The Hard Tackle lists three strikers Manchester United should target to replace Cristiano Ronaldo, who has departed from Old Trafford.
Legends of the game usually tend to get fairytale endings when they approach the end of their careers. That is especially true for the best players to have graced the game, not least those whose greatness transcends generations. One player who falls in the category of an all-time great is Cristiano Ronaldo. Alas, his fairytale ending did not arrive at Manchester United.
The Portuguese international may be the best player ever to have played the game, according to some pundits and fans. But while his place among the greats is unquestionable, his prima donna nature and self-centric attitude have rubbed many the wrong way. And some of those are at Manchester United.
The veteran striker returned to Old Trafford 18 months ago to a hero’s welcome when he joined Manchester United from Juventus. And while the Red Devils were in sixes and sevens last season, Ronaldo had a solid individual campaign. But things took a turn for the worse as soon as it became clear that Manchester United would not qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
Ronaldo was desperate to leave Manchester United in the summer transfer window, and his agent Jorge Mendes offered his services to many clubs. But the 37-year-old could not earn his desired move, with his wages being the biggest stumbling block. Ronaldo then missed the pre-season, with Manchester United showing promising signs.
The veteran striker returned to the pitch ahead of the 2022/23 season, with Erik ten Hag insisting he had the player in his plans. The caveat was that Ronaldo had to build up sharpness and fitness to start games regularly. That did not sit well with the Portuguese international, even though his form was dreadful.
Manchester United will save around £17m as Cristiano Ronaldo agreed not to receive any pay off. 🔴🤝🏻 #MUFC
Plan was to invest on new striker in July but Man Utd are now already exploring the market to find a solution in January. pic.twitter.com/NCo0oLhokg
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 23, 2022
The first blow then came in a Premier League game against Tottenham Hotspur, with Ronaldo refusing to come on as a substitute. Worse still was his decision to walk out of the stadium before the game ended. Manchester United subsequently suspended him for one game before he returned to action.
Erik ten Hag was ready to mend fences and handed Ronaldo the armband in a game between Manchester United and Aston Villa. But then came the death blow for the former Real Madrid talisman at Old Trafford. He gave an explosive interview to Piers Morgan, accusing ten Hag, Manchester United, and legends of several misgivings.
In truth, he should have looked at himself in the mirror to see where things went wrong. But Ronaldo does not operate like that, and he got his exit from Manchester United in the aftermath of the interview. The Red Devils have announced that Ronaldo will not return to Old Trafford after the FIFA World Cup 2022 following the termination of his contract.
The Premier League heavyweights do not have any time to waste as they need to sign a striker to replace Ronaldo. But bringing in their desired target in January might be difficult. So The Hard Tackle lists three potential replacements for Ronaldo who might arrive at Old Trafford either in January or next summer.
The first name on our list features a player who is one of the most highly sought-after strikers in Europe. This centre-forward has been prolific in two of Europe’s top-five leagues and has seen his stock skyrocket in the last few years. We are talking about Victor Osimhen.
The Nigerian international had already risen to prominence during his stint with LOSC Lille. And after initial struggles at Napoli, Osimhen has established himself as a pivotal figure for the Serie A giants. Suffice it to say, the 23-year-old has captured the attention of several European bigwigs.
Fabio Cesar Montezine has claimed Victor Osimhen is ahead of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia of the Napoli players who impresses him the most. pic.twitter.com/oN4tCYnOBY
— GOAL Africa (@GOALAfrica) November 19, 2022
Osimhen is unsurprisingly a target for Manchester United, and it is easy to see why. The young striker has all the makings to succeed in the Premier League. He has the physique to hold his ground and muscle his way in set pieces. In addition, Osimhen is one of the best finishers in Serie A.
While the player’s hold-up play can improve, he still has plenty of room to grow. But Manchester United might face intense competition for his signature, with recent reports claiming he is a target for Liverpool. But his potential fee could reach nine figures, and Manchester United will be among a select few clubs that can afford him. So they should have the advantage while pursuing Osimhen.
The next name on our list might not be as approachable as Osimhen. But Manchester United can find a way to poach him if his current employers do not finish in the top four in Serie A and the Red Devils clinch Champions League qualification. This player is Dusan Vlahovic.
The Serbian striker has seen his stock rise considerably in the last 18 months. He first became a household name at Fiorentina before joining Juventus in January this year. And Vlahovic has continued to make significant progress in the last ten months at the Allianz Arena.
Dusan Vlahovic for Serbia:
👕 17 games
⚽️ 9 goals
🅰️ 6 assists
📊 63.8 minutes per goal contribution
Loaded gun 🚀 pic.twitter.com/0a3shTDZYs
— Serbian Football (@SerbianFooty) November 20, 2022
Like Osimhen, finishing is one of Vlahovic’s strong suits, and he can bully the most imposing defenders. But he will need to improve his output during build-up play to win over Erik ten Hag. However, the 22-year-old will provide a strong presence inside the box during set-piece situations, another positive for Manchester United.
However, like Osimhen, the Juventus striker has high-profile suitors across Europe apart from Manchester United. In addition, with the youngster still in the first year of his Juventus stint, it might be a tall order for Manchester United to sign him unless Juventus’s second half of the season is incredibly disastrous.
The final name on our list is a player who is even younger than the other two players mentioned before him. This striker has the ability to be Manchester United’s answer to Erling Haaland at Manchester City if the Red Devils nurture him correctly. We are talking about Youssoufa Moukoko.
Moukoko first burst into the spotlight when his undeniable quality forced the Bundesliga to amend a rule and fast-track his professional debut. The 18-year-old is now a regular for Borussia Dortmund despite still being in his teens. And he is currently in Qatar to represent Germany at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Youssufa Moukoko on contract expiring in June: “I will make my decision at the right moment. I feel so happy at BVB and I know Edin Terzić trusts me”. 🚨🟡⚫️ #BVB
“You’ll find out if I decide to stay at BVB or not”, Moukoko added. pic.twitter.com/0fDJJPuOkJ
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) November 19, 2022
To make matters more enticing for Manchester United and his other suitors, he will enter the final six months of his contract in January. So Manchester United might be able to initiate pre-contract talks if they step up their interest in him. With the teenage prodigy having all the makings to be his generation’s best striker, the Red Devils need to intensify their efforts to sign him.
Moukoko might not be a like-for-like replacement for Ronaldo at Manchester United. But his finishing ability and link-up play might make him an upgrade in the long run. He understandably needs to add more to his game, but Manchester United should pounce and sign him while they have the chance. But Liverpool might be leading the race to sign Moukoko. So it might be a complicated chase.
Honourable Mention: Ivan Toney
Ivan Toney is certainly an option worth considering for Manchester United and has the ability to be an upgrade on Ronaldo. But with a cloud of uncertainty looming over his head in the wake of his betting scandal, the Englishman might not remain a target for long.