It has been widely reported that José Mourinho has targeted four areas of the Manchester United team for improvement this summer. With a need at center back already addressed, a striker, a winger, and a central midfielder are the other positions for which new signings are likely. In part 1 of a 3 part series, the tBB writers propose alternative signings for those positions to the ones that have been heavily rumored. First up: the strikers.
It seems fair to say that Manchester United, in a number of important ways, aren’t really Manchester United any more. Old Trafford, once a fortress, is now open to visitors and sells cheap points at the gift shop; the squad, after years of Glazernomics and the tender ministrations of two very odd managers, is a lop-sided mess;
Most importantly, the aura has gone. And unlike players and managers, who can be chopped and changed and upgraded, auras are harder to build. They take years of careful maintenance. And once they gone, they take years to rebuild. Liverpool are the case in point here: Anfield was once the most feared stadium in the country, but now everybody fancies their chances. (Except United, the rank cowards.)
In short, United are diminished. Still strong, of course; still worthy of respect. But not feared. Now they’re just one of the big teams, and not even the scariest.
One of the more prominent symptoms of this loss of status can be seen down in north London, where puckish upstarts Tottenham Hotspur have realised that they don’t actually have to sell all their best players to United. Instead, they can just flog them to Real Madrid. Such disrespect cannot be allowed to stand ...
... which is why a nominated representative of Manchester United — not Ed Woodward, he’s too weedy; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, perhaps — must march into Daniel Levy’s office tomorrow, offer him a catastrophically large amount of money for Harry Kane, and just keep adding the millions on until the inevitable happens.
Think about it. United may not have the strongest side in the league, and may not play the best football, but in the field of having loads of money they are unparalleled. Which naturally gives them an advantage in the business of spending loads of money.
"I can do this all day. £70m."
In essence it doesn't matter what the final figure is. Transfer fees long since departed the realm of the real, and in truth, all amounts of money above a certain number are basically imaginary. Like, how much money is 20 thousand pounds? Nobody really knows. How much more is 20 million?
The power is not in the money itself, but in the statement. The purchase of Paul Pogba was a decent start, but nothing does the job as well as an inter-league transfer. Think Andy Cole, plucked from Newcastle. Think Rio Ferdinand, wrenched from Leeds. Think Robin van Persie, lured away from Arsenal. But think bigger. The future captain of England? He'll do nicely.
In one stroke, Manchester United would become Manchester United again. The apex predator; the biggest, baddest bastards in the league. And, once again, the natural destination for anybody at any other club who fancies their chance at true greatness. It's a money game, these days. Time to break open the biggest wallet of them all, and put this league of upstarts back in their place. Starting with Spurs.
Oh, yeah. Kane's pretty good too. That'll be handy. AT.
Álvaro Morata is a good player. He’s still young, and he has the potential to be very good. Even putting aside what will likely be a ludicrous price tag, Morata is a sensible signing. He has everything you would look for in a striker, and he’s proven that he can lead the line for two of the biggest clubs in Europe. Even if he’s not a runaway success, his age and pedigree guarantee that he will still have significant resale value in a few years. He’s also one of the few number 9s who are actually on the market this summer.
Resale value? Availability? Are we meant to be bloody Spurs now?
Manchester United should not be chasing Álvaro Morata. Manchester United should be chasing the calibre of players that keep likes of Morata out of the team. Yes, that means Cristiano Ronaldo (but that’s a whole other story).
There’s another striker that fits the profile of the type of the player that José Mourinho seems to be after. He’s absolutely top class, he’s a serial winner and prolific goalscorer, and - conveniently - has recently started grumbling about unhappiness with his current employers. Is there any reason why United aren’t enquiring after Robert Lewandowski?
He ticks all the same boxes as Morata does, and if United are going to negotiate with another superclub for an attacker which they aren’t keen to sell, then Ed Woodward and co. might as well aim for the top. Lewandowski has a superior goal-scoring record to Morata, and would be an even more natural replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimović as the spearhead of United’s attack. Bayern Munich may have little to gain by letting go their star striker, but who is to say that an offer in the £70 million range (Madrid’s reported asking price for Morata) wouldn’t be enough to tempt them? Borussia Dortmund’s best players don’t pay for themselves, after all.
Oh, what’s that? He’s been linked today?! Get in. BM.
I’m fully preparing to be laughed out of tBB and banished forever, because I’m clearly missing something obvious here, but I can’t understand for the life of me why Chelsea are struggling to find suitors for Diego Costa. Coach Antonio Conte has decided he wants to pursue other attacking options, but only Atlético Madrid appear to be prepared to stump up enough cash.
Now, we all know that Diego Costa doesn’t come across as a particularly nice man, but we also all know that there’s little better in football than having a nasty man on your side. We’d quickly forget all of his misdemeanours if he ever bundled in a late winner away at Stamford Bridge. (Come to think of it, it’s a wonder José Mourinho doesn’t want to sign him purely for trolling purposes.) And for all of his reputation as a loose cannon, it’s worth nothing that he’s never been sent off in the Premier League.
But more than anything else, there’s the simple fact that Diego Costa is a rare thing: an affordable, proven Premier League striker. Since arriving at Chelsea three seasons ago he's scored a remarkable 52 league goals, and started all but three of the Blues’ matches in their title-winning campaign last season. This is a player who does the business, as Mourinho knew when he signed him from Atléti in the summer of 2014. And at only 28, Costa could still be good for four or five years yet.
Perhaps the issue is simply that Chelsea would be absolutely unwilling to sell Costa to any direct Premier League competitors. Perhaps it’s something more complex. Much has been made of a ‘bibgate’ incident in 2015, when Costa, unhappy to have been kept on the bench, lobbed his bib vaguely in Mourinho’s direction. However, it seems rather a mountain from a molehill, and Costa has since spoken of their good rapport.
Ultimately, all I know is that I can’t fathom why Costa’s availability hasn’t triggered a feeding frenzy. JS.