Much is said about what United should do at the center-forward position this summer. Many fans and pundits, including Roy Keane, suggest Ole needs another striker. I don’t disagree with this sentiment but I question what the new striker would look like. In Anthony Martial, Ole has a guy he seems to like, is happy to play at United, is only 24 years old, fits the style of play, and has scored goals in bunches.
The criticisms are that Martial gets injured often, looks disinterested at times, and isn’t a prototypical striker. The idea of him not being a prototypical striker probably needs to be pushed aside. Strikers score goals and Tony Martial scores goals. That’s good enough for me. The two other sentiments should probably be addressed and could be helped / fixed with the addition of a new striker. However, finding that striker is a complicated venture for Manchester United, as discussed below.
Option 1: Sign Someone Better than Anthony Martial
The first direction United could go would be to sign a CF better than Martial and as good, if not better, of a fit for Ole’s system. That presents two problems: 1) not many are better and 2) the price relative to the need would be cost-prohibitive.
As crazy as it may sound, Martial is among the better CFs in Europe, objectively speaking. Among the 5 major European leagues, thirteen CFs scored more goals in league play than Anthony Martial (see below). We can argue until the cows come home about what makes a player “better” than another player but for objectivity and simplicity, let’s just stick to goals, because that’s the striker’s main task.
Let’s quickly breakdown all those players and why it wouldn’t make sense to pursue any of those players.
Ciro Immobile – A pretty good fit for Ole’s style given his quickness and decent speed. He’s been absolute goal scoring machine at Lazio. However, one has to wonder if he’s been taking advantage of a lesser league in Serie A and if that would transfer over. Carlo Ancelotti seems smitten over Immobile so maybe we’ll see him soon at Everton. Also, he’s 30 years old.
Robert Lewandowski – He’s an absolute world class player and would immediately improve United’s goal scoring. However, there’s a snowball chance in Hell that Bayern Munich sell him and if they did, it would cost a fortune. Also, he’s 31 years old.
Cristiano Ronaldo – *sigh* As a lifelong Cristiano fan, I love the idea in theory but his wage demands would cost a fortune and he’s already 35 years old. He would certainly upgrade the team, but only in Fantasyland does this deal work and make sense.
Timo Warner – On his way to Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku – LOL
Jamie Vardy – Vardy would be an excellent fit for Ole’s system – pacey and runs all over the field. The boat has passed on Vardy to United, as he seems to be loving life at Leicester. Plus, he’s 33 years old.
Patrick Emerick-Aubameyang – Rumored to be leaving Arsenal, he’s a player that makes some sense in terms of fit. He’s a pacey striker that could get out on the break and score goals in bunches. However, given he’d be coming from a Premier League rival, his price would be substantial and he’s already 31. Subjectively, I think Martial is the more talented player.
Danny Ings – Ings set the world on fire this season and one has to wonder if he’s hitting his stride or if it’s a one-off. Given he couldn’t cut it at Liverpool, only scored 7 goals last season, and he’s already 28, I’m going to bet one hit wonder.
Karim Benzema – Has a tendency to play as a “false 9” so I don’t think the fit would be excellent. Also, he seems like a bit of an asshole and Ole would rather “have a hole in the squad than an asshole.” He’s also on the wrong side of 30.
Francesco Caputo – I’m not going to pretend to know anything about this guy but he’s 32 and plays in Italy.
Wissam Ben Yedder – See above. 29 years old.
Harry Kane – Tottenham was rumored to want $200 million for Harry Kane and that’s not happening. Plus, it can be said that Harry Kane is beginning to regress. His lack of top-end speed also doesn’t seem to fit Ole’s system.
Duvan Zupata – He’s scored 41 goals for Atalanta over the past two seasons. In the three games I’ve watched him play, he’s got speed to burn for days. He’s a lightning fast player. Of all the players listed here, he seems like the most realistic fit / price, but again we have to question Serie A’s quality. Juventus is rumored to be looking at him.
Option 2: Sign an Ascending Player that can eventually replace Martial
A lot of people, including myself, were very excited at the idea of Haaland joining Manchester United. The stars seemed to be aligning and all we needed was him holding up the kit. However, due to no-good Mino Raiola and Ed Woodward, it never materialized and he went off the Borussia Dortmund, where he has performed quite well.
Well, I’m over all that. Manchester United has Mason Greenwood. At 18 years old, Mason Greenwood is probably the best finisher at Manchester United. Given that Erling Haaland is 20 years old and Mbappe is now 21, I can’t think of a better attacking teenager in Europe than Mason Greenwood. Would it be nice to have both Haaland and Greenwood? Of course. However, given Greenwood’s ascension, I’m totally fine with United allocating resources elsewhere and making Greenwood the striker of the future.
Option 3: Sign a Veteran player that can rotate with Martial
Manchester United could look to make a move more akin to an Ighalo move, but permanent. This is a trickier move because it would have to be the perfect combination of moderate cost, goal scoring experience, and personality and style fit. For players like that, one would probably have to look at players in the twilight of their careers or players on meddling, potentially relegated teams. Of course, someone like Zlatan and his new, contract-to-kill demeanor regarding contracts comes to mind but his time at United has come and gone (sadly).
A more realistic target would be someone like Joshua King. A fellow Norwegian, he had a spell at Manchester United and is contracted with Bournemouth, who are headed to the Championship. Still only 28, he has a mild goal scoring record and enough pace to his game to fit Ole’s style. If Josh King could be had for roughly $30 million, he would probably be a good addition to the squad, especially with Ighalo heading back to China in January.
Sign a veteran player to rotate in on occasion and give as many minutes to Mason Greenwood as possible.
Tony Martial is here to stay. Never forget — 50 million down the drain, Tony Martial scores again.