The future of Cristiano Ronaldo is very much uncertain at Old Trafford. The Athletic reported on Monday that Man United forward has already arrived in Manchester to hold talks about his future with new coach Erik Ten Hag.
Now, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of, if not the greatest footballer players of all time. Even at 37, he dragged the Reds from Manchester to a Europa League qualification last season and also made the PFA Team of the Year. To speak of a replacement is a far shot, though here are a few options that are available and can fit in at Manchester United:
United are short on striking options this season. Anthony Martial & Marcus Rashford endured a torrid time last season although both have been really good in this pre-season. With Mason Greenwood’s future with the club looking bleak & Edinson Cavani already off the bill – like a defensive midfielder, The Red Devils will also have to go shopping for striking options in the market.
Currently, there is a small pool of players to choose from. Whether these players would arrive at Old Trafford is a tough question but Kylian Mbappe has committed his future to PSG, Erling Haaland has joined cross-town rivals Manchester City, Darwin Nunez, a player heavily linked to the club has moved to Liverpool while Robert Lewandowski forced his move to FC Barcelona. So who are available and probable if Manchester United were to look in the market for that No. 9 role?
This move would be really cheap given that Atalanta will not play Champions League football this season. Duvan Zapata is an experienced player and would be a great short-term investment. He has played 8 seasons in Serie A for various clubs most notably for Atalanta B.C for whom he has scored 106 goals and laid off a further 44 assists in 257 Serie A games. That is an outstanding record and he has scored more than 10 league goals in his last six seasons. His Champions League record is also excellent, scoring 7 goals and providing 6 assists in 19 games. His injury was excellent up till last year when a series of injuries derailed his and his club’s Serie A campaign.
Zapata is a player with great speed and sumptuous movements on and off the ball. He can go up against the most physical defenders owing to his physique which also aids him in defending the ball with his back to goal, something that helps in keeping possession and bringing his teammates (wingers & midfielder) into the game. He is also decent in one on one situations.
Duvan is a high-volume shooter with 3.7 shots per 90, his career average which is the same amount of shots as CR7 but the latter has better accuracy. He was creative with 0.21 xA per 90 last season.
As we said earlier this is really affordable with Transfermarkt valuing him at £25.20m.
Having said that he has played well for a well-drilled and offensive high-pressure system set up by head coach Gian Piero Gasperini. His system has always extracted the best of his offensive players, so whether Duvan could translate this form into young but a side in transformation like Manchester United remains to be seen.
Moussa Dembele has had two polar opposite seasons for Lyon. In 2020-21, the striker did not have a great time in France and was loaned out too soon to be crowned Spanish champions Atletico Madrid to provide cover in the centre-forward position to Luis Suarez. It proved to be a disaster as he did manage to score even a single goal and was mostly injured. But he did get to collect a winners medal so that’s a bonus.
Lyon were undergoing big changes behind the scenes last season with Jean-Michel Aulas selling the club, and on the field, results were also tough to get. Moussa managed to make the best of this time, scoring 21 goals in 30 league games at a rate of 105 goals per minute. This has been the trend throughout his career as he has proven to be a reliable goal scorer with 32, 16 (injury-hit season), 23, and 24 goals in the campaigns before 2020-21.
He’s very similar to Sébastien Haller, a player who Erik Ten Hag worked with AFC Ajax last season and managed 34 goals in 42 games in all competitions. Dembele is a penalty box predator and is particularly very good in making runs behind the opposition defenders. He is very quick and this gives him the time to move away from his markers which in turn gives him a lot of time to take his shot at the goal. Dembele is very calm in one-on-one situations as well.
Dembele’s numbers last season suggest that he is not a great presser of the ball but maybe the instructions given to him were different so under Ten Hag that should be a problem as gauging through the numbers we see that he is a great contributor to defence and works hard for his team.
He is currently valued at €20m by Transfermarkt and with his contract expiring next summer will be an easy man to get.
Probably the most expensive and ungettable option on this list, Victor Osimhen looks set to start the new Serie A in Napoli colors. After Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens, David Ospina & most importantly captain Kalidou Koulibaly departed from the club, it is highly unlikely that president Aurelio De will sanction any move for the Nigerian forward. Also if there was any potential sale, it would have to exceed the fee paid by SSC Napoli to Lille which was €80M two seasons ago.
Victor is clearly a great player. If it had not been for his injuries, Napoli would have made the Serie A race into a three-horse race. 14 goals and 2 assists in 27 league games is a very good return. Even for Nigeria, the centre forward has bagged 15 goals in 22 appearances.
He takes 7.11 touches in the opposition box and receives the creative passes very well. He also takes shots from very good areas improving his chances of scoring a goal. 4.5 shots are on par with some of the best in the world and he has 0.5 of these shots resulting in a goal. He is a relentless player who keeps his team in the matches till the last minute.
NOTE: Of-course there are many other options out there, but these are a few considerable at this point in this window. That could change with time and financial availability.