Manchester United beat Brighton at the weekend. Just about, anyway.
The last-second win was dramatic but owed much to the individual genius of certain United forwards as well as their good fortune that Brighton finished so poorly. For the entire match, they were outplayed and could muster precious little in attack.
It’s clear United are desperate for a winger, someone to come in and create actual depth in attack, to either support the front line or leave Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial on the bench when everyone is fit.
William Hill’s 2020/21 Premier League top-four odds:
- Man City: 17/20
- Liverpool: 6/4
- Chelsea: 12/1
- Arsenal: 22/1
- Man Utd: 25/1
- Spurs: 50/1
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of writing (12:30, 22/09/2020). BeGambleAware.
Obviously Jadon Sancho is their primary target. But with him looking less likely to join, who else could the Red Devils turn to? Cash seems in short supply, so we’ve had a look at five ‘budget’ options that could fill the gaping maw of creativity on Manchester United’s wings.
1. Lucas Ocampos
2019/20 take-ons per-90: 2.2
2019/20 chances created per-90: 0.8
The man of the moment just put on one hell of a show in the Uefa Super Cup. Ocampos is a former rising star who, after a few years of aimless wandering, has finally found himself on the up once more at Sevilla thanks to the guidance of Julen Lopetegui.
Able to play on either wing and possessing a rough-and-tumble dribbling style that is perfectly suited to Premier League, Ocampos would add a driving thrust to United’s attack. With him on the right, they would have a willing ball-carrier when the play is switched there (whereas Greenwood just wants to get in the box) and also a target in the air for back-post crosses.
2. Ivan Perisic
Club: Inter Milan
2019/20 take-ons per-90: 0.9
2019/20 chances created per-90: 1.5
Perisic is obviously nowhere near as impressive as he used to be and a target more readily associated with the tastes of former manager Jose Mourinho. But this is a man who made a substantial contribution to a treble win last season, someone whose ability to simply work hard and play well on the wings would make him a superb budget option.
A supremely two-footed player, Perisic not only offers cover from both wings but experience of success, and he’d be more comfortable in a back-up role. Not a stud, but a perfect stopgap.
3. Wilfried Zaha
Club: Crystal Palace
2019/20 take-ons per-90: 4.5
2019/20 chances created per-90: 1.0
Zaha has an edge over everyone else on this list because he’s already scored twice at Old Trafford this season. Palace’s brilliant forward would be expensive, for sure, but not Jadon Sancho expensive. And he’d give the club a consistent threat on the dribble to improve their transition play and especially their ability to break teams down.
Zaha has shown most of his greatness for Palace on the left but played roughly a quarter of his Premier League minutes on the opposite flank last season. His ability to tear by opponents, win fouls and score goals would make him a worthy addition to United’s side, turning their terrific trio into a fab four.
If any stat could convince United to sign him it’s this: Zaha has won more Premier League penalties (7) than anyone else since the 2018/19 season.
4. Sergio Canales
Club: Real Betis
2019/20 take-ons per-90: 1.5
2019/20 chances created per-90: 2.3
In what seems to be a recurring pattern for this list, Canales was once the hottest prodigy in Spanish football. But after Real Madrid signed him (seemingly just for the sake of signing the hottest prodigy in Spanish football) his career got off track.
He’s rebuilt his reputation and has been a superbly creative player at Real Betis. Usually a No.10, Canales would be able to play on either wing as well, although he lacks the searing pace to blow by opponents.
Canales wouldn’t be the sensational dribbler like others on this list, but he is an incredible creator of chances. Think of him as a more mobile and consistent Juan Mata. With him on the right cutting in on his left, the burden of creativity that currently sits on the shoulders of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba would be lessened, and having Canales in the final third able to whip crosses in and thread the ball through could the kind of game-changer that allows the likes of Greenwood to focus on developing his game as a striker.