The Conundrum of the Most Effective No. 9

Opinion

A top striker is worth his weight in gold. With the exorbitant sums of money being demanded as transfer fees for forwards in the current transfer market, this saying is being taken rather literally. However, the undeniable fact is that the value that a striker who frequents the scoresheet can add to his team is priceless. It might not necessarily translate into silverware at every instance, yet a consistent goalscorer averaging 20-25 goals a season definitely has the potential to substantially accentuate the fortunes of any side.

When it comes to the likes of the big clubs, it is almost impossible that any of them would not have a superstar(s) in the last third of the pitch. After relying on Wayne Rooney for over a decade to be their major source of goals, they acquired the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic last season. The Swedish giant, figuratively as well as literally, silenced his doubters with a goal tally that many felt was unachievable for him in England. The season ended with misfortune though, an Anterior Cruciate Ligament injury sidelining him for not just this season but also a major portion of next one.

With the depth of squad that Jose Mourinho possesses, he would be expected to cope with the situation. Marcus Rashford has impressed whenever given the chance to lead the line. Anthony Martial, despite an inconsistent season, has shown enough promise whenever played to still hold his place at the club. Rooney is not the same player that he was under Sir Alex Ferguson, so one cannot reasonably expect him to be the man to lead the line for the entire duration of the season. Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are playmakers that any forward would be happy to play in front of, given the potential of creating chances they possess due to their creativity. All factors taken into account, Mourinho would still be looking to bring in a striker as his marquee signing this summer if he intends to genuinely push for the title next term and make a fist of it in the Champions League.

As is the case generally, there is no shortage of names to be linked with United. The paparazzi have quoted a whole host of potential forwards who they claim to be on the priority list of the manager, yet it is too early in the transfer window to be able to substantiate any of the rumours as none of them have shaped up into a concrete approach. Nevertheless, the options at the Portuguese’s disposal do not seem to be limited. Antoine Griezmann is out of the running with the enforcement of Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban. Any of the following players are alternatives that could excite Mourinho enough for him to delve into that large transfer kitty available at to him.

Romelu Lukaku

The Everton hitman scored 25 Premier League goals in the 2016-17 season and at one point in time looked odds on to claim the Golden Boot. Having tailed off towards the end of the season, there would be no shortage of potential suitors for the 24 year old Belgian. Pace, power and good finishing abilities are his standout attributes. An experience of 6 years in the Premier League also adds value. His general hold up and link up play has been under scrutiny for a long period of time, and even though he has improved in those respects, he still does not seem to be at the best of his game yet. A knack of going missing in the high profile games is also a frequent criticism. Despite all the shortcomings, the evidence of his abundant talent has led to Everton valuing him at 100 million pounds. Having turned down their recent offer, the most lucrative one in their history, he is most certainly on his way out. He claims he knows his destination and it involves Champions League football. Having Mino Raiola as his agent, the same as Pogba, could see a move to United materialising. Chelsea and Bayern Munich are also interested, so this one is to watch out for.

Alexandre Lacazette

The Lyon ace once again did what he does best, score plenty of goals. 37 goals in all competitions is a tally worth taking note of, and it seems the big boys around Europe have done just that. Reported interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool has sparked rumours of a step up to the Premier League. It would be a step in the right direction, as the French striker seems to have outgrown his stint with Lyon. Blessed with clinical finishing, he has enough pace and power to be able to continue his goalscoring exploits in England. Atletico Madrid’s transfer ban meant his ‘dream move’ to the Vicente Calderon is out of question for the near future. With contradictory reports emerging in terms of his interest to move to England as compared to him considering biding his time to finally join Atletico, it will be interesting to see where and if Lacazette decides to go. One thing is for sure, he would be a great fit for United’s front line, as is the case with most of the teams who are in the running to capture him.

Andrea Belotti

The 23 year old impressed with 26 goals for Torino in the recently concluded Serie A campaign. Some have expressed a bit of surprise at his name being included in the list of targets for Mourinho, yet the purchase of the Italian frontman could turn into a masterstroke. Compared to Gianluca Vialli for his athleticism and style of play, Belotti is a prolific striker. He has a strong shot with both feet and is very strong in aerial duels. Also standing out for his acceleration, tactical intelligence, work-rate and eye for goal, he has the capabilities to be a long term cog in United’s attacking wheel. Inexperienced in the Premier League yet brimming with potential, it might be a risk worth taking if a move to bring him to Old Trafford can be effectively negotiated. Figures in the region of 64 million Pounds are being quoted, and even though such a sum would be very high for someone moving to the Premier League for the first time, that would not necessarily deter the Red Devils. Reports that he prefers a move to London in order to join Arsenal or Chelsea could be the snag in this one.

Alvaro Morata

Never really having established himself at Real Madrid, it was thought that Los Blancos only bought him back from Juventus to sell him on. He stayed, and won the La Liga as well as the Champions League. His individual contribution to those triumphs was not considerable to say the least. With Real possessing a plethora of attacking talent, Morata’s chances of substantially forming a part of Zinedine Zidane’s plans are remote. The fact that his valuation stands around the 50 million Pounds mark also makes him more attractive that other options which could be far more expensive. Having played at the highest level for a major part of his recent career, he is no stranger to big occasions and crunch matches. Speed and a good passing range in addition to scoring attributes makes him a very impactful player. Not entirely consistent, then again he was never played consistently enough to be judged on that fact. At 24, the general assumption is he is only going to get better.

These are only some of the names, the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’. With a the major chunk of the window still to go, there will be a lot more speculation in terms of who could and should join Manchester United. For the window to pass, without them adding a striker to their ranks seems next to impossible, and any one of the above 4 could be a valuable acquisition with achievement of not just short term goals but also long term objectives in mind. One will have to wait and watch for it to unfold, but whoever ends up leading the line at Old Trafford next season promises to be an enthralling prospect.