Football agents certainly can’t – given that much of their time is spent flogging players the Old Trafford club’s way. Journalists too are thankful for the endless speculation and conjecture with which to fill their back pages.
Without transfer rumours emanating from England’s North-West what would we have to discuss during the off-season abyss? Debate over United’s desperate need for a centre-back that doesn’t use his face to tackle is all football fans have right now.
— ManUtdTransGirl (@ManUtdTransGirl) June 29, 2015
But the triviality of such scattergun speculation shouldn’t mask Man Utd’s blatant need for recruitment ahead of the new season. They require new arrivals in key positions – most notably in central defence and in the centre of midfield. Yet perhaps the most pressing necessity at Old Trafford this summer is for reinforcement up front.
True to form, Man Utd have been linked with moves for several world-class attackers – including Edinson Cavani, Karim Benzema, Alexandre Lacazette, Mario Mandzukic, Jackson Martinez, Harry Kane and Thomas Muller just to name a few. But perhaps Van Gaal should opt for someone else. If the Dutchman needs a striker this summer, what about Romelu Lukaku?
If ever evidence was needed of how quickly things can change in football, consider the fortunes of Man Utd’s attacking ranks over the past 12 months. When last year’s summer transfer window slammed shut – amid the hyper-active chuntering of Jim White – Louis Van Gaal appeared to have the best strike-force in the English game.
In Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, United had a frontline to match any other in the Premier League. Or at least, it appeared so. Falcao floundered fantastically, with persistent injuries finally catching up with Van Persie. Even Rooney – the club captain and United’s only dependable goalscorer – was dropped deep into midfield as Van Gaal toiled to find a suitable shape for his team.
Falcao is now gone, with Van Persie on his way to Fenerbahce and Javier Hernandez set to be offloaded too, and so Man Utd are now decidedly short-handed up front. They need someone who is readily available this summer – and that’s where Lukaku might be the best option.
By hiring notorious horse-trader Mino Raiola as his new agent just a few months ago, Lukaku has all but made public that he is open to move away from Goodison Park. Raiola has even stated that the striker “would not have played for Everton” had he been hired earlier.
“I want to be clear, Romelu is a better striker than Diego Costa and could have done the same as the Spaniard did this season,” insisted Raiola, beating his chest and puffing out his cheeks. “Later on, he’ll play for one of the world’s best teams: PSG, Manchester City, Manchester United or Bayern Munich. Nothing is impossible as Rom has great potential.”
Of course, United should refrain from signing a striker just because they are available immediately, but Lukaku would be a better fit than many recognise. His development might have stalled somewhat, but the Belgian remains one of the brightest young talents in Europe. Consider that by the age of 20 Lukaku had scored more goals (58) than either Lionel Messi (26) or Cristiano Ronaldo (22) had by the same age.
Having played three Premier League seasons, in the Champions League and at a World Cup it’s sometimes easy to forget that Lukaku is still only 22-years-old. Raiola might overstate the current quality of his client, but he is right in one sense – the striker’s potential could take him anywhere in the game. He’s good enough for a club like Man Utd.
Lukaku would bring the additional attacking dimension to United’s lineup that Falcao was meant to. He would bring a physicality to United’s game, providing Van Gaal with the option of playing a lone striker – a position that has never truly suited Rooney, no matter how many times he is played there.
He might not have hit top form last season, but his ratio of 20 goals from 52 games for club and country was still commendable. Given that his tally the year before was 19 goals, and 17 goals the season before that, Lukaku appears to be improving year-on-year – and United need players that are getting better rather than getting worse (like Falcao or Van Persie).
Lukaku might have been cast off and ostracised by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, but that doesn’t make the striker any less of a prospect. Juan Mata’s move to Old Trafford in similar circumstance worked out, after all.
United pulled off quite the surprise by signing Falcao on a season-long loan from Monaco on transfer deadline day last summer. The capture of Lukaku would be just as unexpected, but a move for the Belgian striker could prove to be a shrewd one.