Football Features

Thomas Müller to Man Utd? Could the Bayern legend solve Solskjaer’s goalscoring problems?

By Chris Smith

Published: 16:20, 26 October 2019

Bayern Munich star Thomas Müller is a January transfer target for Manchester United, according to reports.

The 100-time Germany international is a product of the Bayern youth system and has scored 186 goals in 497 appearances for the Bavarian giants since debuting in August 2008.

But Müller has slipped down the pecking order this season, starting just six games in all competitions so far, while his only goal was in a seven-minute cameo against Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League in September.

United are in desperate need of more attacking firepower having scored just 10 Premier League goals all season – the fourth-lowest tally in the English top flight, though seven teams have scored  fewer.

So, could this Bayern legend really be the solution to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goalscoring sickness? Let’s get right into it.

What’s the story?

According to German outlet Bild, United wish to reignite their interest in Müller, a player who has long been linked with a move to Old Trafford.

Their report says that Louis van Gaal had already tried to sign the German during his time with the Red Devils and that he remains a top target to this day – a claim backed up by Bild’s head of football, Christian Falk:

Müller himself has tried to keep transfer speculation to a minimum, saying after Bayern’s 3-2 win over Olympiakos: “I try to focus on playing football. Slowly all the discussions can end a bit.”

However, ahead of that match, Bayern president Uli Hoeness conceded Philippe Coutinho’s arrival at the Allianz Arena was always going to make life difficult for Müller.

“Weeks and months ago, people hounded us to make expensive transfers,” he said. “Then Coutinho comes and now the word is, ‘How can they not start Müller?’ But it was obvious that if [Coutinho] comes things would be difficult for Müller.”

Bayern manager Niko Kovac had previously fanned the flames on a potential move, saying Müller will only get minutes “when there is need” and although he has since backtracked on that statement, the fact remains that eight of Müller’s last 12 appearances for the club have been from the bench. For a player of his quality entering his 30s, that simply doesn’t suit his needs.

How would Müller fit in tactically at Man Utd?

Hoeness has already highlighted Müller’s struggles when playing on the wing, so that is unlikely to be an option for him at United, especially when they have Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James at their disposal.

That leaves two possible options for him:

1. Raumdeuter

Given his age, Müller is unlikely to want to get involved in too much of United’s defensive work and pressing, leaving that to the more mobile Rashford, Martial and James. It would be fitting, then, for him to take up the role that was, in essence, named after him in the first place: Raumdeuter.

Playing this role, Müller would line up behind a central striker but have the freedom to roam the pitch and pick up pockets of space as he sees fit. This is one of Müller’s greatest attributes and a big reason why he has scored so many goals over the years – his positional sense and intelligence make him a nightmare for the opposition to track and compensates for the fact that he isn’t as supremely gifted with the ball as the likes of, say, fellow Germans Marco Reus and Kai Havertz.

Just like Dele Alli playing behind Harry Kane during his prolific 2016/17 season with Tottenham Hotspur, this role gives Müller the freedom to drift wide and create overloads with his wingers, drop into midfield to take the ball and drive at centre-backs, or run beyond the main striker to get himself in on goal.

2. False 9

Of course, we’ve seen just how ruthlessly effective Rashford can be when deployed out wide and regardless of his wishes, he’s just not as influential when played through the middle. This could open up an opportunity for Müller to play as United’s main striker, undertaking a false nine role.

This position still allows Müller to use his intelligence to drop off and create space for his inside forwards a la Roberto Firmino for Liverpool, but it’ll also bring his tall, wiry frame to the fore as he looks to make a nuisance of himself for opposing centre-backs.

Playing the percentages, if he’s deployed through the middle, Müller is likely to find himself in front of goal far more often, giving him a much greater chance of getting on the scoresheet, which will only further endear him to the United faithful, who love a lethal goalscorer.

This role brings the very best out of the likes of Rashford, Martial and James, but also gets enough out of Müller himself to suggest it could be Solskjaer’s best gameplan, should he sign the German.

Winners and losers if Man Utd actually signed Thomas Müller

Such a big name moving between two giant clubs is always likely to create ripples at both ends, so, who would be the winners and losers if Müller actually did join Man Utd?

  • Winner – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: United have conceded just nine Premier League goals this season and are deceptively strong at the back, it’s going forward where they struggle. Solskjaer needs to find a solution to his goalscoring problem if he is to hold onto his job long-term, Müller’s intelligence and experience might just be the perfect tonic. Either way, it’d be a statement of intent and a sign of the Norwegian’s backing.
  • Loser – Thomas Müller: Let’s face it, United are a basket case at the moment and are a club in danger of seriously declining. A move to Old Trafford means Müller will be trading Champions League football for the Europa League, while the pressure on him to deliver right away will be immense, such is United’s plight right now.
  • Winner – Philippe Coutinho: Coutinho’s move to Barcelona never did work out and since he’s moved to Bayern, the Brazilian looks like the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders, scoring twice and providing four assists so far. With Müller gone, Coutinho’s closest competition in his position is eliminated, meaning there will be no shoehorning of positions and he will be free to wreak havoc on defences in Germany.
  • Loser – Antonio Conte: Inter have made a brilliant start to the Serie A season and are just one point behind leaders Juventus in the table. However, Conte now faces the prospect of being without United loanee Alexis Sanchez for the rest of 2019 and beyond with a knee injury. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are going to need help up front and according to Kicker, Müller is the man they’re targeting. If they’re competing with any Premier League giant, let alone United, Inter are going to find it hard to match their offer.
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