The departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic will leave a huge void in Manchester United’s attack ahead of this next season.
The Swedish striker suffered an injury in the final weeks of the season, but he was key for United. He ended as the club’s top scorer, and came through in several clutch moments for The Red Devils.
However, he blew up his knee in the Europa League game against Anderlecht, and it has been reported he will not return until December or January. Due to this, Manchester United released him off his contract, so Zlatan is a free agent and United needs to replace him. Ideally they would like to sign a world-class striker to take his place, but that shouldn’t be necessary. There is enough talent in the squad to mitigate Ibrahimovic’s absence.
Anyone available on the transfer market?
The transfer market opens in July 1, and there are a few interesting options available on the market. Alvaro Morata has been linked with a move to Old Trafford for quite a while. However, the Real Madrid striker has not been able to reach a full agreement, and right now he remains with Los Blancos. Talks have continued, but the deal is not as close as it was a few weeks ago.
Alexandre Lacazette, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Carlos Bacca and Kylian Mbappe are some of the other names that constantly appear in transfer rumors. But United has not expressed interest in any of them. Aubameyang seems like the best choice in that group, but he would cost at least €70 million. Bacca is not good enough for the EPL, and both Mbappe and Lacazette would requires fees around the €100 million mark to arrive to the club.
If we discard the possibility of signing a new striker, then Mourinho would have to deal with in-house option. One alternative would be to play Anthony Martial as a lone forward. His best moments in a United shirt in the 2015-16 season came in that role, but he has also looked competent as a left winger. So using him as a striker seems to be nothing more than a backup plan.
Same goes with Wayne Rooney. Once dubbed as one of the top strikers in the world, Rooney has not been the player he once was in recent years. And to make things more complicated, there are two things we need to know. One is that he hasn’t played as a striker in a while, and the other one is that Mourinho does not exactly trust him. Rooney was out of the starting XI in several important games last season, and that trend is likely to continue this season as well.
All things considered, it seems Marcus Rashford will take the bulk of the playing time upfront.
Rashford’s Moment To Shine
The youngster reached a 20-game streak without scoring, but he came through when the team needed him the most. Rashford scored key goals in the UEFA Europa League, and did a good job to replace Ibrahimovic once the Swede was out of the lineup. Fans will always remember his free kick against Celta de Vigo, as it was a key goal to reach the Final round.
The 19-year-old has shown maturity beyond his years as well. It is not easy to play as Manchester United’s starting forward at such a young age. However, Rashford has handled with ease, and has responded every time the manager has needed him. Even though Rashford finished the year with 11 goals in 53 appearances across all competitions, we must acknowledge his scoring drought and the fact that he came off the bench most of the time.
He has proven he can produce when given the chance. And all signs indicate he is ready to receive a bigger role within the team this upcoming season. He earned it with his play down the stretch last season.