Manchester United may be making progress in the transfer window, but a crucial signing remains unfulfilled.
After weeks of chasing, Mason Mount finally arrived and has already shown the new dynamism he will add to the midfield in his debut in the friendly win over Leeds. The goalkeeping situation looks set to be resolved soon, with United closing in on Andre Onana to replace the departed David de Gea.
Both should prove to be very smart additions that will add more quality to a team that needed upgrades to build on the progress that Erik ten Hag made in his first season. The campaign was an uplifting one as it saw an end to a six-year trophy drought and a return to Champions League football, but United remain a considerable distance away from challenging for the Premier League title.
No matter how much quality is added elsewhere on the pitch, United won’t be close to closing the gap on Manchester City unless they bring in a top striker in the summer. It was a position that worried Ten Hag in his first year and makes his achievements all the more impressive.
United pretty much didn’t have a proper attacking option all season. Cristiano Ronaldo was clearly not fit for Ten Hag’s team and went in a mood halfway through, Anthony Martial spent the majority of the season on the sidelines and Wout Weghorst just wasn’t very good.
It was Marcus Rashford who was responsible for getting the vast majority of goals and was often tasked with playing up front despite being better at coming in from the left. If it wasn’t for Rashford’s roaring return to form, the season wouldn’t have gone so well.
Only Aston Villa and Fulham scored less than United’s meager return of 58 against the teams that finished in the top 10. It is vital that a capable striker is finally added to Ten Hag’s ranks to ease the strain on Rashford’s shoulders, offer more attacking flexibility and for to fire them up on the table.
United put their stable out strong and made Harry Kane their top target. The England captain has scored at least 20 goals in the past nine seasons and has reached 30 in four of them. He would have been a sensational signing and exactly what United would have needed, the kind of world-class caliber that could have made them serious contenders.
But Tottenham made it clear early on that they are unwilling to sell their star player, especially to a direct rival, even though he is in the final year of his contract. United accepted and quickly moved on… but with little success so far.
United had devised a healthy shortlist of options in preparation for not being lucky with Kane, and since Victor Osimhen has been priced out of a move this summer, United’s eyes have turned to Rasmus Hojlund. The Scandinavian starlet has already earned comparisons with Erling Haaland after five goals in his first two starts for Denmark and is one of the game’s highest-rated young forwards.
Ten Hag looked set to talk to the 20-year-old about joining after holding talks with him over the phone, but any move has stalled in light of Atalanta’s staggering price tag, said to be in the region of £80m. Hojlund has sky-high potential and looks to be the athletic, strong and lethal striker United want to lead the line, but that’s a very high fee for a player who got just 16 goals last season and could just as easily fail to live up to his promise.
With United working under a tight budget thanks to FFP restrictions and amid the uncertain ownership situation, it would not be surprising to see them abandon the pursuit of Hojlund. But there is another player on the shortlist who could fill the job and for much cheaper.
United have also been monitoring Ajax star Mohammed Kudus for some time, and given Ten Hag’s preference for signing players he knows, a deal could make a lot of sense. The 22-year-old grabbed 18 goals last season, and he didn’t just play up front like Højlund. Although more than capable of leading the line, Kudus can also play deeper or on the flanks, a versatility that would come in very handy at Old Trafford.
Kudus also impressed for Ghana at the World Cup with his elegant control, quick feet and determination in the penalty area. As a further boost, reports suggest Ajax want around £40m for the talented forward. It’s a much more affordable fee for United and they would be getting a player who ticks a lot more of Ten Hag’s boxes thanks to his upbringing in the Ajax system.
It’s a wonder United haven’t already made a move.