkable back-line.
The Austrian’s versatile style of play has earned him to be hailed as one of the top talents in a Bayern side flooded with quality players. So it’s no surprise that his form once attracted the eyes of Manchester United.
Much like in the centre of defence, United struggled to find a worthy replacement to Patrice Evra until Ashley Young stepped up to the plate – somewhat.
Alaba would have been the perfect succesor to Evra, and is even a suitable option to be deployed in midfield.
The 25-year-old would cost United a pretty penny, and the consistent amount of game-time he is getting at such a high level with Bayern would be hard for United to challenge.
Midfielder: Paul Pogba
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 8, 2016
He is United’s record transfer (as of now) and despite the cracks he has shown this season, I still believe Paul Pogba is one of the most technically-gifted midfielders on the planet.
Granted, his form has not been convincing as of late, but neither has the whole United team’s. However, when you look back at the performances he gave at the beginning of last season, it’s hard to argue against him being the side’s best outfield player.
Given what United had to go through to lure him back after a successful spell at Juventus, I find it hard to get my head around the speculation that he is already ready to jump ship once more.
Rumours have circulated that United are willing to offer Pogba in a deal for Gareth Bale – why? Pogba is a star at United, I’m not sure how he’d cope living in Ronaldo’s shadow.
Nevertheless, I truly believe that Pogs is United’s best midfielder in the post-Fergie era.
Midfielder: Toni Kroos
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) July 17, 2017
Another saga with a lucrative history, the number of times Toni Kroos has been linked with the Red Devils has been hard to keep track of.
Even since before he moved to Spain to join Real Madrid, United paid close attention to Kroos and his frustrations at Bayern and what would come of it.
Unfortunately, Kroos snubbed United. It’s his loss though, he missed out big time and could have been blessed with playing alongside Marouane Fellaini.
Kroos has grown into the mature German maestro everyone expected him to become. The way he dictates play from the heart of midfield is very reminiscent of United legend Paul Scholes.
Even with a midfield as strong as we have currently, Kroos would still be a welcomed addition to the United squad.
Left-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) June 1, 2018
The summer transfer window isn’t officially underway until there is at least one report linking Cristiano Ronaldo back to United – it’s just fact.
It has now become a part of every fan’s yearly routine, though the rumours have begun to lose their spark.
In the latter stages of his United career, CR7’s world-beating form and stylish way of playing football is something that is yet to be replicated at Old Trafford.
Cristiano has only improved as a player at Madrid, despite what some United fans may argue.
However, Ronaldo is now 33-years-old, and would likely cost United a world-record fee. It would hardly be a worthwhile investment, especially for a team looking to build a side to dominate Europe for years to come.
Right-forward: Gareth Bale
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) May 30, 2018
Ah yes, the biggest transfer saga of this summer so far. And last summer…and the summer before that…and the summer before that…and the summer before that… you get the picture.
Whenever Gareth Bale seems the slightest bit unsettled at Real, the first club he is linked with is Manchester United. As a Welshman, seeing Bale in a United shirt would undoubtedly make me happy. But the reports have become so numbing by this point.
Zidane’s departure as Madrid boss has more-or-less guaranteed Bale to stay in Spain for at least another year. Should the new gaffer fail to give him the playtime he wants and needs, then we could well see this transfer happen.
Bale’s ties with Adidas could also play a key part in the move. I mean, we all saw the part they played in the Pogba transfer.
At 29 years of age, the only thing justifying a move for Bale is if his injury struggles hold up, which may be even more unlikely than the move itself.
Striker: Antoine Griezmann
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) December 19, 2017
Griezmann would have made the perfect United number seven. Though it seems the allure of Barcelona has pried the Frenchman away from United’s grasp – and who can blame him.
Last summer, it seemed Griezmann’s move to United was all wrapped up. But it didn’t happen, much like a number of players United had previously been linked with.
With a release clause of less than £100million, there was no reason why United shouldn’t have gone in for Griezmann.
But the 27-year-old has managed to shine at the head of Atleti’s attack yet again this season, even with Diego Simeone’s heavy reliance on defensive football.
If this deal comes to fruition, it would be a great acquisition for United. The main problem, however, would be trying to figure out where he would fit their current system.
Perhaps Griezmann would be deployed as a right-winger, but we all know this isn’t the place to get the best out of him.