Cristiano Ronaldo may leave Manchester United again, inviting much heartache from the Red Devils. However, in that event, the focus must be placed not on seeking a like to like replacement for CR7 (a failed endeavour if the scores of Red no.7 jerseys are any indication) and instead think about the future.
Presently, United’s future is Erik Ten Hag and his ambitious rebuild. Here is how the maestro can go about finding alternatives if the Portuguese veteran elects to be sold:
1. Tammy Abraham
A doubtful purchase believed to cost any potential seeker well over £100 million, and for good reason. But Roma is unlikely to get rid of him this early.
But it cannot be denied that the 24-year-old Englishman has the qualities that would make him successful at Old Trafford. In particular, his technical acumen and well-placed physicality would be the precise brand of football that Ten Hag appears to be keen on putting in place in Manchester.
However reliable a goalscorer he may be, this does appear to be a far-fetched transfer.
2. Gianluca Scamacca
This is where the 23-year-old Italian could prove to be a promising striker to pursue. His hold-up play is impeccable, filling the precise hole off the ball which Ronaldo currently leaves at the heart of the club’s offensive tactics.
Moreover, Scamacca’s ability to win aerial duels and a proven penchant for controlling and touching the ball is bound to be the kind of profile that the scouts at Carrington are targeting for the next generation of United strikers.
In fact, the lad could easily be viewed as akin to Sebastien Haller and in lieu of capturing that particular talent, United could do good by securing the services of this prodigious youngster instead.
3. Anthony Martial
Having said that, Ten Hag may not need to peek into the transfer market to solve his post-Ronaldo woes in the first place. At his peak, Martial was a proven striker of the ball with the exact skills needed to make the most out of his teammates. In fact, it does not require much creativity to envision Marcus Rashford running behind the Frenchman.
By effectively giving Martial another shot at Old Trafford, even Rashford’s ability as a source of regular threat can be kick-started. Moreover, the 26-year-old’s tendency to create space with his runs, paired with flank-based versatility makes him a real threat with which to unlock the Premier League’s tactical defense lines.
Having said that, his sporadic form cannot be ignored either. In that case, a youngster like Hugo Ekitike can be easily purchased in order to provide some promising cover.
4. No Striker
This suggestion is not as controversial as it would have been a decade or two ago. If in doubt, just glance at Pep Guardiola’s trophy cabinet. The Manchester City model was a successful one in replacing the striker’s goal contributions with the looming danger of a technical frontline and a creative midfield.
In Bruno Fernandes, Ten Hag has the precise kind of false 9 in place to execute such a model, as evidenced by the Portuguese attacker’s love for runs into the box. His inaugural season numbers likewise back up the likelihood of such an outcome.
Add to this potential signings like Frenkie de Jong and Christian Eriksen as well as a rightly-deployed Donny van de Beek and United have the midfield in place to create regular chances.
Besides, if this experiment fails, Rashford can always step in as the backup striker.
Will Ten Hag make use of such an approach, or will a Ronaldo-size chasm prove to be another decade-long dilemma for United?