Ivan Perisic and Manchester United. Manchester United and Ivan Perisic. Since the Croatia winger’s goals in the semi-final and the final of the 2018 World Cup, his name has been linked with the Old Trafford club by pretty much everyone. Manchester Evening News are publishing quotes from the man himself, Tuttosport are discussing the potential replacements on Inter Milan’s shopping list and The Sun are reporting a potential double swoop involving Croatia team-mate Ante Rebic by citing mysteriously unnamed reports.
But what would happen if United actually moved for the dynamic winger, who Transfermarkt value at £40.5million? Football FanCast look at the potential consequences – some positive, some negative – of Perisic joining Jose Mourinho’s ranks before the end of the summer transfer window…
There’s an increasing feeling of inevitability about this one anyway but signing another wide forward would only push Anthony Martial closer towards the exit door, after his agent told reporters earlier this summer the France international wants to leave Old Trafford. The 22-year-old is a fantastic talent but he doesn’t naturally fit into Mourinho’s philosophy and that’s inevitably affected his game-time – last season, he only made six more starts than Alexis Sanchez who arrived at the end of the January transfer window.
With the Chilean and Marcus Rashford to contend with already, another left winger option would surely spell the end of Martial’s time with United, but the real concern is where he ends up next. Take a look at Kevin De Bruyne and Mohamed Salah – attacking players tipped for great things but find themselves pushed to the wayside by Mourinho tend to end up at the very top of the Premier League.
In many ways, reports of United’s interest in Perisic seem counter-intuitive, simply because United already have so many options for the left-hand side of their attack. Even if Martial’s exit made it a case of one-in-one-out, Mourinho still has three left wingers to choose from for any given game, and while such levels of depth are no doubt beneficial to a club that will expect to reach the latter stages of all four competitions they’re involved in, it would seem to ignore the worrying imbalance in United’s attack.
Compared to an embarrassment of riches on the left, Mourinho doesn’t have a single convincing option on the right. When Martial, Rashford or Sanchez play there, it affects their capacity to cut inside and shoot on their stronger foot. When Juan Mata or Jesse Lingard play there, they lack the speed to make any real nuisance of themselves on the counter-attack and end up making the play more narrow.
Perisic can play on the right-hand side – it’s not completely alien to him – but it’s not his best position either or one he’s particularly excelled in historically. So why exactly is Mourinho looking to add another wide attacker to his squad that only further muddies the situation on the left, and doesn’t provide any solution on the right? Whatever the motivation is, signing Perisic won’t address United’s intrinsic offensive imbalance.
Using statistics to dictate transfer policy is always a rather contentious idea but there are two that really stand out here, strongly endorsing the argument for sealing Perisic’s services this summer. The Croatian is a relentless crosser of the ball – last season he attempted 79 more crosses in Serie A than any United player did in the Premier League – but power in the air is probably the key aspect of Lukaku’s goalscoring the Red Devils failed to make the most of last season. Indeed, despite having theoretically the best supply of his career from United’s midfield, Lukaku’s percentage of headed goals in 2017/18 dropped below the 20% threshold set by his previous spells with Premier League clubs.
There were no doubt other factors at work and attempting crosses doesn’t actually mean you’re particularly good at them – only 22 of Perisic’s 200 balls lofted in from out wide last season actually found their target. But if Mourinho can get that supply line working consistently, it could well provide the goals Lukaku needs to really boost the total of his debut season and push the likes of Harry Kane for the Golden Boot. It could prove to be a very potent partnership, although Lukaku would have needed to double his tally from last term to match Mohamed Salah in the scoring charts. A few extra headers per season won’t be enough on its own – but it would at least be a start.
So, United fans, would you back a swoop for Perisic? Let us know by voting below…