Andy Mitten believes that Manchester United will change their transfer strategy as they chase a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo in the January window.
The reliable reporter was speaking on the Talk of the Devils Podcast about the club’s desire to bring in a forward.
Fellow Athletic journalist Laurie Whitwell was optimistic about Erik ten Hag’s chances of landing a forward in the winter window.
“If Ten Hag wants a striker in January, United have already shown that they have accommodated him in the summer with some of the signings,” said Whitwell. “I’m not saying that they’ve gone and got everything that he needs, and they need to have a better way of presenting options to him, but they have at least followed through with certain signings that he wanted.
“So I feel like he’s got pretty decent authority in that regard and, if that’s what he wants, then they’ll definitely try to do it. If there is a player that they want for the summer that becomes available in January, then they’ll look at it.”
That leaves a lot of possibility for the manager to get his way regarding a new striker, but Mitten urged a note of caution on the subject, suggesting that the Red Devils’ outlay in their last transfer window may prove an obstacle.
“United overspent in the summer – completely,” he said. “So you have to look at the type of player United could bring in.”
With a stretched budget it could prove difficult to bring in a player of the required quality, but Mitten supposes that there are options out there.
“You mentioned Depay. Would Barcelona sell him? Yes, straight away! That makes it much easier because Barcelona need the money. You’ve got clubs who need the money, who need to sell. Or you’ve got the Aubameyang example: someone who wants to get out of a club, like he did a year ago.”
Depay could well prove to be a smart signing for the squad. The former United player has been open about his lack of professionalism during his time in Manchester and is a different player now to what he was during his first stint at the club.
However, the thought of an Aubameyang-type deal would likely cause very little enthusiasm among the fanbase, but it is not a route that Mitten expects the club to go down any time soon.
“There’s not a lot of world-class number nines around and United are even adding to that and saying ‘We don’t want to the aging veteran coming in. We don’t want a player who’s not going to improve the team. So that would rule out an Ighalo equivalent, for example.”
That would certainly open up the club to a more forward-thinking signing in January and a player who could make a real difference to Ten Hag’s challenge for a top four spot and a trophy would certainly be boosted by a quality addition.
Again, however, Mitten was quick to point out that managers do not always get what they want, adding, “I can see that Ten Hag is saying ‘I want a number nine,’ but you know if my missus dumped me tomorrow then I wouldn’t mind going out with Margot Robbie! It might not happen.
“Managers always want more players and that’s the reason why we got Cristiano Ronaldo as well, because Ed Woodward said to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ‘Would you like him?’ and it’s far easier to say yes than no.”
A similar situation is doubtful to reoccur going by Mitten’s words, as he reflected on his time spent asking Ten Hag about the type of forward he would want to bring into his squad.
“Erik ten Hag has got a clear idea of what he wants, and a few names were mentioned to him, and he knew a lot about those players – I was really impressed by it.
“We know that he like Ramos at Benfica, but then who wouldn’t? We know that he’d like Gakpo at PSV.
“I don’t think there’s the desperation that there was when United signed Fernandes. League form has been good/not bad. Results are improving. New players are still settling in. There’s still wiggle room for Anthony Martial to come back. If he is fit and playing, his returns are actually pretty good!”
With Jadon Sancho on indefinite leave while he regains his form and fitness, and United generally lacking options in attack, relying on a player who has managed just two Premier League starts this campaign – as Martial has – would not be considered a wise move.
Ultimately the top end of the pitch is where Man United need urgent improvement, with Mitten adding, “United need to score more goals. Twenty against City’s forty? That’s why we’re having these conversations.”
So while there remains a possibility that United end up without a new centre forward come February 1st, it does appear that their recruitment will be forward-thinking. An end to the constant cycle of bringing in strikers on the verge of retirement would be a welcome change at Old Trafford.
And with clubs like Barcelona and Juventus facing financial difficulties, a striker who could immediately improve Ten Hag’s team may well become available in January.