Cody Gakpo has gone to Liverpool instead of Manchester United, and the Red Devils need to act fast if they are to plug a gap in their attack, with Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting emerging as the most viable alternative.
Man Utd have effectively played without a bona fide No.9 this season, with Cristiano Ronaldo dropped long before he slammed the club in an interview with Piers Morgan, and Marcus Rashford – their top scorer – more comfortable on the left.
The last time they played Nottingham Forest in the Premier League in 1999, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole started up front, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came off the bench to score four, and Teddy Sheringham didn’t even make the squad.
READ: Ten Hag brands Man Utd’s recent transfer business ‘average’
Anthony Martial led the line from the start for just the third time this season on Tuesday, and between his injury struggles, Rashford’s positional preference and United’s squad planning – or lack thereof – the Red Devils need to spend in January, although they can’t spend big.
“We’re looking for a striker,” Ten Hag admitted recently. “[But] it has to match the sporting criteria, and also the financial criteria.”
☹️Cristiano Ronaldo has 1 league goal all season.
😀Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting got 2 in just 90 seconds for Bayern Munich on Saturday.
— Football Transfers (@Transfersdotcom) November 5, 2022
Where do United go from here?
That leaves a select cluster of players who could both do a good job in attack for United and yet not break the bank.
READ: Man Utd target Stoke flop to replace Ronaldo
Alexander Mitrovic has been floated as a possibility, a proven Premier League goalscorer who only has Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Ivan Toney above him in the race for this season’s Premier League Golden Boot, but he is under contract at Fulham until 2026 and they would hold out for a significant sum.
Memphis Depay is out of contract with Barcelona next summer, the Catalan giants would let him go for a nominal fee this winter, and Ten Hag is known to be a fan, but the one-time United attacker isn’t an out-and-out striker, and United are well-stocked in his position.
That probably leaves Choupo-Moting as the front-runner. Relegated with Stoke after a five-goal season in 2018, he looks a different animal now, having filled Robert Lewandowski’s boots with aplomb at Bayern Munich this season, his 11 goals in all competitions coming in at a rate of one every 77 minutes.
He is also out of contract in the summer, and could be signed for a knock-down price in the winter window.