Manchester United are always linked with some of the best players in the world every six months, but this time, in January, they need to spend wisely on players that are going to wholeheartedly improve the squad.

The Red Devils seldom authorise transfers in the winter transfer market, but given they are a long way away from their across-town rivals, it is time for Manchester United to buck the trend and bring in some new faces.

Juan Mata was Man United’s last high profile recruit in January under David Moyes, and while the Scot does not have much to be pleased with during his eight months in charge, bringing in the Spaniard was the best thing he did do.

One player that should be at the top of the transfer list is Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, who has been in spectacular form leading into Christmas. For some reason or another, the Algerian’s proposed move to a top six club broke down over the summer, as he waited in the Charles de Gaulle airport on deadline day for the offer to come in.

However, unlike some players, Mahrez has got his head down and worked extremely hard for the Foxes, showing the same level of commitment for the club as he did when Leicester won the title in 2016. He has been a standout performer and is regaining his best form.

What Mahrez can bring to Manchester United is a player that is an out-and-out winger. While he can cut inside effectively and shoot with his left foot, the Leicester attacker is a very tricky player who can easily go past his defender and expertly cross into the danger zone.

The Red Devils might have Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata occupying the wings, but none of those three players are traditional wingers. Rashford and Martial are centre forward’s, while Mata lacks the pace to be a true winger and finds himself drifting inside to the number 10 role than he does going to the byline.

José Mourinho knew of the situation he had at the club hence why he asked Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, to sanction a deal for Inter’s Ivan Perišić. The Croatian has been in sparkling form this season, but he is still playing at the San Siro due to his club demanding £50m – a price Woodward thought was unacceptable.

And so because the Portuguese boss did not receive the player he so desperately wanted and needed, Manchester United are still on the lookout for an orthodox winger that is not afraid to take on his man and cross balls in from the byline. By watching Man United, you can see that this is a key part to their attack that they are missing.

In 24 appearances this season, Mahrez has found the back of the net eight times and recorded eight assists. Compare that to last season, the Algerian finished on 10 goals and seven assists in double the appearances he has now. It is obvious to see a huge turnaround in Mahrez’s output and influence for Leicester.

Manchester United’s Targets Özil and Sanchez

Another player that has been routinely mentioned and linked with the Red Devils is Arsenal’s Mesut Özil. In fact, this week has also seen Alexis Sánchez being mentioned as a possible transfer this month, though you feel that he is still destined to reunite with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

The World Cup winner is a free transfer when his contract expires in the summer, with many European clubs looking to snap him up. While Manchester United would prefer to have Özil for free, it is going to be a huge battle for the German’s signature when a whole host of clubs come calling. That is not to say it is impossible, but just makes Woodward’s job that little bit harder.

While Özil would be a huge bonus to Manchester United’s team, so would Sánchez, who has seemingly propped out of nowhere to become one of the Red Devils’ main targets. Depending on the legitimacy of these reports, Woodward might be inclined to steal the Chilean away from City for a reported £25m and bolster his wage considerably.

A smart tactic would be to sign Sánchez this month (if possible) and wait until the summer to sign the German midfielder. It will be more difficult for Özil in the summer, but if they did not try everything for Sánchez now, they would lose him to City.

This could well be a bluff from his agent or Arsenal themselves to drive a higher price, but if Man United are interested, they need to do everything they can to sign Sánchez. If they cannot complete the deal, they should move swiftly on and have the trigger ready to pull on alternatives.

Sánchez would be Zlatan Ibrahimović’s replacement, not an alternative choice to Mahrez. If anything, United could do with both players.

There is still a long way to go in the January transfer window with more twists and turns approaching. Man United have set themselves up well with targets in place, but it is now time for Woodward to execute these deals and get them over the line.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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