Three top class players Manchester United will try to sign this January – and three they definitely won’t

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Who will Manchester United sign this January - and which players simply won't be moving to Old Trafford?

The fireworks have been let off, the hangovers are setting in and Jools Holland has been wheeled back to his Perspex storage cabinet for the next 364 days. It can only mean one thing – the opening of a new transfer window. Well, and that 2024 has started, we suppose, but who cares about that? Happy New Year, by the way…

The January transfer window often disappoints as the financial realities of adhering to fair play rules combines with the understandable reluctance of clubs to sell their best players mid-season to put a lot of possible moves on ice, but one team who will likely have plenty on this winter is Manchester United. With Ineos’ investment finally close to being confirmed, pending the Premier League’s rubber stamp, the Red Devils have a new hand at the tiller when it comes to sporting affairs at Old Trafford and Erik ten Hag’s underperforming side needs a lot of work. With new ideas and new money available, it’s unlikely that United go through January without making one or two significant changes.

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The likelihood of some high-profile departures also increases the chances of signings – if players like Raphaël Varane, Casemiro, Jadon Sancho and Scott McTominay do indeed move on, that will free up the funds for United to make some big-money bids of their own. But of all the many players linked with a switch to Salford, which are actually feasible signings, and which are simply chaff for the rumour mill? We’ve looked at three key positions to look at players that United might well sign and ones that they almost certainly won’t be able to get their hands on, until the summer at least…

Could sign – Jean-Clair Todibo

United have been linked with at least a dozen centre-backs this season, and it seems all but certain that they will bring someone in to bolster the back line – and OGC Nice’s Todibo is both one of the best buys they could make and also by far the easiest to get over the line.

New minority owners Ineos also have a controlling stake in Ligue 1 side Nice, meaning that buying Todibo would involve United effectively negotiating with themselves. That’s a pretty surefire way to make the deal happen for a competitive fee, and there have been reports that Ineos have sanctioned the switch already. But this really would be far from a lazy, budget-friendly option. Todibo is an excellent tackler, handy with the ball at his feet, a good technician and physically immense. His teenage move to Barcelona may have gone badly, but he’s rebuilt his career and established himself as one of the best defenders in France. It would be more surprising if United didn’t sign Todibo at this point.

Won’t sign – António Silva

A few recent rumours have added the young and hugely impressive Portugal international to United’s shopping list, but even if United didn’t have a clear path to Todibo’s signature, this isn’t a deal that will happen in January unless something substantial changes.

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Benfica have zero interest in selling Silva until the summer at the very earliest, and have been directing his many suitors to his beefy minimum fee release clause, which reportedly stands at €100m (£86.8m). That’s likely more than United would be able to afford this season under the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules even if they were willing to spend so much – a surprise sale of a star player to Saudi Arabia might tip the scales, but it’s far more likely that Silva will have to wait until the summer to make his big move.

Could sign – Donyell Malen

Between Marcus Rashford’s lean patch, Antony’s woeful performances and Alejandro Garnacho’s inexperience and inconsistency, Ten Hag badly needs someone out wide to bolster United’s attacking output. This is definitely the most difficult part of the team to fix as there are few players of the requisite calibre who are both affordable and available, but Malen seems the most plausible of the options, and while we don’t necessarily think the Borussia Dortmund man is odds on to make the switch, we think it’s pretty plausible.

Reports in Germany suggest that the Dutchman is available for a minimum of €30m (£26m), which isn’t out of United’s price range. His asking price has been kept low by a relatively lean run of form, which may put Ten Hag off, but Malen was scintillating towards the end of last season and started 2023/24 well too, so we know there’s a player there. Another factor facilitating the deal is that United could use Dortmund’s desire to re-sign Jadon Sancho to turn this into a swap, which could suit all parties. Malen has only scored two goals in his last 11 Bundesliga games but has undoubted ability and if Sancho is involved then this could turn into a low-risk, high-reward bit of horsetrading.

Won’t sign – Takefusa Kubo

A hugely hyped talent who never quite made the grade at Real Madrid, the Japanese winger has found a home and his form at Real Sociedad and has been both quite brilliant and a huge amount of fun over the past two seasons, so it’s no surprise that United have been linked with a bid – he has ‘fan favourite’ written all over him.

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Unfortunately, Sociedad are too ambitious to permit a sale mid-season. They’ve made the knock-out rounds of the Champions League and are engaged in a tough campaign to reach La Liga’s top four for a second consecutive season. Their star players like Kubo won’t go anywhere unless the fee is absolutely outrageous. The interesting wrinkle is that United are reportedly prepared to offer Sociedad a swap deal for Antony, but there are so many obvious stumbling blocks to such a deal being made. Even ignoring the Brazilian’s form, his desire to make the move and the criminal investigation he faces in his home country, his weekly wage of £200,000 is miles out of Sociedad’s league. We can’t see this one getting close to the line, let alone over it.

Could sign – Serhou Guirassy

The 27-year-old Guinean striker will be hot property this January. A late bloomer who has already hit 17 league goals for VfB Stuttgart this season, he has a modest release clause of just €17.5m (£15.2m) and it’s all but certain that someone will meet that. Free-scoring strikers at such a knock-down fee are a real rarity, and United would be mad to pass such an opportunity up, especially given that summer signing Rasmus Højlund has only managed one league goal so far.

The only problem is that United won’t be the only team in the market. Practically every team in the Premier League has been linked with a move, as have several teams elsewhere in Europe. United have the clout and cash to be one of the favourites, however, so there’s every chance one of the most in-form strikers on the continent could be winging his way to the North West very soon – although he will be competing in the Africa Cup of Nations, which will be a frustration for whichever club signs him. It’s very hard to imagine him staying in Stuttgart, and easy to imagine United offering the biggest contract to get him to come to England.

Won’t sign – Viktor Gyökeres

After impressing in the Championship with Coventry City, Sporting CP signed the Swedish striker in the summer and he’s been superb in La Liga Portugal ever since, hitting 11 goals in 14 games and putting in a string of energetic displays which have seen him linked with a move to either United or Arsenal. He’s a cracking player and worth monitoring for next summer, but there’s next to no chance that the 25-year-old leaves during the January transfer window.

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We can practically copy and paste the problems with signing Silva here – Sporting are one point clear of Benfica at the top of the table and won’t sell their top scorer at such a juncture unless they’re forced to, and Gyökeres has the same £86.8m release clause. That’s no easier to afford for the former Brighton & Hove Albion man than it is for Silva, so this is a move that will almost certainly remain firmly on ice until the end of the season. The player has also publicly played down any talk of a move, and made it pretty clear that he’s committed to Sporting. Maybe United will test that commitment in the summer, but this won’t be happening in January unless something huge happens.

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