Manchester United have drawn up a four-man shortlist for the right-wing position this summer as the club attempts to begin its new approach to recruitment.
Christopher Michel (Fussball.News) reveals the club wants to move away from the model which saw Raphael Varane and Casemiro signed on expensive long-term contracts as they entered the twilight of their career. This mentality will apply even to free transfers.
As such, Michel believes United have ruled out moves for Piotr Zielinski (Napoli) and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (Bayern Munich) – players who fit the profile of needs at Old Trafford – despite both their contracts expiring in the summer, as they will be 30 and 35 next season.
Instead, United scouts are focusing on younger players whose best years are ahead of them. Similarly, these targets will be motivated by the prospect of success, rather than a last pay-day at the world’s friendliest retirement home in recent years – Old Trafford, emphasis on Old.
Michel describes the criteria the club will be targeting as players who are “younger, hungrier, more committed, [and] more combative.”
He contends United have drawn up a list of four forwards to target this summer as the club attempts to rectify Erik ten Hag’s misfiring forward line: Joshua Zirkzee (FC Bologna), Johan Bakayoko (PSV), Michael Olise (Crystal Palace) and Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao).
Though each player does not necessarily operate in the same area – Zirkzee is a centre-forward, Williams a left-winger while Olise and Bakayoko play on the right – they do fit a consistent mould which speaks to the new approach United are adopting.
They are young (Zirkzee and Olise are 22 while Williams is 21 and Bakayoko 20); they play for ‘smaller’ clubs where United would be an exciting and motivating jump in their career; and they possess a potent pairing of technical ability and physical quality.
Furthermore, they each possess a versatility to their game which could see them operate in multiple different roles at Old Trafford. Too many of United’s existing forward line are positionally rigid, incapable of being relocated.
Similarly, United have been stung in recent years when signing attackers who, despite fitting the aforementioned criteria, could not handle the rigours of English football.
Jadon Sancho and Antony – signed for a combined fee in the region of £160 million – do not appear physically capable of succeeding in the Premier League, where technique must be matched by speed and strength. Donny van de Beek constitutes another such example.
Given their physical talents, any one of Zirkzee, Willians, Olise or Bakayoko would not fall foul of the same failings.