The Manchester United Striker Hunt – Who should Ed Woodward target?
With the departures of Radamel Falcao and Robin Van Persie and upwards of £75m still left to spend, Manchester United are almost certainly in the market for a top striker to guarantee 20+ goals a season, the question is, who will that player be?
Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette (£30-35m) name was up in bright lights last season after a sensational season, finishing Ligue 1’s top goalscorer with an impressive tally of 27 goals in 33 league games. He is blessed with jet-heeled pace, can play anywhere across the front line of attack, he loves to dribble past defenders and has proven himself to be a clinical finisher. Even though only 5ft 9, he is still physically strong almost built in the ilk of Alexis Sanchez, he is more than capable of handling the physicality of the Premier League. However, the 24-year old never scored more than 15 league goals in a season until last year, taking out last season’s stats; he only has scored 28 goals in 125 appearances. So given the touted £30-35m price tag he may be a risk; it is yet unknown whether he is a one-season wonder or just a late bloomer who is hitting his peak?
Harry Kane (£50m+) is a similar story, in August 2014, you would probably never have heard his name if you weren’t a Spurs fan, come May 2015, the whole of Europe knew of his name. He boasted one the best records in Europe, he scored 30 goals and notched up 5 assists in 39 starts, an outstanding return. Aged 21, if he can be hitting those figures, especially playing in the most competitive league in the world it seems he has huge potential. Nevertheless, after having a signed a 5 year-contract only this season, he would demand an astronomical fee of beyond £50m, which is extortionate for a player who has had one stand out season. Then again, he could be a gamble worth taking just like signing an 18-year old Wayne Rooney for £27m was over a decade ago.
If you ask Manchester United fans which striker they want, the Bayern Munich duo of Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski (£40-50m)would feature very high on most lists. Lewandowski is renowned for being a powerful, deadly finisher; he has scored 115 goals and made 33 assists in 205 appearances, making him one of the best no.9s in world football. As someone who has got 20+ goals a season for the last 3 seasons, he would be a striker who could guarantee Manchester United consistency. Thomas Muller (£50-60m) has often been deployed as a right-sided midfielder or as a number 10 for Bayern and has still managed to rack up 121 goals 69 assists in just over 300 games, a record which puts him in the ‘world class’ bracket by many. Internationally he is used as a striker and has 27 goals in 63 games (including 10 goals in 12 world cup games), there are no doubts both are phenomenal players that would be marquee signings. Considering Bayern CEO Rummenigge said no more Bayern Munich players would move to Manchester United, both would be incredibly likely to pull off unless Di Maria was involved in the negotiations.
Some fans call him overrated, but Edinson Cavani (£35-50m) has been one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. He is the 4th highest goal-scorer over the last 5 seasons with 112 goals, considering he scored 31 goals playing from wide left last season for PSG just shows what a goal-machine he really is. He is a powerhouse, strong in the air and with his feet, when he has played for PSG and Napoli up front he has been lethal, but reports of late suggest Cavani is ‘untransferable’, so United may have to look elsewhere but he would certainly be a great signing. Karim Benzema (£30-40m) is a name that always seems to go under the radar when it comes to praise for Real Madrid attackers. He has only failed to score 20 goals in a season once in the last 5 seasons, bagging 120 goals and 66 assists in 251 games. Aged 27, he is in his prime, he has been a pivotal part of Los Blancos’ success over the last 5 years, he would a dream signing for any elite European team. As someone who is capable of building up play superbly, holding up the ball effectively and a real predator in the box, he is the perfect combination of what Manchester United need in a striker. With tensions already high with the De Gea-Ramos stand-offf, it is unlikely that both Florentino Perez and Rafael Benitez would want to sell such a key asset of their team.
If there are not sufficient out-and-out quality strikers available, perhaps Van Gaal should stretch his search to a more versatile forward who can play all across the attack like Memphis Depay. One player that would fit that bill is Marco Reus (£40-50m) from Borussia Dortmund; he has played both as an attacking midfielder as well as further forward for the German club and is considered one of the most exciting players in world football. His record of 86 goals and 51 assists in 207 is a return which encapsulates why he is considered as an elite player. Reus has got a thunderous long shot in his repertoire, this long-range threat coupled with exquisite vision for a pass as well his composure when in on goal, makes him a real asset to any attacking team. Dortmund have a tendency to sell one star player every year, so even though he has signed a contract extension until 2019, at the right price he could well make a move.
Another player that would set the Premier League alight if he arrived is Antoine Griezmann (£35-40m) from Athletico Madrid. Renowned for having sensational technical ability, having the skill and guile to play on the both flanks as well as centrally and being lightening quick, Griezmann has been attracting attention from the European elite like PSG and Chelsea. After scoring 52 in 201 games for Real Soceidad it was last season with Atheltico when he was the 3rd highest scorer in La Liga with 22 goals in 32 appearances that showed the world exactly what he’s capable of doing. Given that he only moved in 2014 and that Arda Turan has been sold to Barcelona it is questionable whether he will be sold, but considering the Madrid club have signed Luciano Vietto and Jackson Martinez, two striking options, again there is potential for a sale at the right price. With Angel Di Maria looking likely to leave this summer, both Reus and Griezmann could be options to simultaneously fill his boots and the striker position as multi-faceted, versatile forwards.
One name which is often overlooked is that of Mauro Icardi (£20-25m) of Inter Milan. 21 year-old Paulo Dybala (38 goals in 128) got a £32m transfer to Juventus and was rated as one of the best young strikers in Europe after his first full season in Serie A in which he scored 13 goals and got 10 assists for Palmero. However, Icardi who is just 1 year older boasts a superior record, last season he scored 22 goals and got 6 assists in 33 goals and overall has 42 goals in 97 appearances. Icardi is a real old-fashioned no.9, he makes intelligent runs in behind to latch on to through balls, he has the predatory striking instincts to be a top class striker for a Champions League team. Whether Ed Woodward is fixated on a big name striker, for the sake of appeasing sponsors and fans, is yet to be seen but if he wants a striker capable of scoring 15-20 goals a season, Icardi could be the man.
Another player which can prized out of Borussia Dortmund is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£20-25m), for the FIFA fanatics out there, he may be most well-known for being one of the fastest players in the world (95 Pace on FIFA 15). Perfect anywhere in a front 3, the player nicknamed ‘The African Neymar’ has scored 42 goals in 95 games and has been a real shining light in the Dortmund team since the departure of Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski. His frightening quick speed makes him incredibly difficult to mark without the ball and makes him lethal when running at back-tracking defenders, shoehorned in a team with a top class midfield; he could be a real asset.
It will be intriguing to see who Ed Woodward eventually buys to fill the striking vacancy, most of the strikers above would be brilliant signings that really could hit the ground running and add 15-20+ goals to the team next season. All the strikers fit the age mould, they have got impressive goal-scoring records and most have the attributes that would suit Manchester United down to a tee. The striker signing undoubtedly will be the most left-field, unpredictable transfer, whoever they do opt for, hopefully they will be the right man for job.
By Hesham Bilal-Hafiz