Manchester United’s Zion Suzuki: Scouting Report

Viraj Nerurkar
By Viraj Nerurkar
7 Min Read

Manchester United find themselves in a strange situation,  looking for two goalkeepers this summer, with the departure of long time servant and legend David de Gea, after the expiry of his contract, leaving the Red Devils without a number 1 keeper. Similarly, with Dean Henderson also set to leave Old Trafford this summer, that leaves Tom Heaton as the only senior keeper at the club currently, with youth player Matej Kovar given a chance in the pre-season friendlies.

Man United are close to completing the acquisition of Cameroon and Inter Milan goalkeeper Andre Onana, with the 27-year-old expected to become a United player soon. He will undoubtedly be installed as the number 1 keeper, but it still leaves doubts over the role of the backup keeper. The name of Japanese keeper Zion Suzuki has cropped up, with United scouts keeping tabs on the 20-year-old currently plying his trade in the J1 League.

Suzuki has reportedly been on United’s since 2017, and the English giants feel it is the right time to make a move for him, with Urawa Red Diamonds- Suzuki’s current club- set to receive a bid in the region of £5 million. That fee would make it the biggest deal in J1 League history, and excitement is rife among fans to see if a move materializes.

Who is Zion Suzuki?

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Born in Arkansas, USA to a Japanese mother and a father of Ghanian descent, Zion was primarily brought up in the Saitama Prefecture region of Japan. He spent his formative years there, subsequently signing for his local club Urawa Reds, and developed in their academy. In 2018, at the age of 16, he signed with a professional contract with the club and made the record books, becoming the youngest player in the club’s history to do so.

He made his debut soon after in 2021, keeping a clean sheet on his debut and followed it up with two more clean sheets in his subsequent two appearances. At the international level, he has represented Japan at youth levels, rising through the under 15s all the way up to the under 23s. He then made his senior debut for his country in 2022, keeping a clean sheet in a 6-0 win over Hong Kong.

Why Manchester United are targeting Suzuki?

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For the last few years, Manchester United’s goalkeeping department has had one glaring issue. For all of David de Gea’s exceptional shot-stopping and brilliant saves, the Spaniard’s failure to be confident with the ball at his feet frustrated fans and coaches alike. De Gea had obvious issues with distribution and commanding his own box. A lack of communication and reluctancy in leaving his line often resulted in calamitous errors for the Red Devils, which was not at all suitable to Erik ten Hag’s style of play. Ten Hag demands his goalkeeper to be proactive on the pitch and take part in the build-up play while in possession, much like the Edersons and Allisons of the world.

Keeping that in mind, he has gone after not one but two keepers who fit the bill perfectly, with Onana coming in and Suzuki set to be his understudy.  Suzuki does not have as much experience playing at the highest level of football, only breaking into the senior team in 2021, having featured for his club side just 28 times since. However, in his limited window of opportunity, the American born Japanese keeper has shown immense talent and quality, registering 11 clean sheets in the process.

Furthermore, Suzuki’s distribution and vision has drawn praise from critics and scouts, with one report even saying “Zion’s distribution is exceptional, he makes passes which would be talked about for weeks if it were Ederson.” Sometimes described as reckless, the Japanese man is very comfortable with the ball at his feet and his ability to read the game means he can claim crosses into the box. Zion is extremely quick and has fast reflexes which make him an excellent shot-stopper as well. A peek at his compilations will show him flying across his box, punching and collecting crosses and making astonishing saves.

Still only 20, he is susceptible to an odd error, which should fade away with time and experience. A sweeper-keeper, as they are called after the term was popularized by Manuel Neuer, Zion has the backing of many critics to become one of the hottest properties in world football. As a result, there is little surprise that three countries are vying with each other to induct him into their national team, with Japan, the United States as well as Ghana all trying to get him.

The modern goalkeeper has become vital to their team’s capacity to build up play. They receive and make more passes than in previous times, something that is reflected in the way the top teams like Manchester City play. Manchester United have lagged behind City for almost a decade now, and this signing could be a step in the right direction to plugging that gap.

The Red Devils are now on course to bring in two keepers who play in a similar fashion. Having a solid backup to your number 1 keeper implies good squad depth, which is a luxury in its own sense. At a cheap rate, Suzuki could become one of the bargains of the summer if United can get his signature on the dotted line, and this transfer story is definitely one to watch.

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