Michael Olise, Jarrad Branthwaite - Man United first summer transfers decided in £135m verdict

Michael Olise
Michael Olise has been tipped as one player Manchester United could approach in the summer transfer window -Credit:Andrew Kearns - CameraSport via Getty Images

Manchester United have one big decision to make before making calls on transfer targets. Erik ten Hag oversaw the club’s worst ever Premier League finish and failure to win the FA Cup will leave United without European football next season.

MEN Sport understands that Sir Jim Ratcliffe is not totally sold on the Dutchman being his long-term coach and will make a call on his future before long. That’s because transfer targets will need to be identified ahead of what could now be a tough summer, and whoever sits in the dugout will have influence over the club’s pulling power.

United are expected to offload a number of players this summer, with only four players - Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho, Kobbie Mainoo and Andre Onana - exempt from sales. Raphael Varane and Anthony Martial will leave when their contracts expire with Casemiro also tipped to depart.

READ MORE: Casemiro and Hojlund good - United player ratings

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Meanwhile, United will look for two centre-backs this summer as well as potentially a central midfielder and attacker. Some areas need prioritising over others and MEN Sport's United writers have had their say on who should be signed first.

Isaac Johnson

Centre-back has to be the priority this window and United have already set sights on Jarrad Branthwaite of Everton and Bayer Leverkusen invincible Edmond Tapsoba. The latter will be harder to sign, whereas United can capitalise on Everton’s tight financial situation.

The Toffees may look to offload players before June 30 in order to comply with Premier League spending rules within the current three-year cycle. Branthwaite could be one to go to ease the cash burden, albeit an England squad inclusion for Euro 2024 could delay matters.

Under the previous regime, negotiations for new United signings notoriously dragged out. Ratcliffe can show that it is indeed a new era at Old Trafford by acting quickly and securing Branthwaite before the start of Euro 2024 on June 14. If not, landing him post-tournament when the new financial cycle is underway would be tougher.

George Smith

With the amount of work that needs to be done to United's squad this summer, there is no right or wrong answer on what should be their leading objective. The club has pinpointed the centre-back, central-midfield and attacking departments as the three positions they want to strengthen above all else.

As problematic have United have found it in defence, particularly at centre-back this season, the midfield is in need of freshness. Casemiro has regressed and Sofyan Amrabat, over the course of the season, has demonstrated he is not good enough to provide United with the defensive nous and control that they need.

Kobbie Mainoo and Bruno Fernandes are expected to remain staples in United's midfield next season, meaning the club needs to find the missing link to complement their respective capabilities.

Mainoo has proven he is a progressive, forward-thinking player, meaning the focus has to be on finding Casemiro's replacement, who can come in and provide a layer of protection for the back-four.

Joao Neves of Benfica has been linked with filling that role, while Amadou Onana of Everton is understood to be under consideration. But regardless of who ends up being the chosen candidate, United need to draft in a new defensive-midfielder and rebuild that particular area within the spine of the team.

Tom Doyle

Cast an eye across any area of the United squad for the 2024/25 season, and there have been big problems: they let in too many goals, don't score enough, lack creativity and athleticism, as well as leadership. No one signing is going to solve all those problems, but defence would be a good place to start considering Erik ten Hag's side have been plagued by centre-back problems all season long.

Raphael Varane is leaving on a free this summer, but it speaks volumes that Ten Hag does not have even one centre-back he can rely on for form and fitness. Regulars Lisandro Martinez, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof have suffered injuries and issues with form, with deputy Luke Shaw also out for much of the season; Jonny Evans will be 37 next January, while Willy Kambwala is promising but unproven.

Coupled with Varane's exit, it makes a centre-back an absolute must, and Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite looks the right option at the right time. Everton are in financial difficulty and in need of selling players before the June 30 accounting deadline to avoid potential PSR breaches, United may, for once, be able to negotiate a favourable deal for themselves.

At 21 years old, Branthwaite has shown plenty of promise, and looks the real deal with few weaknesses to his game, with a high ceiling for years of improvement. If United can negotiate a move for anything under £60m, Branthwaite could be the equivalent of the £105m deal Arsenal landed Declan Rice for last summer; one that initially looks expensive, but could prove to be underpriced if anything.

Tom Coley

What United need to do and what they will do may well be two very different things entirely. Who knows what the first summer under Ineos with sporting control will look like?

A more cohesive recruitment setup feels likely, but that doesn't mean it will be immediately apparent just what they are after. More bang for their buck, fewer enormous signings but more functionality, players that can be fitted to a certain manager, less individuals.

That being said, they may have Bruno Fernandes to replace and there's only one man fit to fill that void. Michael Olise is a must. Not just for Manchester United, but he should top every team's summer wishlist.

Olise is just that good. He is the sort of player that transforms a team yet still provides the ability to win games by himself. Build around Olise, separate a cheque prepared for Crystal Palace to write their price on, set aside £80million to spend, and get Olise through the door.

Keifer MacDonald

Whether it be Erik ten Hag or someone else, it's fair to say a lot needs rectifying at Manchester United this summer.

Of course, the Dutchman isn't solely responsible for United's eighth-place finish in the Premier League but if United are to transform their fortunes next season then new faces are needed at Old Trafford this summer.

The first of those should be Everton, and no doubt soon-to-be England international, Jarrad Branthwaite, who has enjoyed a stellar first season as a fully-fledged member of the Blues' first team at Goodison Park.

The 21-year-old appeared in all but three of Everton's 38 Premier League games this season and with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool also linked with a move for the centre-back, it would be a huge statement of intent from Sir Jim Ratcliffe if he was able to strike a deal for Branthwaite in his first transfer window as a United shareholder.

And with Raphael Varane leaving Old Trafford at the end of the season, United will need to act swiftly this summer can source an adequate replacement at the heart of defence.

Josh Holland

Manchester United go into the summer transfer window with people outside the club having no idea what to expect under Ineos.

What is important is ensuring the right profiles are signed and all parties riding the rollercoaster next season are in agreement with their arrival. They have relaxed with the mega-money signings over the years but certain players have been overpaid and haven’t lived up to the expectation.

I can’t see Bruno Fernandes AND Marcus Rashford leaving but I think one ending their time at the club is likely. United must sort their attack out this summer but I do believe the most important area to address is in defence.

Step forward Antonio Silva. It’s no coincidence that players from Portugal are being regularly linked with a move to the big leagues and the Benfica centre-back has the potential to be one of the best in Europe. Liverpool are said to be keen on signing him amid Arne Slot's arrival at Anfield so it’s vital that United make their move quickly.

Jack Flintham

Manchester United will want to send a statement of intent in the summer and nothing would say that more than if they decide to target a world-class centre-forward as their first main signing. This position has been neglected for too long and their measly 57 goals in the Premier League is on a par with relegation-threatened Brentford.

With Anthony Martial as good as gone, United probably need to sign two centre-forwards before next season begins. However, the first I would look to target should finances allow, is Victor Osimhen. We know the Napoli man is headed for the exit door and the Premier League looks his most likely destination.

He has shown these past two seasons that he can score goals at a good rate and will no doubt enhance whichever side he joins in the summer. This should also help to alleviate the pressure on Rasmus Hojlund who I am sure will prove to be a standout player for the Reds in years to come. But for now, United need a player like Osimhen who can help share the workload at the top of the pitch.

Amie Wilson

While all the talk might be on Manchester United’s attack - granted signing attacking players is probably more exciting - I think the emphasis should be on building from the back.

The departure of Raphael Varane leaves United one man short at centre back, and there is a slight uncertainty over Harry Maguire, given that he will have just one year remaining on his current deal when the transfer window opens.

There have been reports that United are looking to complete an overhaul of their defence this summer, if that’s the case then concentration should be on getting players in that position as early as possible. One of the standout players who the Red Devils should target is Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite.

At just 21 years old the defender has excelled for the Toffees in the Premier League in the season just gone. He was a mainstay of Sean Dyche’s team who stayed up comfortably despite two separate points deductions.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has hinted that the club will be targeting up-and-coming players, and Branthwaite fits exactly that. Financial concerns at Everton means that they may also be able to get the centre-back at a slightly reduced price, with £55million the figure mentioned, if he lives up to his potential that could prove to be a bargain for United.