Identifying Cristiano Ronaldo’s replacement for Manchester United

Jawad Choudhary
By Jawad Choudhary
10 Min Read

Cristiano Ronaldo’s surprise move to Saudi Arabia is likely not how Manchester United fans expected the Portuguese star’s career to have changed after a year at the club. Whilst Ronaldo was the star of long-stirred conflict under the reign of Erik ten Hag, Man United fans may be relieved to see that resolution has finally occurred and now the club can look to grow and move forward as a team.

For Ten Hag, however, this has left a giant striker-shaped hole in the team that must be occupied if United are to challenge for the Premier League title once again. Eight more teams have scored more goals than United and the club have yet to provide a solution to scoring more goals.

Arguably, Anthony Martial is the only striker at the club, although it is even arguable if he can be considered an ’out-and-out’ number nine. Either way, Martial’s injury struggles and inconsistent form simply aren’t enough for the Red Devils to be the main source of goals in the team and it is clear that an investment needs to be made.

Currently, there have been many reports speculating a potential loan move for United in the January transfer window as a short-term solution to their striker situation, including the likes of Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix and Bayern Munich’s Eric Choupo-Moting. This is likely with the thought in mind that a long-term solution will be invested in the summer as the club look to have its ownership and financial issues secured.

Let’s take a look at some of the options Manchester United could consider in the summer;

Goncalo Ramos

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Still only 21, Goncalo Ramos has been at the heart of goals for the Benfica team this season – scoring 9 in 12 games this season and with the now-Liverpool player, Darwin Nunez, out of the side, Ramos has been elevated to an even higher level with more attacking responsibility in the side. Ramos’ most notable period of the season was his World Cup campaign as the Portuguese striker broke through the side as the benching of Ronaldo led to Ramos starting and scoring a hat trick against Switzerland.

Whilst Ramos fits the profile of a talented, young forward that could lead the line for United for years to come, it may be difficult to prize the Portuguese star away from Benfica – or at least not for a large fee. There is a reported €120M (£103.5M) release clause in Ramos’ contract and with the world witnessing his World Cup heroics, Benfica is in no position to conform to sell for a small fee to United.

Lautaro Martinez

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On the other side of the scale, Lautaro Martinez’s World Cup was an individual campaign to forget. Whilst he did walk away with a winner’s medal, no player missed more big chances (5) than Martinez, and the striker failed to score a single goal throughout the tournament, with Julian Alvarez stealing the spotlight with goals.

Despite this, Martinez’s quality is still that of a top-level forward. Scoring 21 goals in 35 games for Inter Milan last season and currently on 7 goals and 4 assists in 16 games this season in Serie A, Martinez is clearly a striker with a high ceiling and whilst the World Cup was not his best showcase, it can be very easy to forget just how much quality the Argentine can have in front of goal.

Victor Osimhen

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Napoli currently sits 5 points clear at the top of Serie A and a big part of the electric campaign is thanks to Victor Osimhen. Currently the top scorer in the league, having 12 goal involvements in 12 Serie A games this season, Osimhen has provided to be a clinical goalscorer this season. Blessed with blistering pace, dominating physicality and a venomous strike, Osimhen could be a fantastic option for Manchester United to sign as their centre-forward.

As well as the questions of Osimhen’s technical ability and hold-up play, it seems very unlikely that the current league leaders would sell Osimhen (assuming he would even want to go to Manchester), and even if they would sell, the price would be enormous as Napoli themselves paid a large sum of €80M (£71M) for the Nigerian – meaning it is likely that Osimhen could cost United upwards of over £100M.

Youssoufa Moukoko

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Known for being the Bundesliga’s youngest-ever player, the youngest player to score 10 goals in the history of the Bundesliga and Germany’s youngest-ever player to represent his nation at the World Cup, it’s clear that Moukoko is a great level of talent at a ripe age of just 18. The German teenager has already achieved 6 goals and 4 assists in 14 games in the Bundesliga this season and with his contract running out in June this year, it would seem impossible for a starlet like Moukoko to not be regarded as an incredible option for top clubs to pursue.

Whilst Moukoko does not yet possess the vital experience that most high-level options in Europe’s top leagues do, it would feel like a missed opportunity to not take the German up as an attacking option that might lead to regret by other clubs. Moukoko is a very well-rounded player, technically gifted and blessed with pace and natural goalscoring instinct, Moukoko was born to be a number nine. Whilst Moukoko is a great prospect, Manchester United may not want to take the teenager on at the club and instead focus on a more developed option that may not present as much of a ‘risk’ as a young player like Moukoko may present.

Dusan Vlahovic

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Yet another option from Italy, Dusan Vlahovic is reminiscent of a ‘classic’ striker within the Premier League as the Serbian presents a great deal of physicality, technical and aerial ability and instinctive finishing in the box. Vlahovic, at just 22 years old, has already established himself as an elite name in Italy as the striker scored 24 league goals last season (only bettered by Ciro Immobile) and has 6 goals in 10 games in the current season.

Vlahovic is a big name and, like all big names in football, will come at a big price if Manchester United do come calling. However, Juventus are reportedly facing financial trouble within the club and should United try to take advantage of the club’s misfortune, they might be able to get top-level talent at a discounted price.

Harry Kane

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An unlikely but not impossible move, Harry Kane is no stranger to the Premier League. Recently making his 300th league appearance, Kane has practically scored 200 goals – more than Alan Shearer did after 300 appearances, who then went on to score the most ever amount of goals in the Premier League (260). Only Erling Haaland has scored more goals in the league than Kane’s tally of 15 after 18 games, and no one has to explain why Kane is a phenomenal striker. That being said, Kane truly is a phenomenal striker thanks to his completeness on the pitch – Kane can easily become a playmaker, finisher, target man etc. with ease at any given time.

Kane would likely be the ‘perfect’ player under Erik ten Hag at Manchester United, although to say that a move is unlikely could be an understatement. Arguably one of Tottenham’s greatest-ever servants, Kane may hesitate to consider a move to a Premier League rival and Tottenham would most likely not even consider it. However, Kane’s contract does expire next year and on a personal level, Kane could consider a change as the Englishman is yet to win a career trophy at the age of 29 – perhaps the temptation of a new challenge and project at Manchester United could be a temptation for Kane.

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