The most settled clubs tend to plan their transfer windows months in advance and while it might be counting a few too many chickens to already be thinking of targets for the summer of 2021, it will make sense to have one eye on that window.
For Manchester United there are still battles to be had in this window, chiefly finding some middle ground with Borussia Dortmund over a deal for winger Jadon Sancho.
If United can land their top target between now and the start of October it will allow them to look at the areas they need to strengthen in the coming windows. With Odion Ighalo’s loan deal expiring at the end of January it is clear that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is going to want another striker to compete with Anthony Martial at some point, while the pursuit of Jack Grealish suggests further creativity in midfield is also a priority.
But there remain a few unanswered questions around the defence and over the next 12 months we will get a definite answer of those. Harry Maguire had a good first season without quite hitting the standards of an £80million defender, while even if David de Gea continues to struggle United should have a ready-made replacement in Dean Henderson.
It is alongside Maguire where the real uncertainty lies. Victor Lindelof has been much improved over the last two seasons but he still doesn’t entirely convince and his partnership with Maguire hasn’t yet taken off.
By the end of next season it will be stick or twist for United with Lindelof. So far he’s had a relatively easy ride for his position, with Eric Bailly still inconsistent and Axel Tuanzebe suffering an injury-hit season.
In the summer of 2021 it may be time to look at either replacing Lindelof or at least providing him with greater competition. To that end a move for RB Leipzig youngster Dayot Upamecano could be top of United’s list next year.
The 21-year-old has had another fine season at the heart of the Leipzig defence and he has a game that looks ready-made for the Premier League. He can use the ball well and is strong in the tackle and in the air.
Upamecano showed his physicality in the Champions League with a man-of-the-match performance in the quarter-final victory against Atletico Madrid.
After the game, his boss Julian Nagelsmann said: “He was a beast from the first to the last minute. He was always concentrated and he played very intelligently.”
Upamecano is still young for a central defender but he has already played more than 150 competitive games. He has plenty of experience already.
He could also be an ideal partner for Maguire. United want a left-footed centre back ideally but Upamecano is a natural defender and Maguire has thrived next to that type of player previously, notably Jonny Evans at Leicester City.
As France youth coach Jean-Claude Giuntini said of Upamecano: “He loves defending, getting the ball off opponents.”
You feel that is exactly what United need in the centre of defence. The timing could also work out well.
Upamecano has been watched by almost every major European club, but recently signed a new deal to keep him with the Red Bull-owned club until June 2023.
Yet it’s unlikely he will stay there that long. Next summer would seem a likely date for a departure, with two years remaining on his contract then and RB Leipzig still able to command a good fee.
On signing that new deal the centre back said: “I have been in Leipzig for over three years and I have continued to improve alongside the team’s development. I want to carry on developing personally, and I think Julian Nagelsmann is a coach that can bring me to the next level.”
If Upamecano does leave his current club next summer, then United might want to find themselves in the discussion for him.