clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Manchester United 2016-17 squad assessment: Strikers

New, comments

Ahead of the new Premier League season, we are breaking the Manchester United squad down and assessing how prepared the Red Devils are in each position, giving an overall grade based on depth and quality.

Leicester City v Manchester United - The FA Community Shield Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

So, we've reached the final instalment of our five-part assessment of how ready the Manchester United squad is for the upcoming season. We've covered the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and attacking midfielders, grading each category based on the depth and quality of the players at José Mourinho's disposal. And we finish by looking at the strikers.

The usual disclaimer: some players, due their handy versatility, are listed in multiple categories; for example, Daley Blind is among both the defenders and the midfielders, while Wayne Rooney appears in the attacking midfielders and strikers bracket.

And, of course, the transfer window is open, and will remain that way for the rest of the month, so there is still time fo Mourinho to tinker with his squad. A few departures are anticipated, at which point one or two additional signings could be made.

But our crsytal ball is on the blink, so we will just have to analyse the squad in it's current state. And with the Premier League season kicking off this weekend, this seems like a pretty appropriate time to be doing so.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Strikers: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Will Keane

United's front line has got its swagger back this season. The arrival of veteran Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a more than just the capture of one of the best forwards of the past decade, it's a statement of intent from the Red Devils.

Despite the three years of under-performance, depsite the lack of Champions League football, Ibrahimovic has arrived, and that shows that United mean business this season. He may be 34 now -- turning 35 in October -- but Ibrahimovic is coming fresh off the back of the most productive season of his career, having broken the 50-goal barrier for the first time while helping Paris Saint Germain maintain their domestic dominence.

Ibrahimovic is an outspoken, larger-than-life character. He is also a serial winner. Much has been made of his record of having won 13 league titles in his 16-year professional career, and that experience -- the mentality that is required to achieve such relentless, sustained success -- will be a positive influence on the younger members of the squad.

Leicester City v Manchester United - The FA Community Shield Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

And the former AC Milan and Barcelona striker has already showed exactly what he is capable of, netting a spectacular scissor kick in a recent friendly against Galatasaray, and out-muscling Wes Morgan to head a late winner against Leicester City in the Community Shield last weekend.

Captain Wayne Rooney has been deployed in the number 10 position of late, which, for the purposes of this series, is categorised as an attacking midfield role, but he is also an option further forward.

Rooney has been an excellent player for United for most of his 12 years at the club, and he will surely get the five goals he needs to become the club's all-time highest scorer this season, but he is a shadow of his former self. His pace and touch have deserted him, and it can only be a matter of time before he is phased out of the starting eleven. But don't be surprised to see Rooney turn back the clock on the odd occasion this season, and produce a moment of magic that he has not been able to come up with regularly since 2012 -- much like the brilliant back-heel goal against Swansea City during the last campaign.

Aside from winning the FA Cup, the emergence of Marcus Rashford was the high point of last season. The 18-year-old striker burst onto the scene in February and has not looked out of place since. The young England international will act as understudy to Ibrahimovic this season, and with a Europa League campaign on the horizon, coupled with his ability to play on the wing, he will not be short of game time.

There is still some debate over whether Anthony Martial is at his best when deployed as a striker or a left-winger. The 20-year-old Frenchman finished as United's top scorer with 17 goals last season despite being predominently played out wide. He will likely be utilised as a winger again this season, but if needed up top, he will be a fantastic option with his pace, dribbling skills and calmness under pressure.

Will Keane is the final name listed among the centre-forwards, and he will almost certainly be sold before the transfer window closes. The 23-year-old showed promise with the youth team and reserves, but he falls just short of the quality to make it in the senior squad.

With the addition of Ibrahimovic, and with Rashford continuing to develop and grow, United have all bases covered when it comes to striking options next season.

Position grade: A

Overall squad grade: B+

It is only really the lack of a top class, experienced centre-back that has prevented an A grade for the whole squad, and who knows what the transfer market may yet bring. Last season David de Gea was the only truly world-class player in the side; this season, you could argue that that number has been quadrupled by the additions of Paul Pogba, Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Not to mention the likes of Luke Shaw, Martial and Rashford who could all reach that level in the near future. There is no reason why United should not be considered serious contenders for the Premier League title this season. Time to get excited.