Football News

Should Manchester United join the chase for Aston Villa’s unrivalled star Ollie Watkins?

By Harry Edwards

Published: 14:48, 11 March 2024

Former Manchester United midfielder Roy Keane has listed the Red Devils’ name among the top teams that Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins should be looking to join.

Watkins has been fantastic in the Premier League this season at the spearhead of a Villa attack looking to secure qualification to the Champions League. The Villans are fourth in the table with 10 games left to play. two points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Scoring 59 goals in total, Watkins has been involved in 44% of those, with 16 goals and 10 assists. He’s the only player in the Premier League this season with at least 10 goals and 10 assists, and he’s been directly involved in more goals than any other player.

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Across Europe’s top five leagues, only Harry Kane (36) has been directly involved in more goals this season than Watkins, who also sits one ahead of Kylian Mbappe and Lautaro Martinez. But, again, he stands alone as the only player in Europe’s top five leagues to have at least 10 goals and 10 assists.

Naturally, Watkins is being linked with a move away from Aston Villa, and there are reports that the Villans may have to let go of their star striker to bring money in at a time where clubs’ finances are under more scrutiny. Watkins did sign a new contract in October, tying him to the club until at least 2028, dubbing Villa the best place for him to play football.

But Keane believes Watkins’ future is bigger than Aston Villa, naming Man Utd among the potential destinations.

“He could play for one of the top teams, couldn’t he?” Keane told Sky Sports.

“Villa are a top team but you’re talking about bigger clubs in Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City. That’s a compliment to him, not that he has to leave Villa. But he’s capable of doing it.

“The kid is so sharp, he has a great shape to him. His movement is as good as any striker in the Premier League. He’s having an amazing season.”

Man Utd do have Rasmus Hojlund on their books, but the club are being linked with a move for Victor Osimhen this summer. Rather than hindering Hojlund, having competition and someone to learn from would surely help the Dane, who was finding his feet at Old Trafford.

Hojlund did suffer a slow start to life as a Man Utd player, in the Premier League at least. Although he scored five goals in the Champions League group stage, Holjund failed to find the net in 14 games in the Premier League. But after breaking his duck against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, Hojlund hasn’t looked back.

The Dane has scored in each of his past six Premier League games, netting against Aston Villa (home and away), Tottenham, Wolves, West Ham and Luton — bagging a brace against the latter. Since his first Premier League goal on Boxing Day, only Bukayo Saka (eight) has scored more than Hojlund in the competition. During that same time, Watkins has also scored seven goals.

Watkins’ seven goals have come from 33 shots, while Hojlund has had just 11 efforts. The Englishman has also played significantly more minutes, at 899 to 528. Among players to have scored at least five goals since Boxing Day, Hojlund has the best goals per 90 minutes record in the Premier League with 1.19, which increases to 1.53 direct goal involvements per 90 minutes when you add in the assists. Watkins, by comparison, averages 1.1 direct goal involvements per 90.

However, five of Watkins’ 16 goals in the league have been winning goals, compared to Hojlund’s three. Hojlund scored the winner against Aston Villa on Boxing Day as well as the only goal in the 1-0 win over West Ham and both in the 2-1 win vs Luton before his injury.