Football Features

Forwards Man Utd could sign if they miss out on Erling Haaland

By Harry Edwards

The forwards Man Utd could sign in January transfer window

Published: 18:06, 17 December 2019

Manchester United are being heavily linked to the Champions League breakthrough act of the season so far, Erling Braut Haaland.

But they don’t quite have a free run at signing the RB Salzburg centre-forward. Sister club RB Leipzig have even publicised their own offer. “We have shown what we can offer [Haaland] and which part he could play in our team. It’s now up to him,” Markus Krosche, the Leipzig sporting director, has told German publication Kicker.

Man Utd want Haaland transfer? Five things to know…

  • Solskjaer refuses to deny rumours he flew out to discuss a Man Utd transfer with Haaland’s representatives.
  • It is reported in several places the player has a release clause worth just £20 million.
  • But Haaland has also met with Julian Nagelsman, head coach of Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig.
  • The Norweigian scored five (FIVE!) hat-tricks in his first 20 games for RB Salzburg in all competitions.
  • According to smarterscout style ratings*, Haaland scores highly for shooting (99), dribbling (90) and disruption opposition moves (77).
  • Did you know? Haaland ‘dreams’ of winning the Premier League with Leeds United, the Red Devils major rivals.

*Ratings measure how often a player attempts an action and are based on a scale of 0-99. These ratings are also benchmarked for the Premier League, which means they provide an indication as to how Haaland might perform in the English top flight. You’ll find more information on how smarterscout’s rating system works here.

Solskjaer once coached Haaland at Molde in Norway and previously compared him to Romelu Lukaku. That second point actually confuses the reasoning behind this transfer story, however, because Solskjaer also previously said Lukaku’s style of play was part of the reason they let him leave for Inter last summer.

Then again, smarterscout – a tool developed by North Yard Analytics that allows users to make stylistic comparisons between players based on data – would suggest Haaland is far from a Lukaku clone.

A stylistic comparison of Haaland and two previous United forwards via smarterscout.

In any case, two things are clear: A.) United face competition to sign Haaland from at least one well-position rival suiter in Leipzig, and B.) not just any signing fits the bill for next month.

As smarterscout put it: “Manchester United probably need a target man who’s capable of bringing the quick wingers into the play, someone who can receive the ball and quickly dish it off or find a playmaker nearby to zap a through ball forward.”

So where do Man United turn if they miss out on Haaland? There are a few less obvious options who fit the description above Man United should perhaps consider, if they’re smart, starting with…

Joaquin Correa (Lazio)

Correa the perfect ball-playing striker Man Utd should sign?

“The blue-chip options include Joaquin Correa at Lazio, who offers a great combination of scoring and creating, and Leipzig’s Timo Werner, the perennial subject of Premier League gossip,” continued smarterscout’s assessment of Man United’s transfer window needs. Many readers will know about Werner, but what about Correa?

Lazio have been impressive in Serie A this season, currently sitting third in the table, just five points behind leaders Inter Milan.

Ciro Immobile is big reason for this, mostly because he’s scored 17 goals so far. But this record has seen the contributions of Correa go under the radar.

The 25-year-old has scored six goals in 16 Serie A games so far. Immobile is his only teammate with more, while Correa has also added one assist. It’s not an overwhelming return, but only Immobile and Cristiano Ronaldo have managed more shots on target in Serie A this season than, whose ability to retain possession is another trait that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Argentine has a ‘Ball Retention’ rating of 91 on smarterscout to go with a link-up score of 66. So once he gets the ball, it’s pretty hard to take it away from Correa, allowing him to draw in opponents before moving it on to teammates in more advanced positions such as Rashford.

Joaquin Correa’s ratings on smarterscout

Rafael Santos Borre (River Plate)

Should Man Utd beat Everton to Rafael Santos Borre signing this January transfer window?

Away from Europe, those who watched the 2019 Copa Libertadores final might have noticed Colombian Rafael Santos Borre.

The 24-year-old is another forward flagged by smarterscout and opened the scoring for River Plate in November’s showpiece event. It looked like his goal would seal the trophy for the Argentine side before Gabriel Barbosa’s late double earned Flamengo the dramatic win.

Borre’s strike in the final was his third in the competition, all of which came in the knockout stages post-summer, and added to his final start in the Superliga Argentina. Playing across the front line, but mostly through the centre, Borre has scored eight goals in 12 games and added a further assist; no River Plate player has scored more goals this season.

But he brings more than goals. Borre, who has been linked to Everton, is the perfect unorthodox target man, capable of holding the ball up in the area with his feet, something reflected in his rating of 97 for ‘receiving the ball in the box’ on smarterscout. His link-up play, meanwhile, is rated one higher, at 98.

Santos Borre’s ratings on smarterscout

Hwang Hee-chan (Red Bull Salzburg)

Man Utd should target Haaland's teammate Hwang

Erling Braut Håland dominated the headlines through his goalscoring exploits, but 23-year-old Hwang Hee-chan deserves recognition, too.
A South Korean international, Hwang has been partnering Håland in attack. He has nine goals in 20 games so far this season for a Red Bull Salzburg side that lead the Austrian Bundesliga and went so close to reaching the last-16 of the Champions League. His most significant contribution, however, is his 12 assists. And it’s easy to see why his output is so high in this respect.

Tracking his games in the Austrian Bundesliga, when given more freedom, Hwang has a rating of 95 on smarterscout when it comes to receiving the ball in the box. This, combined with ball retention rating at 84, makes for a key asset to Salzburg, or Man United if they can sign him before Wolves.

Hwang Hee-chan’s ratings on smarterscout

Hwang can do more than just play through the middle, too, having popped up on the wings with South Korea. And the skillset he will have picked up from such positions show, with his dribbling rated at 97.

This would allow Man United to play Hwang either alongside Rashford or as one of the wingers, still able to link up with teammates, while interchanging positions like Liverpool’s attacking trio does so well.

Andrea Belotti (Torino)

An alternate potential Man Utd transfer target is Belotti

Again, Andrea Belotti isn’t exactly a total unknown, having been previously linked with a big-money move to Chelsea. But such transfer rumours have long since died out. No one has really been talking about the Italian, and it’s about time this was corrected.

Belotti, who turns 26 soon, has continued his good form with Torino this season with 13 goals in 20 games across all competitions as the main man in the team. Although he is often joined by Simone Verdi, Belotti dominates the game for Torino.

This final option represents a departure from the other types of forward on this list. Unlike the others, Belotti’s strength comes in the air, with an aerial duel rating of 70 when it comes to open play. There is also his overall aerial ratings of 63 and 48 from dead balls, an understandable dip given corners and free-kicks typically account for these.

Andrea Belotti’s ratings on smarterscout

Following the sale of Lukaku to Inter Milan in the summer – and even going back even further Ibrahimovic’s departure – Man United have really missed an aerial presence up-front.

Belotti’s role in the Man United team would definitely be as a natural target man, getting onto the end of long balls out from defence to head into the path of Rashford, James and Martial – or whoever else occupies the wings.

smarterscout are on Twitter. You can follow them @smarterscout.

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