Football News

Seven back-up strikers Manchester United might try to buy this summer instead of “PR disaster” Marko Arnautovic

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:31, 9 August 2022

Manchester United have been advised against signing Marko Arnautovic by Premier League-winning striker Chris Sutton, who believes the move would be an ‘absolute PR disaster’.

The Red Devils opened the new Premier League campaign with a 2-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion at Old Trafford, starting with Christian Eriksen as a false nine before bringing Cristiano Ronaldo on from the bench.

Ronaldo’s future has been a dominating story of Man Utd’s transfer window with the Portuguese forward pushing for a move away, wanting to play Champions League football. The 37-year-old has been linked with a number of clubs this summer but none have deemed a move viable enough to make an offer, and with just under a month left to go in the window there is every chance Ronaldo could stay at Old Trafford.

Regardless, Man Utd do need another striker. With Erik ten Hag clearly seeing Marcus Rashford as more of a striker than a winger, and Anthony Martial struggling with injuries, the Red Devils need someone capable of leading the line. Recently they have been linked with a move for former West Ham United man Marko Arnautovic, who is currently plying his trade with Bologna in Serie A.

As soon as the reports emerged, Man Utd fans quickly expressed their unhappiness with the links, believing Arnautovic to be below the level needed at Old Trafford. It drew comparisons to Man Utd’s signing of Odion Ighalo in 2020, who was brought in from Shanghai Shenhua to add depth to the squad, a panic buy of sorts.

You could even say Edinson Cavani was a panic buy two summers ago (although the Uruguayan more than justified his selection) given his age and the other players that were available had Man Utd planned better.

Fortunately for Man Utd fans, the latest reports suggest the club have pulled their interest in Arnautovic, having been priced out by Bologna while also hearing the supporters’ criticism. It’s a decision that former Blackburn Rovers forward Sutton will certainly agree with, having said: “It’s a real wrong move in terms of the eyes of the supporters. There’s a million other players out there United should have been linked with.

“I do no get that. It’s an absolute PR disaster. If Arnautovic comes in, that’s going to put Ten Hag under so much pressure.”

But if Man Utd are desperate a player of Arnautovic’s mould, perhaps a bit too old to be part of a long-term plan but who could plaster over the cracks in their squad, here are a few other names you could see linked over the coming weeks. If any seem fanciful, that’s the point. Remember this is a club who once payed £10million all in, according to Mail Online, to re-sign Ighalo on a six-month loan from Shanghai Shenhua and used him for less than 10 minutes of Premier League playing time.

First up, it’s Danny Welbeck, who isn’t actually our suggestion but Rio Ferdinand’s after the Brighton man helped tear apart his former club at Old Trafford on Sunday.

“Danny Welbeck starts for Man United today [Sunday] in this game,” Ferdinand said on his YouTube channel.

“Welbeck walked out of that tunnel and you could see, shoulders back, chest out, thinking – ‘I will terrorize these two [Martinez and Maguire]’.

“That’s how he played today, he looked like prime-time Danny Welbeck at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid 10 years ago.

“On today’s performance, no doubt. If you want a back-up striker, you wouldn’t go far wrong with Danny Welbeck.

“Say to him, ‘you’re going to play 15/20 games over the season, fill in for Cristiano’. It gives us the legs, gives us the movement – the running behind defenders like he did today and it frees up the space for the likes of Bruno [Fernandes].”

If Man Utd want a bigger name with Premier League experience they should look no further than Diego Costa. The Brazil-born Spain international, who turns 34 in October, terrorised Premier League defences when he wanted to during a three-season stay at Chelsea, scoring 52 goals in 89 appearances. And the best thing about Costa is that he would come without a transfer fee, having left Atletico Mineiro in January.

Sticking with the ‘Free agent with Premier League experience’ theme, what about Matej Vydra? Having only turned 30 in May, the Czech Republic international ended a four-year association with Burnley in the summer, and would definitely be happy to play second fiddle at Man Utd, playing just 667 minutes in the Premier League last season across 22 appearances. He averaged 0.95 shots on target per 90 minutes played in the top-flight, second-most at Burnley behind Maxwel Cornet (who joined West Ham this summer for around £18m).

There is a former Man Utd man on the market, too, again another free agent: Mame Biram Diouf. Now 34, turning 35 in December, Diouf spent the past two seasons playing with Hatayspor in the Turkish Super Lig and in 2021/22 alone netted 12 times with three assists as his club finished 12th.

If those names don’t seem outlandish enough for Man Utd, Daniel Sturridge is another former Premier League man who could be available on a free transfer. He left A-League Men side Perth Glory in July having played just six times, with his season severely hampered by injuries.

Moving away from free transfers, believe it or not former Norwich City man Ricky van Wolfswinkel is now 33 and playing as a striker for FC Twente, doing pretty well in the Eredivisie. Last season, the Dutchman scored 16 goals and recorded eight assists, putting Arnautovic to shame and he has just one year left on his current deal at Twente.

And finally, if you’re looking for an experienced striker why not go for one of the the experienced strikers. That’s right, we’re talking about Fabio Quagliarella. Sure, he’s turning 40 in January and only scored four goals last season but the man has bucket loads of experience and may fancy a brief spell outside Italy before ending his career.