It may seem almost preposterous for a club of Manchester United’s stature and lavish spending to take such a frugal approach to their summer budget, but according to The Independent Jose Mourinho is unlikely to sign a new left-back this summer because he’s prioritising a backup striker to Romelu Lukaku.
In fairness, Ashley Young made the role his own last season and there’s always the option of Luke Shaw. But the former turns 33 next month and the latter’s Old Trafford career has spiralled into relative anonymity amid a spate of spats with Mourinho.
Likewise, left-back has been a problem position for much of the Portuguese’s tenure; in addition to Young and Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have all been fielded there with mixed results.
And the impact heavy spending on full-backs last summer had on Manchester City’s season shows how important defensive flankers are in the modern game. So with that in mind, Football FanCast have outlined five potential solutions – cut-price strikers who will add depth at centre-forward while leaving enough in the bank to sign a new top-class No.3.
Another four players have terminated their contracts with Sporting Lisbon following the infamous training ground assault from radical fans, including star striker Bas Dost. While the Dutchman may be just short of the top-class bracket, his scoring record has been strong at every club he’s played for – his career return at club level stands at 194 goals in 370 games, including 70 in 90 for the Portuguese outfit.
Also measuring in at a lofty 6 foot 5, he offers the physical presence Mourinho commands from his central strikers and should be able to bring the likes of Paul Pogba into the game in dangerous areas. Now available on a free transfer, he could prove to be an absolute steal for the Red Devils.
Salomon Rondon’s scoring record in the Premier League may seem a little underwhelming, managing just 24 in 108 outings, but being the centre-forward for a Tony Pulis side is one of the hardest jobs in English football.
The Venezuelan certainly has the talent to be far more prolific than that – in fact, his club career strike rate before moving to the Hawthorns was better than one-in-three – and in terms of style, he’s exactly what Mourinho will likely be looking for too, powerful and physical enough to hold up the ball in key areas. The fact he’s already experienced in the Premier League is a major plus as well, especially when combined with a relegation release clause of just £16.5million.
Considering Mario Balotelli has already plied his trade with Manchester City and Liverpool, joining the Old Trafford ranks this summer would mark an incredibly controversial move. But controversy is Mario’s middle name and after a few years in the wilderness, the Italy international has really got his career back on track with Nice, notching up 43 goals over the last two campaigns to muscle his way back into the Azzurri picture.
Mourinho worked with Balotelli at Inter and may therefore have a better chance than most in mentoring a talent he once described as ‘unmanageable’. Most appealingly though, the enigmatic 27-year-old is currently available on a free transfer.
Mourinho told reporters last year that he’d never have allowed Danny Welbeck to leave for Arsenal and it’s not hard to see why; versatile, physical, industrious and incredibly functional, he’s pretty much the perfect Mourinho player.
The England international hasn’t exactly flourished since joining the Gunners, a spell that has been surprisingly thwarted with injury problems, but with his contract due to expire next summer and Unai Emery taking the reigns from Arsene Wenger, now is the time to try and bring him back to his boyhood club in a cut-price deal – Transfermarkt value him at just £13.5million.
The question though, bearing Mourinho’s opinions on Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in mind, is whether United really need another forward who is part-winger and part-striker.
Chelsea were considering a swoop for Andy Carroll in January before eventually landing Olivier Giroud and although he’s an incredibly agricultural kind of player, there’s no doubt the England international is one of the most effective strikers in the Premier League when fit enough to be involved. Few can counteract his power in the air or his strength on the ground, and in some ways he’d be an ideal replacement for Marouane Fellaini whose height was often utilised as Mourinho’s Plan B when United struggled to get themselves over the line.
His West Ham contract only has a year left and because of Carroll’s injury problems, a half-decent bid will likely convince them to part with the oft-crocked centre-forward this summer.
So, Manchester United fans, which cut-price striker would you sign to ensure Mourinho can afford a top-class left-back this summer? Let us know by voting below…
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