Can Martial be Man United’s ‘no.9’?
Recent seasons have seen Manchester United make progress as a squad.
The Red Devils have done some solid business, which has included key signings such as Bruno Fernandes, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Alex Telles (though the Brazilian’s most useful achievement in a United shirt does seem to be making Luke Shaw into one of the league’s best left-backs).
They are also progressing well in the league and look on course to achieve their highest finish under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this campaign.
However, if Man United truly want to compete with the likes of Manchester City for the Premier League title, they still need to make a number of changes to their squad.
Signing a top central defender to partner Harry Maguire is the obvious move, whilst United could also probably do with some back-up to Wan-Bissaka, a new defensive midfielder to replace Nemanja Matic and a right-winger – though with Mason Greenwood, Daniel James, Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri likely to be competing for that spot next term, perhaps United may be better served investing their money in another area of the pitch in the summer.
One place United should probably look to improve upon within the next years is their striking position.
Anthony Martial has become Man United’s main no.9 in recent times. But in truth, the Frenchman doesn’t really look like someone who can play as a centre-forward for a top, top club.
This season, for example, has seen Martial net just four league goals in 20 outings – two of which came in United’s 9-0 drubbing of Southampton.
Newcastle and England legend Alan Shearer has also recently questioned Martial’s ability to be Manchester United’s main striker:
I’ve read that Martial wants to be Manchester United’s main centre-forward and that he sees it as his position. I don’t. He’s been there for six years. Last season was his best in terms of numbers, but he’s never scored more than 20 league goals in a campaign and I just don’t see the desperation, the hunger, desire and know-how to be a No 9, to score as many goals as he should.
Man United need a new striker
Before his recent injury, it did look as though Edinson Cavani had usurped Martial as United’s main no.9.
Cavani is a fantastic striker with all of the natural instincts Martial seems to be lacking.
However, Cavani is already 34, and though United can extend his contract for another year, the Uruguayan isn’t really the long-term option Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side need to help them become a truly world-class side.
So, at 101, we have found 5 potential striking options Manchester United could target in the near future.
We will start with the most obvious, but also probably the most expensive option.
Erling Haaland is of course well on his way to becoming one of the best strikers of the 21st century.
The Norwegian joined Borussia Dortmund in January of 2020 and he has since gone on to notch a sensational record both domestically and in Europe.
All told, Haaland has scored 43 and assisted 10 in just 43 outings for BVB, a return which only top players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski are usually able to provide in Europe’s top-five leagues.
And though United obviously should look to sign Haaland, pretty much every top side in Europe will also be aiming to do so.
The 20-year-old is believed to have a release clause of around £65m, but that is not said to be active until 2022.
So, if Man United do wish to land the forward this summer, you would imagine they will have to stump up a much higher sum.
But if they are able to match BVB’s asking price, then United should really do so, as whoever lands Haaland is no doubt set to sign one of the top stars of the next decade.
Our next option is obviously unlikely to be as prolific as Haaland, but he would also probably set United back much less.
Alexander Isak joined Real Sociedad in the summer of 2019. The 21-year-old was previously playing for Dortmund, but struggled for any sort of regular action and was instead loaned out to several sides. One such club was Eredivisie outfit Willem II, whom Isak scored 14 and assisted seven for in 18 outings.
And though his first season in Spain wasn’t as prolific, 2020/21 has seen the Swede develop into one of La Liga’s most deadly strikers, notching 12 goals in just 20 league games so far this term.
At 6ft 2, Isak can be a real nuisance in the box, using his height and strength to bully defenders – something which Martial does very little of.
However, despite his height, he is also fairly quick and has excellent ball control for a man of his stature.
Andre Silva has had a fairly mixed senior career to date.
The centre-forward started out playing in his home country of Portugal, and developed into one of FC Porto’s most promising young stars.
He then earned a big-money move to AC Milan in 2017, for a fee believed to be around £34m.
However, Silva struggled for form in Italy, and was eventually loaned to Sevilla, where his fortunes were again mixed.
In turn, in September of 2020, Milan eventually decided to part ways with the now 25-year-old, moving him on to Eintracht Frankfurt.
And, since making the move to Germany, Silva has completely turned his career around.
Last season (during a loan stint), the attacker racked up 12 goals and four assists in 25 Bundesliga outings. But it is the current campaign which has seen Silva produce some of his best football at senior level.
The 37-time capped international has managed to score a staggering 20 goals, to go along with five assists, in just 23 appearances.
Youssef En-Nesyri joined Sevilla in January of 2020, departing fellow Spanish outfit Leganes for a reported £18m.
The Moroccan has since gone on to become a crucial figure for Sevilla.
This season has seen En-Nesyri notch 13 goals in 24 La Liga ties, and four goals in seven Champions League outings.
And at 23, En-Nesyri again represents a promising young option who can still develop even further.
West Ham have also been linked with En-Nesyri and are said to have had a £27m bid rejected in the winter window.
The same report suggested that Sevilla wanted at least £35m for En-Nesyri, which, for a club such as Man United, doesn’t seem like much – especially if you are getting a striker who has already proven that he can do it on the big stage.
Our final pick is something of a risk, but he could also prove to be a real bargain for Manchester United.
Giorgos Giakoumakis joined Dutch outfit VVV-Venlo in August of 2020.
Prior to linking up with Venlo, Giakoumakis had only ever played senior football in Greece and Poland. And though the Eredivisie does of course provide some top talent, it isn’t anywhere near the level of the Premier League.
So, any player signed from the league, especially one who has not had the chance to perform in the Champions League or Europa League, does come with a certain amount of risk. A perfect example is Middlesbrough’s signing of Afonso Alves from SC Heerenveen.
However, it is extremely hard to ignore Giakoumakis’s superb goalscoring record this term.
VVV are having a pretty poor 2020/21 on the whole, and sit down in 14th place in the Eredivisie.
Giakoumakis, though, has managed to score 22 goals in 22 league outings, accounting for over 60 per cent of the club’s total goals.
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