So far this summer, we’ve added another attacking player to the squad in Memphis Depay, but all the subsequent noise has been about the midfielders and defenders we’re pursuing. Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger would be great additions in midfield, whilst Ramos and Otamendi would hugely improve our defence. Whether we will actually secure any of those names is still very much unclear; whilst it’s important that we strengthen in both of those areas, signing a striker should be just as much of a priority.
In 2014/15, Rooney, Van Persie, Falcao and Wilson scored just 30 goals between them. Remember when Ronaldo scored 42 goals on his own in 2007/08? And he wasn’t even a striker in any conventional sense. Depay should certainly score some goals, and Betfair backs United at 8/11 to beat Tottenham on the opening day of the season, but our need for a new, pacey, powerful, goal-gobbling forward is painfully clear.
If he’s played up-front consistently, Rooney could be expected to improve on last season’s goal tally, but the chances are his versatility will once again see him playing in multiple positions. He’s still capable of spectacular goals, but he lost that explosive burst of speed a long time ago, and it’s unclear how Van Gaal will make use of his peculiar mix of talents.
Van Persie, meanwhile, looks destined to join Nani at Fenerbahce. At this point, any hopes of a Robin revival have well and truly faded for most fans. He is now comfortably past his peak, and we couldn’t have expected him to be a major source of goals again.
And what about James Wilson? He has been brilliant for the reserves and impressed in his first team debut when Giggs was temporarily in charge, but just how could the 19-year-old become? FIFA 15 gives him an estimated potential of 81 (yeah, I know it’s just a game), but he definitely looks like he has the makings of a top striker, particularly with his excellent acceleration and pace. But this season may still be too soon for Wilson to make his breakthrough, and it’s reported that Steve Bruce wants to take him to Hull City on loan.
Another promising youngster – Copa America winner Angelo Henriquez – is apparently joining the long list of players to leave United in this period of relentless transition, with a reported move to Dinamo Zagreb agreed.
As for Javier Hernandez, all the noises suggest that despite his recent injury, he is still set to leave the club. It feels like he’s fallen out of love with United, in which case it’s probably best for all parties that he goes. But we could definitely benefit from having a goal-poaching super-sub in the Solskjaer/Chicharito vein.
Which Striker Should Man Utd Sign?
Perhaps Santos’ Gabriel Barbosa – the rapid Brazilian 18-year-old United were rumoured to be targeting in the winter window – could be the answer. He’s certainly not the finished article, but if Wilson’s leaving on loan, he could be a great option from the bench. His 50m euro buyout clause could prove to be a stumbling block, however.
In terms of who could lead the line week in, week out, there don’t appear to be all that many options. Karim Benzema, Harry Kane and Alexandre Lacazette have all been strongly linked with a move to Man Utd, but who would be the best fit?
Benzema is the best-established option by a long way. At 27 years old, he should be hitting his peak. His best attributes, which include strength, work-rate, hold-up play, and counter-attacking threat, seem like a perfect fit for the Premier League, and Andy Cole thinks he could help bring the fear factor back to Old Trafford. Arsenal are also said to be keen on the Frenchman; we’ve already seen the club prepared to move decisively to prevent a rival from acquiring a target with the early capture of Depay, and a similar move for a far more proven player looks like it would be more than justified. Whether Perez would sanction this transfer, particularly if we don’t let them have De Gea, is perhaps the bigger question, however.
So what about the other options? Harry Kane was bound to be linked with United following his stunning breakthrough season at Spurs, and whilst he is an exciting, English player with the world at his feet, it doesn’t feel like this is the right time for the player to come to Manchester. The £50m price tag that’s been talked about is frankly ridiculous, and whether he could handle the pressure associated with such an enormous fee is impossible to know. What United need right now is an established, proven talent with the confidence, temperament and experience to hit the ground running, and Kane simply doesn’t fit that description at this point in his career.
How about Lacazette then? At 24 years old and with just 8 caps for France, he’s still on the raw side, but he does have two solid seasons of goal-scoring under his belt at Lyon (15 goals from 36 appearances in 2013/14, and 27 from 31 in 2014/15). He’s fast, versatile, and a great finisher, and with a reported fee of £21m, not at all overpriced. But according French journalist Jonathan Johnson, the chances are he’ll remain at Lyon for at least one more season.
Other strikers we have been linked with in recent months include Edinson Cavani, Maura Icardi, and Paulo Dybala. In a Manchester Evening News poll back in March, 21-year-old Dybala emerged as the most popular option for United fans, but he was snapped up by Juventus last month for £23.4m.
It’s hard to identify a player that ticks all the right boxes and would be a realistic target for the club, but it’s clear that we need a new striker just as badly as we need a world-class CB and reinforcements in midfield.
Who would you go after if you were in Woodward’s shoes? Let us know in the comments below…