Silly season has started early this year, with multiple reports indicating that Manchester United could be lining up a shock swoop for Sadio Mane in the summer. Once a target under Louis van Gaal, it seems as though his impending exit for Bayern Munich has set tongues a-wagging.
Aside from being a Liverpool legend, there are a plethora of reasons why the Red Devils should be keeping well away from the Senegalese striker. The Merseyside club look to have cut ties with Mane at the perfect moment last summer, with the forward looking a shadow of his former self out in Munich.
At this late stage of the season, Mane, 31, has scored just seven times against the famously gung-ho defences of the Bundesliga. In fairness, that is in part because the attacker has often found himself on the bench at Bayern, with first Julian Nagelsman and now Thomas Tuchel regularly rotating Mane out of the side.
But the fact that former Stoke City striker Eric Choupo-Moting has been deemed a more valuable member of the team on plenty of occasions this season should be cause for concern in itself. The Cameroon star has enjoyed a rich vein of form this season, but a year ago nobody would have imagined that he would be preferred over a player of Sadio Mane’s quality.
His start to life at Bayern Munich was encouraging – he scored four goals and bagged an assist in his first five matches – and fans of the Bavarian giants may well have been praising Mane as a shrewd signing at €32m.
But misfortune struck just before the World Cup, with Mane picking up a fibula injury during Bayern Munich’s 6-1 win over Werder Bremen in November. Mane had to spend three months on the sidelines after picking up a fibula injury, with surgery needed to correct the issue. It is fair to say that the break did not do him any favours.
Since his return at the start of April, he has been sluggish in the extreme, registering just one goal and one assist in nine matches. The culmination of his poor showings perhaps came against Hertha Berlin, where he missed a sitter and registered just 15 touches before being hooked at the hour mark. He appeared happy to wander aimlessly about the pitch, a ghost on the green.
Of course, it is only fair to point out that coming back from injury can take time, and were the situation merely physical, there might be every reason to believe that Sadio Mane could be back to his old self in a couple of months’ time.
But the state of affairs goes beyond that, and that is why Bayern Munich are more than happy for last summer’s marquee signing to be a departure in the next, with Man United supposedly among the favourites to offer an escape route.
After a chastening 3-0 defeat to Manchester City in the Champions League, Sadio Mane was fined €500,000 and given a one-match suspension by his club for punching Leroy Sane in the dressing room. After such a result tempers can obviously run high, but there can be no excuse for assaulting a teammate in such a way, regardless of exterior circumstances.
This is a player with age against him, who has been dogged by injuries and poor form, and appears to lack respect for his teammates.
This is a player Manchester United must avoid.
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