With the transfer merry-go-round slowly kicking into gear, gossip columns are beginning to fill with rumours of players moving this summer.
Manchester United are expected to be one of those most active in the transfer window, strengthening accordingly to return to the summit of England’s top tier.
United are keen to add quality additions to their squad ahead of their return to the Champions League and are well priced to win the competition.
A problematic position for United last season was in attack, with Robin van Persie failing to replicate his World Cup exploits for the former champions. Radamel Falcao, meanwhile, did not have the desired impact at Old Trafford following his arrival on loan from Monaco. The former is expected to depart the club this summer, while the latter has returned to the French side following the end of his loan spell.
Javier Hernández is also set to be sold after an underwhelming stint with Real Madrid, which would leave Wayne Rooney and James Wilson as the only strikers available to Louis van Gaal.
As one might expect, United have been linked with a host of big-named frontmen in a bid to swell their attacking ranks. Memphis Depay was the first offensive arrival this summer, but he is unlikely to be the last, with the following six strikers reportedly on United’s radar this summer.
Let’s take a closer look…
Carlos Bacca (Sevilla)
Sevilla’s top goalscorer Carlos Bacca enjoyed a hugely successful campaign for the Spanish outfit. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (48), Lionel Messi (43), Antoine Griezmann and Neymar (both 22) netted more league goals than Bacca (20) in La Liga last season, accentuating his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘finishing’. Not a bad return for a player who plied his trade as a bus driver’s assistant in 2006 and a fisherman in 2009.
At 28 years of age, the Colombia international is reaching the peak of his game, which United would be keen to exploit. Six league assists was the best return of all Sevilla players, but his lack of input in terms of general build-up play may deter Van Gaal from sanctioning a move. An average of 23.7 touches per game is not ideal for a frontman in a team where a possession-based approach is favoured. Saying that, a conversion rate of 29% last season was mightily impressive.
Gonzalo Higuaín (Napoli)
A failure to land silverware and attain a Champions League berth could convince Gonzalo Higuaín that his future lies away from Napoli. The Argentine has impressed in his two years in Naples, netting 35 league goals in 69 appearances. Only Luca Toni, Mauro Icardi (both 22) and Carlos Tévez (20) netted more goals in Serie A last season than Higuaín (18). The 27 year old has scored at least 15 league goals in five of his last six seasons, which has helped boost his profile in Europe.
Statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘holding on to the ball’ and ‘key passes’ show he is capable of being involved in build-up play, with seven league assists a respectable return for the prolific frontman. Higuaín has already proven his goalscoring ability in La Liga and Serie A and the marksman has the right attributes to do so in the Premier League. If United firm up their reported interest, a move could be beneficial for both player and team.
Mario Mandzukic (Atletico Madrid)
“I’d be excited to have a player like (Carlos) Tévez as he is ideal for our style of play and our mentality,” Diego Simeone said this week. The Atletico Madrid boss’ admission suggests Mario Mandzukic could be on his way out of the club, with United linked with a move for the fiery Croat. Twelve goals and a further five assists in his debut campaign in Spain contributed to a WhoScored.com rating of 7.22.
The former Bayern star, on his day, is a nightmare to come up against and, given his power and striking prowess, would make an impressive coup for any Premier League side. However, with Van Gaal favouring a more measured style of play, it remains to be seen whether Mandzukic is tailored for United. Nearing 30, the club would perhaps be better suited to pursuing other targets.
Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
The PFA Young Player of the Year has been strongly linked with a move to United after a thoroughly impressive season with Spurs. Only Sergio Agüero (26) scored more goals in the Premier League last season than Kane (21), as Mauricio Pochettino’s side secured a fifth-placed finish and a Europa League return. The England international’s willingness to drop deeper to link up with the midfield would also appeal to Van Gaal.
However, with just one full Premier League season under his belt, any big-money move presents a risk for United. Furthermore, Spurs are not prepared to sell a player who only recently extended his contract. There is the concern that Kane is a one-season wonder, while United’s previous history with Spurs with transfers could scupper any potential deal. As good as Kane was for the north London side last term, United would be wise to look elsewhere.
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)
Perhaps the most suitable target for United, Karim Benzema continues to impress for Real Madrid, with a willingness to work hard off the ball for the good of the team a strength. His excellent link-up play would benefit the 2012/13 champions in their bid to wrestle the title away from Chelsea. It remains to be seen how big a role Benzema will play in the Spanish capital next season under recently appointed head coach Rafa Benitez, which could convince the Frenchman to search for a new challenge this summer, especially amidst reports Benitez could charge Cristiano Ronaldo with spearheading the Blancos attack.
A WhoScored.com rating of 7.56 was the eighth best in La Liga last season, with Benzema directly involved in 25 league goals last season. Ten of those were assists, which further highlights the 27-year-old’s selflessness. His runs when not in possession would benefit his teammates, particular those coming from deep, and his ability to rob the opposition of the ball in dangerous areas would certainly improve United’s chances of landing their 21st top-tier title.
Edinson Cavani (PSG)
Edinson Cavani netted a notable 13 times in his final nine domestic appearances for PSG last season and is clearly a striker on top of his game. That flurry of goals as the campaign came to a head may convince the Parisian side not to sell the Uruguay international, even though they were seemingly prepared to do business earlier in the year.
His tenacity and high-energy approach to the game, along with his obvious goal-getting ability, would boost any team. Despite a mixed spell in Paris, Cavani is still widely regarded as one of the finest frontmen in the game. He has all the makings of a Premier League striker, though his hold-up play has at times left a lot to be desired. While United would be wise not to pass up on the opportunity to sign Cavani – which is perhaps unlikely given reports that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is to return to Milan this summer – they should perhaps focus their efforts on Higuaín or Benzema in the transfer window.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com, where you can find more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings. You can follow all the scores, statistics, live player and team ratings with their new free-to-download app, available on both iOS and Android.