Gary Neville believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to move away from traditional strikers at Manchester United and find a No. 9 similar to that of Roberto Firmino or Son Heung-min.
The Brazilian and South Korean both play roles at Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur whereby their main function is to link play first and score goals second.
Solskjaer and strikers: Five things to know…
- Lukaku scored 15 goals in all competitions last season but Solskjaer has previously stated he does not want a “target man”.
- The Belgian left Man Utd for Inter Milan in the summer for £70m.
- Solskjaer failed to sign a replacement and has instead relied upon Martial and Rashford to lead the line for Man Utd.
- So far the duo have been collectively involved in nine Premier League goals (six goals, three assists).
- Neville believes his ex-teammate wants a striker similar to Firmino or Son.
The duo’s fluid movement, selfless play and intelligent positional sense has allowed the systems of both Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino to flourish in the Premier League.
Solskjaer has tried to do a similar thing this season by allowing Romelu Lukaku to leave for Inter Milan, while providing greater final third responsibility to both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, a move that could eventually pay dividends according to Neville.
He told Sky Sports: “I look at Firmino when he first came to England, I look at [Mohamed] Salah when he was first at Chelsea, I look at [Sadio] Mane. Sometimes players have to develop into what they are going to become.
“I think United want a striker like Firmino, like Son at Tottenham. I think [Solskjaer] wants that type of player.
“I don’t think he wants a typical striker who is basically going to be a Lukaku or a [Diego] Costa. I don’t think he’s looking for that type. I think he’s looking for a more mobile type in a front three or a front two.
“I think this club has always had strikers who can play in pairs, who contribute off the ball.
“I’ll make a point about Ruud van Nistelrooy. We won less championships with him at centre-forward than when we brought Louis Saha in to partner Wayne Rooney.
“He was nowhere near as good a finisher as Ruud or as good a striker as Ruud, but the team became better. And that’s my point, I don’t think Ole wants a striker like that; I think he wants a mobile striker.”
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
‘Solskjaer following Klopp blueprint’
Klopp has perfected the art of playing with an unorthodox No. 9 at Liverpool, which came to fruition after the German allowed Christian Benteke to leave for Crystal Palace in 2016.
Neville believes Solskjaer is now following a comparable route to his Liverpool counterpart by allowing Lukaku to leave in the summer.
He added: “He just chucked him out the club because he didn’t suit his style of play.
“Ole’s done the same with Lukaku, and Lukaku is a far better player than Benteke.
“Ole is not going to sign a striker just because he scores goals, because Lukaku would have done that.”