With Romelu Lukaku seemingly Inter Milan bound, Manchester United need to start thinking about replacements for the giant Belgian striker.
Lukaku is no stranger to this kind of transfer speculation – his time with Everton was littered with rumours of a move to Man Utd and it seemed like every time he went on international duty, his name and quotes were in the news.
The Red Devils are now on the receiving end of that treatment, with Lukaku telling reporters in April of his “dream” to play in Italy.
“Playing in Serie A is a dream, it would really be a dream,” he told Sky Italia. “I hope to be able to play there sooner rather than later, even if at the moment I am focused on United.”
Inter have made an ‘official approach’ for him, and so, attention now turns to who could potentially fill the void left by the £75m striker?
Reports in Spain suggest that man could be Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder, even going as far to say United have “agreed personal terms” with the France international, who is thought to have a relatively modest £35.9m release clause.
Standing at 5 ft 7 in, it’s fair to say Ben Yedder wouldn’t offer the same aerial or physical threat as Lukaku, but his lightning pace plays perfectly into the gameplan of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
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Since Solskjaer took the reins in December, no club managed more fast breaks (18) in the Premier League than Man Utd, and which La Liga player came joint-top for fast breaks last season? Ben Yedder with 10.
Solskjaer wants to transform the Red Devils into a ruthless counter-attacking unit – accentuated by the signing of Daniel James from Swansea City – and for a short time of his reign so far, we’ve seen how effective that can be, with impressive wins over the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea in the FA Cup. Ben Yedder’s superior pace and mobility compared to Lukaku will only give the Norwegian more ammunition on the break.
“I dream of playing at a high level, in the biggest clubs in the world and to be alongside players of international class. It’s a case of seeing where I can get to in terms of level.”
But the former Toulouse man is no mere speedster. Even for all of his pace, he certainly doesn’t lack in the first-touch department and is able to hold onto the ball and bring teammates into play. Furthermore, Ben Yedder provided the second-highest number of assists (9) of any Sevilla player in La Liga last season, while he also ranked third for chances created (45).
Compare that to Lukaku, who created just 21 chances for his teammates, failed to register a single Premier League assist and managed just three fast breaks all season and you can see exactly why Solskjaer would view Ben Yedder as an upgrade.
To be a counter-attacking team, you must be able to appreciate that chances will be at a premium as you soak up pressure and invite the opposition onto you. Therefore, you must be clinical with your chances when they do come. Again, Ben Yedder has got the chops in this department, having put away 18 of his 34 (52.94%) big chances in La Liga last season, compared to just eight out of 23 (34.78%) for Lukaku in the Premier League.
Sevilla haven’t managed to win a major trophy since Ben Yedder arrived at the club in 2016 and at 28, a lack of honours throughout his career will likely be weighing heavily on his mind.
By their standards, United haven’t exactly been prolific in the silverware department in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, winning just three cup competitions in six years, but Ben Yedder will certainly feel his chances of winning something there, alongside the likes of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, are greater than in Andalusia.
Now, it’s all about moving the right pieces so that Solskjaer can truly start moulding Man Utd into his own exciting image.