Let’s face it Manchester United – since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement at the end of the 2012/13 season, the trophies have dried up at Old Trafford.
Of course, three since is nothing to be sniffed at considering how competitive English football is these days, but that’s also an average of just 0.5 per season. After lifting his first in 1989/90, Fergie averaged double that at one per year.
More pertinent is the quality of trophy United have lifted over the last six years – League Cups and Europa League titles are modest in comparison to Premier League and Champions League crownings – and the fact none have come in since the end of 2016/17.
If United fail to win the FA Cup or Europa League once the season resumes, United will be amid their longest trophy drought since the 1980s.
But a reported target of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s could soon put them back on the right path due to one distinct trait he possesses. According to The Daily Star, United are willing to pay out Saul Niguez’s £135m release clause, with the Atletico midfielder scouted as a replacement for Paul Pogba.
It’s most likely the Spaniard’s industry and tenacity – in typical Atletico style – that has won the Red Devils over, but another quality of his could be what soon sees them picking up silverware of the highest order once again, even if United still aren’t quite the most dominant force around.
Indeed, the midfielder has always had a lust for scoring incredibly important goals in incredibly important games – usually with some style too.
In fact, according to Transfermarkt, more than 50% of his strikes for Atletico have been game-winning goals (defined as goals that put the score in the direction it eventually concludes in) while perhaps even more incredibly, his 38 goals have lead to 33 wins, five draws and not a single defeat for the La Liga club.
Most significant, though, is his record in the knockout stages of cup competitions, which appears to be when the 25-year-old truly comes alive. Almost exactly one third of his goals have been in such circumstances, including a goal in last season’s European Super Cup against Real Madrid and most recently, a winner against Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League Round of 16 tie.
In fact, excepting his first at senior level, Niguez has netted at least one knockout goal during each season of his career, and Atletico have reaped the rewards of that. During the 19-cap international’s time in the team, they’ve won a Copa del Rey, a Europa League title and reached a Champions League final.
And while Niguez on his own won’t instantly transform United back into one of the top sides in Europe, those small marginal advantages – like a player who tends to turn up when it becomes all-or-nothing football – can make all the difference when competing in the truly elite competitions, the competitions United ultimately need to start winning again.
£135m is a lot of money, but if the Atletico ace provides a similar supply of crucial goals at Old Trafford, then he’ll prove to be worth every penny.