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Manchester United now need a striker far more than a holding midfielder

Transfer priority re-think urgent after landscape suddenly changes completely

by Red Billy

Manchester United must change their priority for summer signings after a month that has changed the entire balance of the squad.

It has long been held that the top priority for the club this summer should be a defensive midfielder, with the likes of West Ham’s Declan Rice and RB Leipzig’s Amadou Haidara among the favourites for the role.

A recent poll by The Athletic revealed that 93% of United fans see midfield as the priority for strengthening at the end of the season.

Under former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Scott McTominay and Fred, both of whom are more natural box-to-box players, were employed as a ‘double pivot’ with neither alone seen as capable of performing the job of one specialist holding midfielder.

Under Ralf Rangnick, McTominay has usually been charged with the role alone, but has struggled to dominate games.

With 33-year-old Nemanja Matic having slowed over the years, it has seemed obvious that new blood is required in this area.

Meanwhile, just a few months ago, things in the centre-forward department seemed rosy.

A sprightly Cristiano Ronaldo was scoring consistently for United and in September Solskjaer proclaimed that his unusual fitness levels could mean he could carry on at the top level into his forties.

Edinson Cavani was a world class backup option and the incredibly talented Mason Greenwood was coming through. There were also the options of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, who had scored 45 goals between them in 2019/20.

Now, Ronaldo’s goals have dried up and he seems to be showing his age. Cavani tried to leave in the January window and has been riddled with injuries all season, while Greenwood’s off-field behaviour has left him suspended from the club and perhaps unlikely ever to wear the red shirt again.

Rashford’s form has been abysmal for the best part of a year now and Martial has been shipped off to Sevilla to try to rediscover his.

The signing of a goalscoring forward is now therefore essential.

Rangnick was filmed this weekend being asked if United would be signing [defender, Sevilla’s Jules] Koundé, Rice and [Borussia Dortmund’s Erling] Haaland this summer, to which he replied “what are you dreaming at night?”

A lighthearted joke perhaps, but the manager knows that strikers of the calibre needed at United do not come cheap and it seems unlikely that the club will provide the £250 million or more needed to fill both positions with their first (or near first) choice options.

There are, of course, cheaper options than the likes of Rice for the holding midfield position. One solution could be found in loanee James Garner, whose form for Championship side Nottingham Forest has been superb.

Garner, too, started life as a more attacking midfielder but he made the adjustment back to a number six at a younger age than “McFred” and has taken to it like a duck to water.

The academy graduate’s coming of age, with McTominay and the recently rejuvenated Matic as backups, could free up United to concentrate on their striker shortlist, which is believed to contain the likes of Haaland, Spurs’ Harry Kane and Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez.

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