Manchester United’s hunt for a Marcus Rashford replacement looks set to go right down to the wire with the winter transfer window inching ever closer to the 11PM deadline.
Rashford is ruled out indefinitely after suffering a double stress fracture to his back during a 1-0 victory over Wolves in the FA Cup earlier this month.
With Rashford sidelined, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has only Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood to call upon in terms of strikers over the next few months.
Although the £67m arrival of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP should help offset Rashford’s absence considering the goal threat he can provide from midfield, Solskjaer remains keen to add a striker to his ranks.
Here are three players United could target to ease their striker shortage.
Joshua King (Bournemouth)
Swiftly after concluding the protracted pursuit of Fernandes, Manchester United switched their attentions to landing a striker with former academy star Joshua King shooting to the top of their shortlist.
United had a £20m bid for King rebuffed by Bournemouth, who value him at over double that amount, while a 20% sell-on clause entitled to his former club Blackburn Rovers could further complicate matters.
Solskjaer coached King during his spell as United’s reserve team manager and Eddie Howe intimated that the Bournemouth striker would be interested in a return to Old Trafford, saying: “It’s going to be between the chief executive and owner.
“I love Josh as a player and person. I know what Manchester United means to him with his history with the club, so I understand his position.”
Although King is United’s chief transfer target, the deal likely hinges on whether or not Bournemouth can source a suitable replacement in time. It is widely reported this is looking unlikely and so United’s back-up plan is to bring a striker in on loan, which brings us to…
Odion Ighalo (Shanghai Shenhua)
Odion Ighalo’s goals helped fire Watford to the Premier League in 2015 and in the club’s first season back in the big time, the Nigerian was a revelation, scoring 15 league goals in 2015-16. This form led to interest from Chelsea and Manchester United (or so his agent claimed back then).
Following that remarkable purple patch, though, the goals dried up spectacularly and Ighalo was sold by Watford to Changchun Yatai in January 2017.
Ighalo has returned to his old goalscoring ways in spectacular fashion during his time in China, netting 36 leagues goals in 55 games for Changchun and a further ten in 17 for Shanghai Shenhua since joining in February.
Although Ighalo has his limitations, previous experience in the Premier League allied to his availability on a short-term basis could tempt United into securing a loan deal.
Ighalo grew up supporting United, his favourite player being Dwight Yorke, and in a 2016 interview said: “I’m not sure I’d say no if United called.”
Dries Mertens (Napoli)
Dries Mertens has been strongly linked with a move to Chelsea recently Frank Lampard ruled out a move during Friday’s press conference, which could pave the way for United to make a late move.
The 32-year-old has established himself as one of the most consistent goalscorers in Europe’s top five leagues during his time in Naples, finding the net 66 times in Serie A since the start of 2016-17.
Although a move for a player of Mertens’ age would go against United’s recent policy of buying younger players, he would be an excellent stop-gap solution while Rashford is out due to his ability to cover left-wing and centre-forward positions.
Napoli played hardball with Chelsea over a deal for Mertens but with the Belgian’s contract set to expire in the summer, United may be able to entice the club’s notoriously hard-nosed president Aurelio De Laurentiis into a sale.