Following the announcement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s release, Manchester United suddenly appear somewhat lightweight up front heading into the new campaign.
Keep in mind that the former Sweden international scored 17 times in the Premier League last term. The closest individual tally to Zlatan’s doesn’t even register in the double figures (coming from Juan Mata, with six).
The remaining top-tallies were modest sums spread amongst players with various roles in the squad; Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford all returned five each, while Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan both scored four.
Yet none of those names or tallies will strike fear into the opposition the way that previous generations of title-winning Manchester United strike forces have.
This leaves us with the certainty of Jose Mourinho signing a high-profile, top-tier proven striker ahead of a UEFA Champions League return, which could even suggest two strikers will be brought into the squad before United’s season opener against West Ham.
Here we identify a player heavily rumoured to be wearing the red of Manchester United next season, and one who could pick up where Ibrahimovic left off.
Club: Real Madrid
Last Season: 40 appearances, 20 goals
Speculation continues to build that Alvaro Morata is Jose Mourinho’s priority target at centre-forward, a claim that seems to divide the club’s fan-base.
On one side, Morata is a Spanish international who has experienced three Champions League Finals, winning two of them and scoring in the one he lost as a Juventus player, and has won league titles in Spain and Italy all before his 25th birthday.
On the other side, Morata has never been the main man up front, largely playing second fiddle to more experienced strikers at Real Madrid and Juventus.
Regardless, he enjoyed his most prolific season at senior level last time out, scoring 15 goals in La Liga from 14 starts and 12 appearances off the bench.
Interestingly, he scored just two less league goals than Zlatan Ibrahimovic did in the Premier League, despite the Swede playing 18 more hours of league football.
Morata would certainly demand more than 14 starts in Manchester United’s current squad (which is less starts than Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and even Wayne Rooney got in the league last season).
He is an internationally-proven player, scoring nine times from his 20 Spanish caps, including three goals at the European Championships in France last year.
Some sceptics may be put off by his transfer fee, which will undoubtedly raise eyebrows and write headlines, but the Spaniard appears to be United’s most viable option going forward.