Manchester City’s decisive loss to Manchester United on Sunday seemed like the old days. And not good ones.
The Citizens had won six of seven against their biggest rivals heading into the fixture, but United looked more lively, more incisive and more composed than its noisy neighbors at Old Trafford, calling to mind Manchester derbies from the three decades before City roared to life thanks to an infusion of Abu Dhabi cash in 2008.
That cash brought a golden era to the east side of Manchester, with two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup in recent years. But with many of the core players aging or uninspired, it appears a major overhaul is on tap for the summer. The manager’s culpability has already been covered in this space, so what else should City do?
Bid the farm for Paul Pogba —The back pages and gossip mags in England are flush with baseless rumor-mongering, so this won’t dabble too much into that. However, one rumor that’s gained fevered traction over the past few days is the idea of buying Paul Pogba from Juventus, and it makes perfect sense. The 22-year-old Frenchman is next in line for the “best midfielder in the world” mantle, able to supply grit to the center of the park while also giving City the kind of attacking creativity it’s sorely lacking. Every team in the world would love to have Pogba, and City has the resources to make it happen.
Don’t be afraid to part with big names — Something tells me this won’t be a problem for City CEO Ferran Soriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain, who have balanced the books at the Etihad but largely failed in the transfer market (though a rather warped enforcement of Financial Fair Play has been a factor). It’s no embellishment to say both are now under immense pressure to right the ship, and that means parting ways with some players who’ve been key cogs in the club’s recent success. Swap Samir Nasri and Fernandinho for Kevin de Bruyne and Jack Wilshere to strengthen the midfield. Turn Martín Demichelis into Thiago Silva to bolster the central defense. And don’t be slave to the old guard, either. Despite struggling in 2015, stalwarts like Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré, David Silva and Pablo Zabaleta still appear to have plenty to offer, but if an irresistible bid comes along, selling high could accelerate a move back to the top of the Premier League.
Find a strike partner for Sergio Agüero — Building off the previous point, Edin Džeko and Stevan Jovetić will likely be shipped out this summer, providing the opportunity to reshape the attack. Part of Agüero’s value is that he can be effective playing with pretty much anyone, so City could table an offer for Liverpool wantaway Raheem Sterling, forming a quick, technically prolific pairing up top. Or splash the cash on red-hot Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke, who would complement Agüero with his physically imposing frame and likely thrive now that he’s not his side’s primary scoring option. Regardless of who City ends up pursuing, looking to get a younger player with his best years ahead of him seems to be the best option.
Wait out James Milner — The Englishman has already said he won’t decide on his future until after the season, but City would be wise to try and re-sign him. He’s featured less this season than other midfielders, but he’s frequently looked more effective, putting in a high work rate with a steadying demeanor. That could prove vital if City restocks its squad with younger players who don’t yet know how to compete for trophies at the highest level.
Hand an opportunity to a youth player or two — Manchester City has placed a greater emphasis on player development in recent years – or at least paid lip service to it – and the time is now to show what’s been grown. Youth academy product Marcos Lopes has acquitted himself nicely during a loan spell with Lille this season, and the 19-year-old Portuguese could grow into a solid attacking mid if given the chance. To get younger at outside back, City could turn to 18-year-old Spaniard Angelino, who’s played in almost every game for the under-21 team this season. There are other enticing prospects, too, and fans may be seeing them in the first team sooner rather than later.