Jadon Sancho has been photographed in a Manchester United shirt and shaking hands with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Soon Raphael Varane will be too. A deal has been agreed with Real Madrid and once visas are acquired and a period of quarantine is complete, the Frenchman will conduct a medical and put pen to paper to become United’s second summer signing.
Those £115million deals – Sancho at £73m and Varane £42m – give United’s line-up two genuinely world-class new players. Even more than that, their arrivals inject fresh enthusiasm and belief into the club’s prospects of winning the Premier League this season, having not lifted the title since 2013.
United’s starting eleven is very close to being as perfect as feasibly possible, with perhaps a dominant new central midfielder the only current requirement. In a year’s time, a younger centre-forward will meanwhile be the top priority.
Edinson Cavani, after scoring 17 goals in his debut Old Trafford campaign, is expected to be United’s first-choice centre-forward this term but at 34 and turning 35 in February, this may be his last season in Manchester before he heads back to South America.
United’s transfer planning indicates that they will pursue a long-term successor to the Uruguayan in 2022. Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund seems the ideal option, and he already knows his countryman Solskjaer well having worked under him at Molde.
The Leeds-born Norwegian scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term and has 86 goals in 86 club games since the start of 2018. He also only just turned 21 years of age. It’s no wonder every major club in Europe wants to sign him.
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The striker is available for £64m in 12 months’ time due to a widely-known release clause and it looks unlikely he will leave before then, unless Chelsea suddenly stump up £150m-plus to land him before August 31st.
And with new reports emerging about Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus future, there is reason to believe that United might be able to both sign Haaland – the world’s most in-demand striker – and also pull off an emotional Ronaldo reunion at the same time.
United are on the up and in Sancho and Solskjaer boast two men who Haaland has close relationships with. They could be key to the Red Devils beating the widespread competition for the player.
Of those already at United, Anthony Martial’s Old Trafford future is unclear and he could depart this summer or next. If he does, and Cavani also leaves when his contract expires, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood would be the only senior players capable of playing through the middle.
At the moment, both are preferred out wide and although it is hoped Greenwood will eventually blossom into a top-tier number nine, interest in Haaland suggests United are not expecting their academy graduate to do so too quickly. At least, they’re not putting the pressure on him to do so.
Yet with Cavani gone, even if Haaland joins, there would still be a hole in the squad for a vastly-experienced striker. The advantage of having the South American’s knowhow at the club has been lauded by Solskjaer and Greenwood among others, his sublime movement a lesson to any striker on the planet.
Ronaldo had been linked to United this summer with a fairytale return to Old Trafford long touted but Cavani signed a one-year extension instead and the Portuguese will now see out the final year of his Juve contract in Turin.
Still going strong at 36, having been the joint-top scorer at Euro 2020, Ronaldo is expected to hit the market as a free agent next year with Juve currently unwilling to hand him a new contract given his huge salary, per reports in Italy.
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By then he will be 37 and a half and despite his extraordinary fitness levels, he will surely be unable to regularly start matches at the highest level. And that is why a United move could well be plausible.
Though a future move to the United States surely beckons, he might be tempted by a one-plus-one contract to try and win more honours in Europe, especially at a club as close to his heart as the Red Devils.
It is not improbable that he would settle for a role as second to Haaland just to have another year or two in one of the continent’s major and most competitive divisions.
Having Ronaldo as a back-up option to Haaland and perhaps even more importantly as someone for Greenwood, Rashford and United’s even younger talents – Joe Hugill and Charlie McNeill – to learn off would be invaluable.
And the emotional charge of his return, even though his powers are waning (but his output isn’t), would be even greater than the jubilant reaction to Sancho and Varane’s arrivals given his legendary status at the club.
Of course, it’s ultimately unlikely that both Haaland and Ronaldo arrive in the same summer, meaning that the Portugal superstar may never end up returning to United at least as a player.
Yet if the club’s owners the Glazers were willing to pay big wages to the pair – considering the great commercial return their signings would bring – it’s not at all impossible.
If United could somehow execute both deals in 2022, landing the pair for a combined £64m, they might even outdo this summer’s tremendous business.
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