Football News

Manchester United transfers: Long-term Ronaldo replacements Ten Hag could target this summer

By James Amey

Published: 21:00, 20 January 2023

The January transfer window often throws up weird and wonderful deals and Manchester United are no strangers to signing a stop-gap forward in the winter window.

The most recent example is Odion Ighalo and Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit has extended the trend. The Red Devils are in need of firepower, with a record of just 30 goals in 19 Premier League matches so far in 2022/23 forcing Erik ten Hag to dip his toe into the transfer market.

As former United forward Andy Cole told Betway Insider, “I see a lot of people saying that the position the club is in now is because Ronaldo isn’t there anymore.

“But what they fail to understand is that United might not have been in a position to improve this season without Ronaldo’s goals last season. They would have been nowhere last season without those goals. You can’t have it both ways.”

Step forward Wout Weghorst. The 6ft6″ forward struggled to make an impact during his first stint in the Premier League with Burnley last term, scoring just twice in his 20 appearances as the Clarets were relegated to England’s second division. He later found his shooting boots once more in Turkey with Besiktas in the first part of this season before the United move.

The Dutchman’s eight goals and four assists in his 16 Super Lig appearances, as well as his cameo against Argentina at the World Cup, where he scored twice to force the game into extra-time, convinced the board at Old Trafford to give the striker another chance in England’s top flight. Until the end of the season, at least.

But Cole, no stranger to finding the back of the net having scored 187 times in the Premier League, was confused by his former side’s latest signing.

I think like everybody else, I was a bit surprised. He had a very good World Cup, scoring a couple of goals against Argentina, and he’s done well at Besiktas, but it’s come from nowhere,” he told Betway. 

“I think the interesting thing is what the manager is looking for, because Weghorst is 6ft6”, which is different to the usual profile of United strikers.

“If you think back to Ruud van Nistelrooy, myself, we were off-the-shoulder strikers. Martial has been the same more recently. It’s interesting that they’ve brought in somebody like this now because I’d thought he’d want a different profile in the summer. You want to be getting crosses into Weghorst, rather than getting him away in behind.”

In terms of alternatives, Andy Cole is a fan of Victor Osimhen star but acknowledges the uncertainty surrounding whether Napoli would be willing to let another one of their prize assets leave.

He added: “I think Victor Osimhen at Napoli is very good and could be the long-term natural fit. The question is whether Napoli would be prepared to let him go. He’s rangy, got a good first touch, scores goals and is a decent size as well. I watched him play against Liverpool and he was more than prepared to link the play and then run in behind.” 

Osimnhen stats Man United transfer

The Nigerian forward has been a revelation in 2022/23, with his goals helping Napoli to open a nine-point lead at the top of the table. Osimhen is currently the leading goalscorer in the Italian top flight, finding the back of the net 12 times as well as providing three assists in his 14 appearances in the competition.

His strike against Sampdoria earlier in the month made him just the second African player after George Weah, to score 10+ goals in three consecutive Serie A seasons, further enhancing his status as one of the hottest players in world football right now.

Brentford’s Ivan Toney could fill the void left should Weghorst depart. He would also fit the ‘Manchester United mould’ as a striker in a two-for-one deal that may be too good for Erik ten Hag to turn down. As well as scoring 13 times in 17 Premier League appearances this term, Toney also ranks first for flick-ons completed (28) and second (behind Marcus Rashford) for lay-offs (24) in the Premier League in 2022/23, making him the perfect target man as well a player that does well on the shoulder of the last defender.

However, as with Osimhen and Napoli, the ongoing FA inquiry has created a question mark over his immediate future.

So if Osimhen and Toney were off the table, who else could Erik ten Hag target?

Gonçalo Ramos

After replacing Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal’s World Cup game against Switzerland, the Benfica striker could also be an option to replace Ronaldo at Old Trafford.

The Portuguese rising star announced himself on the biggest stage at the 2022 World Cup, becoming the first player to score a hat-trick in Qatar, in what was his first ever appearance at a World Cup tournament, as well as providing an assist in Portugal’s 6-1 demolition of the Swiss. As well as his performances in the Middle East, Ramos has also shone for Benfica this season, scoring 11 times in 14 Primeira Liga appearances and stepping up as his side’s main man after the departure of Darwin Nunez to Liverpool.

Being a more of a ball-to-feet type player, the forward has similar characteristics to Sebastien Haller, who shone in Erik ten Hag’s system at Ajax, scoring 47 goals in just 66 games in Holland before moving to Dortmund and could be the perfect fit to play alongside Marcus Rashford at Old Trafford.

Mohammed Kudus

Mohammed Kudus’ performances as a central striker at Ajax have raised some eyebrows across Europe, with a host of clubs linked with the Ghanaian. Having already returned to his former club for the signings of Antony and Lisandro Martinez, the Dutch manager could go back again and pick up the young forward and complete the Ajax hat-trick. 

Despite starting just nine times in the Eredivisie and the Champions League this term, Kudus has scored nine goals, including the opening goal of the game at Anfield back in September, as well as scoring twice at the World Cup against South Korea. The young forward is relentlessly direct and can generate shooting opportunities from pretty much nothing and this paired with the fact that he can play anywhere along the front three, as well as in midfield, makes him an interesting proposition for Ten Hag. 

 You can compare all of our Manchester United striking options and even add your own using our comparison matrix by clicking here