We ‘signed’ Denis Zakaria for Man United in January and results improv…

Ralf Rangnick has steadied the ship at Manchester United, and the German could be set to add to his squad in the January move window.

Borussia Monchengladbach recently announced the Swiss midfielder Denis Zakaria will leave the German club at the end of the 2021/22 season upon the expiry of his contract, and is free to discuss a move with interested clubs from January 1st.

With Rangnick’s knowledge of the Bundesliga and the kind of player that Zakaria is, the 25-year-old could be the perfect fit to join United in January for a modest fee and enhance the squad heading into the second half of the season.

Zakaria is not the kind of player to contribute heavily towards goals and assists, but can influence games by his defensive performance and ability to win the ball back and create attacking moves.

The Swiss midfielder is used to playing in a midfield pair, with Mochengladbach utilising the 25-year-old mainly as a defensive midfielder, but also as a centre-back when required due to his impressive physical attributes.

So, if Zakaria was to make a move to United in January, what sort of impact could he have on Ralf Rangnick’s side?

Could the Swiss midfielder help United win their first trophy since 2017?

To find out, we simulated the rest of the season with Zakaria in the United squad and this is what happened.

We ‘signed’ Denis Zakaria for Man United in January 2022

To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2022 editor to position for Zakaria to join United at the start of the upcoming January 2022 move window, using FM22 to run the simulation.

This is how Zakaria’s in-game profile looks on FM22.

Denis Zakaria’s in-game profile on FM22.

Zakaria excels in his tackling ability, work rate, teamwork and stamina proving that he can be a reliable holding midfielder that will work tirelessly to help the team by breaking up play and covering plenty of distance throughout a match.

His physical attributes will allow him to perform well in the Premier League, paired with good technical attributes making him a substantial midfielder that can help regain and retain possession.

Let’s take a look at how Zakaria performed throughout the second half of the 2021/22 season after signing for United in January 2022.

Zakaria's statistics for United in the 2021/22 season.
Zakaria’s statistics for United in the 2021/22 season.

Zakaria registered three assists and made 20 appearances in all competitions for United in the 2021/22 season after signing in January.

Zakaria’s performances for United were impressive with the Swiss midfielder registering a 93% pass completion rate and 82% tackle success rate, both statistics being the highest out of any midfielder at the club, whilst also covering the most distance (14.1km) per-90 compared to any other United player.

The 25-year-old had the fifth-highest average match rating at the club, only behind the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, proving that Zakaria was a crucial player under Rangnick after his arrival.

Zakaria’s performances for United suggest that he would be a bright addition to the squad, linking the defence and attack more effectively than the current options obtainable to Rangnick.

At the end of the 2021/22 season, Football Manager 2022 put together an overall best United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.

This is what United’s best XI looked like at the end of the 2021/22 season as expected by Football Manager 2022:

United’s best XI at the end of the 2021/22 season.

complete United best XI (4-2-2-2): De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Zakaria; Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford, Ronaldo.

Zakaria’s performances for United saw him characterize in the best XI under Rangnick for the 2021/22 season, alongside Scott McTominay in the defensive midfield locaiongs.

So, how did United perform in the league and cup competitions after signing Zakaria in the January move window?

Man United’s results from the 2021/22 simulation

United finished fourth at the end of the 2021/22 Premier League season.

United finished fourth in the Premier League in the 2021/22 season, edging out Arsenal on goal difference to qualify for the Champions League.

United finished 12 points behind Chelsea in third, showing the gap in quality and performance level and highlighting the work that needs to be done in order for United to bridge the gap and challenge for the title once again.

Compared to United’s 2020/21 season, Rangnick’s side finished the season with six less points and a worse goal difference by -4, suggesting more improvements are needed after the signing of Zakaria.

So, how did United perform in the cup competitions?

United’s performances in the cup competitions.

United were unable to win their first trophy since 2017 as they were knocked out of the Champions League to rivals Manchester City 3-2 on aggregate after winning the first leg at Old Trafford.

United then suffered defeat in the FA Cup semi-finals to Liverpool as goals from Sadio Mane and James Milner saw Rangnick’s side exit one step short of the final.

Overall, if Denis Zakaria were to sign for United in January, the Swiss midfielder could have an impact and considerably enhance a ineffective area for United shown by his performances after joining the club in January.

Zakaria could become a crucial player under Rangnick according to this simulation, averaging the fifth-highest match rating at the club, but would be unable to help the Reds lift their first trophy since 2017, with more signings needed if United are to bridge the gap between the top three clubs in the Premier League.

Would you like to see Denis Zakaria sign for United? Let us know in the comments!

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