Manchester United are in a position they haven’t been in for a decade, one of joy and celebration but with the promise of even better times on the horizon. A promise that looks likely to be fulfilled.
Erik ten Hag has done a remarkable job in his few short months in charge at Old Trafford. It should never be forgotten that he inherited a United side that had just put in its worst-ever Premier League campaign, one riddled with disruptive personalities and filled to the brim with self-loathing. He has transformed the side on and off the pitch. A long-lost self-belief has returned and those who spent the last decade rejoicing in the club’s misfortune are mourning their lost days of glee.
What has made it all the more impressive is that Ten Hag has been hamstrung on options throughout the campaign, especially up front. Let’s not get it wrong. United’s squad is full of highly talented players and the Dutchman got to add over £200million worth of talent to his ranks in the summer, the majority of teams can only dream of such riches. But, United have still played most of the campaign without a proper striker.
Also read: Ten Hag targeting two major signings in summer
One was needed last summer but with the budget being prioritised in other positions, they went without. However justifiable, it did prove to be costly as United lacked real verve going forward and were left with the miserable, sulking presence of Cristiano Ronaldo as their only natural centre-forward. Especially as Anthony Martial, despite looking bright when he did play, was repeatedly suffering injuries and hardly available.
Marcus Rashford was showing signs of resurrection, though, and when Ronaldo’s time at the club came to its sudden, explosive end, it was the catalyst that saw him rise from the ashes. Rashford now has a career-best 25 goals so far this season, with 17 of them coming in the 19 games since Ronaldo’s departure.
But still, the red-hot forward has continued to do his best working coming in off the left wing rather than leading the line. Wout Weghorst was brought in on loan from Burnley and though the lumbering Dutchman has been wayward in front of goal, his relentless pressing and sharp link-up play have added an extra dimension.
Ten Hag has enjoyed great success despite his limited striker options already and there are three more potential trophies to win as well as the Carabao Cup. But if United are to build upon his excellent work then a quality striker must be signed in the summer. That’s a given and the club have already made it their summer priority, with Victor Osimhen and Harry Kane emerging as potential options.
Either would be a fantastic addition but, thanks to Martial, United probably need more than just one. The Frenchman has missed 26 of a possible 40 matches this season and hasn’t completed 90 minutes for the club in well over two years. It’s hard to rely on any player who just isn’t capable of playing consistently.
Though it may be difficult to find a buyer, United are aiming to sell Martial in the summer – along with the likes of Harry Maguire and Alex Telles – in order to fund their summer business. Ten Hag can’t be blamed for losing faith but the options will need to be replenished.
It’s obviously impossible to sign two strikers of Osimhen or Kane’s price and quality so instead, a supplementary signing will be needed, either a youngster willing to bide his time, a quality versatile option capable in several positions or an older head happy to be a reserve.
Weghorst would fill the latter slot perfectly. The 30-year-old has settled nicely in Manchester, works well in the team and shouldn’t be too costly to make the switch permanent. Though Ten Hag says it’s too early to decide on his future.
“I think it’s much too quick, much too soon to talk about that,” Ten Hag said. “First, we are in this season. That is where the only focus has to be. No distractions for what is coming next season.”
Then there is Ajax starlet Mohammed Kudus, who Ten Hag already knows well from his time in Amsterdam and is capable of playing anywhere in attack to a quality standard. It’s understood the manager believes the 22-year-old has the attributes to excel in the Premier League and he also has the attributes to be a great fit in the squad.
Either Weghorst or Kudus would be perfect signings to complement the arrival of a star striker and significantly improve United next season. In fact, why not go and get both?
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