Since the Premier League’s return to our screens on Boxing Day, Manchester United have without a doubt been the standout team in the division.
Victories over Nottingham Forest and Wolves have seen the Red Devils leapfrog Tottenham Hotspur into fourth place in the league table, and it appears as though Erik ten Hag finally has his squad playing in the manner that he desires.
That sentiment would be backed up by OddsChecker. The comparison website, which compares Premier League odds and free bets, has now made United one of the odds-on favourites to finish in the top four and thus qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
But in order to secure their position at European football’s most elite dinner table next term, do they need to bring in a new striker to fill the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure?
Prior to the 2022 FIFA World Cup getting underway, CR7 made international headlines in an interview with Piers Morgan, in which he criticised the club and its manager.
From there, it was clear that the story would only end one way, with Ronaldo’s departure from Old Trafford. And that is exactly what has transpired.
The Portugese captain was duly relieved of his duties in Manchester and has since found himself shipped off to Saudi Arabia to earn a reported $200m per year.
In Ronaldo’s absence, both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have stepped up to the plate. The former has bagged two goals in two games, including a late winner at Molineux on New Year’s Eve. While the latter also netted his third of the season against Forest at Old Trafford. But if Ten Hag only has those two to rely on, he may encounter difficulties toward the latter end of the season. Could either of these two help offload some of the pressure on his current duo?
João Félix – Atlético Madrid
The first man that should be on Manchester United’s radar this January is Atlético Madrid striker João Félix. The young Portuguese star is still just 23 years of age, despite featuring in the upper echelons of European football for a number of years now.
The former Benfica man has hardly set the world alight in the Spanish capital since his eye-watering €127m move three-and-a-half years ago.
During that time frame, Félix has managed to muster up just 34 goals in 130 appearances at the Wanda Metropolitano, and it’s clear that Diego Simeone’s gamble has not paid off.
Everyone is acutely aware of exactly what the Argentinian manager expects from his team, and it’s clear that Felix doesn’t have the tools required to do the job expected of him. As such, he has had to settle for more of a squad role this term, with his manager preferring the endeavor of Álvaro Morata up top.
That has seen Félix’s market value tumble, with Transfermarkt valuing him at just €50m at the time of writing. Could a cut-price deal entice Ten Hag to bring the Portuguese sensation to Old Trafford?
Gonçalo Ramos – Benfica
One man that could be seen as indirectly responsible for the downfall of Cristiano Ronaldo is Benfica striker Gonçalo Ramos. Portugal manager Fernando Santos decided to drop his captain during the World Cup second-round tie against Switzerland, favouring the pace and power of his young 21-year-old striker.
His decision was promptly rewarded with a hat trick which fired Portugal through to the World Cup quarter-finals, while Ronaldo was seen sulking his way down the Qatari tunnel.
And with that being said, it would be somewhat poetic if Ramos was the one chosen to fill Ronaldo’s boots in Manchester. He has bagged 14 goals in 22 games this term, including nine in 12 in the Portuguese top flight.
And with his predicted transfer value and wages expected to be less than those of compatriot Félix and two years younger, Ten Hag may decide to head down the Ramos route.