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Alternative Manchester United Transfer Targets: Wingers

Ivan Perišić? Nah. We’ve got better ideas.

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 2 of a 3 part series, the tBB writers propose alternative signings for those positions to the ones that have been heavily rumored. Next up: the wingers.

Anthony Martial

Blackburn Rovers v Manchester United - The Emirates FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

It's been an interesting couple of seasons for French prodigy Anthony Martial. Bought for big money two seasons ago, he was close to a revelation in his first season. He scored 17 goals in 49 appearances, despite playing for a team specifically engineered not to create chances, but more than that he played with an inventiveness and a swagger that belied his tender years and made light of his weighty transfer fee.

Then, second-season syndrome kicked in with a vengeance. A change of management, new competition for places, and a miserable Euro 2016 all combined to nudge him firmly out of form, and he never really got it back. Though there were a few promising moments later in the season, it was ultimately a frustrating campaign.

But at his best, he's a wonderful prospect. He glides across the pitch and past defenders, he finishes precisely from close range and from far, and he can even head the ball when he absolutely has to. He is, in short, exactly the kind of player Manchester United should be investing in: young, thrilling, and with the ability to become exceptionally special.

He'd be expensive, of course. His last move was ... (what? What? Oh. Are you ... are you sure? No, no, that's fine. I'm sure you know what you're talking about. Right. Er ... right.) Ahem. It has been pointed out that Anthony Martial already plays for Manchester United. This is, of course, deeply embarrassing ...

... unless it was a clever ruse, to demonstrate that United don't need to buy a winger! Yes, that'll do. Well done everybody. Carry on. AT.

Alexis Sánchez

Stoke City v Arsenal - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

There is one simple reason that Sánchez represents the best option for United: his signing would really irritate Arsenal supporters — and, as we all well know, there aren’t many supporters more worthy of irritation. The Chilean could follow in the footsteps of Robin van Persie, abandoning the Gunners’ FA Cup ambitions for those of domestic and continental glory, all the while offering a world class option up top for José Mourinho. If José’s not already been on the blower, he should be ASAP.

There can be no doubting Sánchez’s quality, even if his form has tended to dip whenever Arsenal have dropped out of Premier League contention. Though he initially started out as a winger, last season he proved more than capable of playing through the middle, repaying Arsène Wenger with 24 league goals — almost twice as many as he’d scored the year before. After arriving from Barcelona in 2014, Sánchez adapted to English football in exactly the manner you'd expect of a world class talent, and has already twice won Arsenal’s Player of the Season award.

In short, Sánchez is one of few proven Premier League gamechangers, and, to put it simply, he’s just better than Ivan Perišić. What’s more, at 28, they’re both exactly the same age. Of course, Sánchez is likely to command a higher price, and stiff competition for his signature is to come from both Bayern Munich and Manchester City. But if he’s available — and, given there’s only a year left on his contract, he may well be — there’s no reason why Mourinho shouldn’t join the hunt. JS.

Ousmane Dembélé

France v England - International Friendly Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

United are definitely after Ivan Perišić. We’re not exactly sure why, since the Croatian winger strikes us as just another of the decent-ish signings Inter have been making for the last several years that never quite amount to much. He’s better than Ashley Young, we suppose, and Mourinho seems to like him. But Mourinho has liked all manner of horrible people, and if “better than Ashley Young” is the benchmark for incoming transfers, we might as well disband the bloody club now.

Ousmane Dembélé would be a ideal fit at United. José Mourinho’s best sides have always featured lightning quick attackers capable of blitzing opposition defenses on the break, and Dembélé fits that mold perfectly. He may be one of the fastest players on the continent, but he’s no mere pace merchant: 10 goals and 21 assists last season are the results of a player who can produce as well as excite.

Dembélé is naturally right-footed, and therefore not a neat alternative to Perišić, but he can operate on both flanks with exception, and actually set up more goals over the last two years with his so-called weaker foot. Borussia Dortmund would not let him go for anything less than a near world record fee, but what could be more fitting for United than buying a player for an extortionate price just a year after he could’ve been acquired for next to nothing?

The good thing about expensive young French attackers with electric pace, preternatural cool, and an eye for goal is that they’re an infinitely renewable resource. If you buy one, you can enjoy their immediate success, give up on them after a difficult second season, and then go out and get another one. BM.