Romelu Lukaku has bid ‘ciao’ to Manchester United and, ermm, oddly, nobody came in to replace him. Instead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer placed his faith in a trio of players who he hoped would have the net rippling for United this season. And, well, it hasn’t gone too well.
In fact, it’s gone rather terribly.
The decision to sanction the departure of a man who scored 42 goals in his 96 matches for the club didn’t seem all too bizarre when the overriding feeling among United supporters was one of immense jubilation – especially when considering the £73m received for him.
That was, however, with the idea in mind someone else would come through the door to fill the Belgian’s 15-goal-a-season boots. Yet, instead, that role was bestowed upon an exciting and ambitious 17-year-old who, for intents and purposes, has no experience, track-record or is anywhere near starting up front for the nation sitting in top spot on the FIFA World Rankings.
Therefore, investment is (once again) required at Old Trafford. But, who should they get and who shouldn’t they get? Moreover, who should they look at, but most likely will come nowhere near securing? Here’s who.
Yes, it’s the name on everyone’s lips at the moment. And if you sift through the vast majority of murmurs emitting from both England and Italy, then United are in pole position to end the Croatian’s role as seat-warmer at Juventus.
Essentially, what United need is a striker to upset opposing defences and make a nuisance of himself in the box, and create more opportunities for their midfielders in the final third. The best form of attack against the Red Devils at present is defence, purely because when gifting United time on the ball, their painful lack of creativity is so glaringly highlighted, normally resulting in them surrendering possession and being hit on the counter-attack.
Mandzukic is no spring chicken at the age of 33 – far from it. However, as a short-term fix in a side that has failed to score more than once in a match since the opening Premier League
– Established Premier League goalscorer? Yes.
– England international? Yes.
– Hungry and young? Partially.
On the opposite end of the spectrum there is Callum Wilson. The AFC Bournemouth striker certainly fits the bill in terms of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s profile: English, ever-improving and ambitious.
He is, however, 27 years old, which is by no means old, just not the age bracket of player Solskjaer wants in the long-term. But, at this point in time the deficiencies Old Trafford is being graced with will not be fixed by bringing in an untested, young forward from overseas midway through the season. Such acquisitions will merely act as square pegs in round holes when the club are in dire need of prolific forwards who will hit the ground running.
Wilson’s form over the last season and a half has increased dramatically, going from eight league goals in 2017/18 to 14 last term – while this season his tally of five has arrived in just seven matches. Furthermore, those goalscoring stats make for much better viewing when you consider the now-10th place Cherries finished 14th last season. An avenue certainly worth exploring.
A Colombian journeyman who after countless attempts found the perfect setting from which to lay his nest of fury.
Fury, by the way, is no understatement, either.
With Serie A side Atalanta, the 28-year-old has hit form like a tonne of bricks, firing his side into the Champions League for the first time in their history with 23 goals and seven assists in the league last season. That run has followed on into the current campaign, with Zapata already finding the back of the net six times in his first seven matches, notching a brace of assists to boot.
Whether his incredible scoring rates are purely hinged on his surroundings or simply a striker finding his niche, he’s an option United should definitely consider. He is, however, quite possibly just a non-English Wilson with an extra year on his passport. Therefore, it could be a case of ‘home is where the heart is’ if it’s a toss up between the pair.
Yeah…this one ain’t happening. But that’s not the point. Failure at this point should not be accepted.
If Manchester United are aiming to catapult themselves back into the mix for the top four (and then beyond that), this is the calibre of player that they should be aiming to sign. Nevertheless, it would appear somewhat dead in the water, after the player’s failed move to Old Trafford over the summer which came after numerous factors – like the player not wanting to go – ended discussions.
A club of United’s stature need to show ambition, need to show desire and need to demonstrate cojones in the transfer market moving forward. Going back in for Paulo Dybala and signalling their intent would be just that – whether it’d work or not though, that’s a different story.
Another one to fall under the category of ‘short-term fix’ is a certain Leicester striker.
His ability in front of goal is nothing to scoff at, nor is it solely down to superb service from teammates. Simply put, Jame Vardy scores goals.
Considering the 32-year-old turned down the approaches of Arsenal not too long ago, it seems swapping (current) top-four side Leicester for a Red Devils outfit in dire straits would pose an obstacle United couldn’t overcome, no matter how much money they fling at it.
Vardy has every chance of earning Champions League football with the Foxes this season as his career enters its twilight years. And, let’s be honest, it looks like being quite a few years until United can boast such boast such company in their stadium.
Alongside Mandzukic, the French forward has been an ever-present in the (rather small) group of strikers linked with a move to the north-west.
Leaving Celtic presented Moussa Dembele with the opportunity to ply his trade in his native country – a decision that has been vindicated after netting 25 goals in his 50 outings for the club.
His scoring rate in France is pretty good. That can’t be begrudged. Is he a better striker than the three United possess at present? Quite possibly. Would Lyon sell giving their current plight? Potentially. Are there many other options available that could come in and do better? Nope.
These are all reasons that scream ‘sign me’, yet do United currently have the bargaining power to make such a signing happen? Let’s wait and see.
Out of contract next summer and likely to play second fiddle to Mauro Icardi when he returns from injury, Edinson Cavani’s time at Paris Saint-Germain appears to be wilting.
There is no doubting that he is a striker of the highest quality, even at the age of 32, and as (yet another) short-term fix there are few better options on the market who could be swayed to head to Manchester.
What he would offer Solskjaer is an unquestionable goal threat. Deadly in the box and strong in the tackle, what Cavani has above any of the other strikers in the United squad is bags of know-how.
Having spent time in Italy and France, he may be keen on one final challenge in a top European league. And, should United persuade the Uruguayan, he wouldn’t arrive with the fear of being benched; that, we can all be certain of.
For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!