Ten players that Manchester United could use to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and his goals

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·13-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Ronaldo seems set to leave Manchester United Credit: PA Images
Ronaldo seems set to leave Manchester United Credit: PA Images

Manchester United and Cristiano Ronaldo seem likely to part ways, but Ronaldo scored 24 for them last season and those goals need replacing.

 

Nothing has been confirmed yet, but at the time of writing it seems highly unlikely that Cristiano Ronaldo will play for Manchester United again, and this leaves United in something of a bind. Ronaldo’s 2021/22 season was a nine-month-long contradiction. On the one hand, it was clear – often visibly evident to the point of being painful – that the player was not going to join in with the pressing football that was expected of him. But on the other, he returned 24 goals for them in all competitions, and that’s a big space to have to fill.

He was one of only two Manchester United players to end the season on double figures – Bruno Fernandes scored ten – and regardless of what he may (not) have contributed on the pitch, that is a shortfall that will need to be made up next season by somebody. So, what options do United have to replace him before the start of the new season? Here are ten possible replacements.

 

Paulo Dybala: It had been expected that the Juventus forward would be completing a move to Inter this summer, but this appears to have stalled and there have now been reports that his people have been in contact with Manchester United and that he could be going to Old Trafford instead. Dybala is highly experienced but, at 28 years of age, isn’t a player that would be considered ‘too old’ to become another of those ageing stop-gap forwards that United have been so fond of in recent years. He’s versatile – he can play in several different attacking positions – and a free transfer is always worth looking at closely.

But he’s not perfect. It seems likely that his wage requirements would be extremely high, and his goalscoring record isn’t the greatest, having failed to score more than 11 goals in a league season since the 2017/18 season. So Dybala isn’t the guaranteed goalscorer that United might want, and it would certainly be striking if Ronaldo’s replacement at Old Trafford turned out to be his former Juventus foil, but if Erik ten Hag is planning to deal with the loss of Ronaldo by switching to a formation that accommodates a false nine, Dybala could be a good choice.

 

Dominic Calvert-Lewin: It remains a widely held opinion that we haven’t seen the best of Dominic Calvert-Lewin, but if Ten Hag was able to get the best out of him, the Everton striker would tick a lot of boxes for United. He’s 25 years old, so about to to enter the absolute prime years of his career, and is highly marketable. And having gone through a traumatic season at Goodison Park, he may be open to a move to Manchester United and European football. Not insignificantly, he scored the goal for Everton against Crystal Palace in their penultimate game of the season which guaranteed their Premier League survival for another year.

But there are obvious issues, the most obvious of which is his record last season. Being out for four months with a fractured toe didn’t exactly help his case, but he only scored five goals in 17 games, and if United are going to spend tens of millions of pounds on a new forward, they’ll need a better return than that. Perhaps worse than that, it doesn’t seem likely that Everton would let DCL go cheap. He’s contracted at Goodison Park until 2025 and Everton have already lost Richarlison to Spurs this summer, and while Everton’s financial issues are well-known, we’re now past the July 1 cut-off date for accounting so their need to sell to balance the books isn’t as great as it was a couple of weeks ago. It’s difficult to see how him signing for United wouldn’t be both extremely expensive and a bit of a gamble.

 

Robert Lewandowski: At almost 34 years old and with a glittering career behind him – 344 goals in all competitions in 375 games for Bayern Munich an Poland’s all-time record goalscorer – Lewa would be a very Manchester United signing, considering their history of signing strikers in their 30s and wringing a little extra out of them. Mark Ogden of ESPN reports that ‘Manchester United could attempt to sign Robert Lewandowski, if Cristiano Ronaldo leaves.’ Well, they may attempt to sign him, but how likely is it that they would be successful?

It doesn’t seem that the answer to this question is ‘very’. It’s already understood that he has turned down an offer from Chelsea, and there seems little doubt that his preferred choice of destination for this summer is Barcelona, where he could play in a crumbling stadium at a legendary but dysfunctional football club, but in the Champions League. There’s still hope until he’s pictured on the Camp Nou pitch holding a scarf above his head, but the likelihood of Manchester United being able to make him a better offer than the one that he’s believed to have agreed with Barca would seem to be remote.

 

Ivan Toney: Strong in the air, good with his feet and able to lead a frontline on his own, Ivan Toney flourished in the second half of last season, and he’s now scored a goal every other game over the last four seasons for both Peterborough United and Brentford. He’s also very familiar with new arrival Christian Eriksen, who was his supply line for Brentford last season. He turned Spurs down last summer, but they only wanted him as cover for Harry Kane.

Might he be tempted by a move to Manchester? He might well be, but he’s contracted to Brentford until 2025, and with them just having secured a second season of Premier League football, they’re not under any particular pressure to sell, which would likely make him  expensive. There other minor quibbles over his suitability. He’s only played 35 Premier League matches (33 for Brentford and 2 for Newcastle United) and going from Brentford, where Premier League ambitions are limited, to carry the burden of expectation of Manchester United’s vast global fanbase would be a huge step-up. There are also questions about his attitude. Last season, he had to apologise for comments he made about Brentford during their winter break.

 

Christopher Nkunku: With 35 goals in all competitions for RB Leipzig last season, it’s no great surprise that Nkunku was being described earlier in the summer as ‘one of the world’s most wanted players’. It was a spectacular season, for sure. His team won the DFB-Pokal and reached the semi-finals of the Europa League, while also qualifying for the Champions League. But this success may be part of the reason why he would be a difficult acquisition to secure.

Reports value him at £50m, but this valuation is confused by a new contract having been agreed, another season of Champions League football having been secured and RB Leipzig being under no obligation to sell, at which point United’s inability to offer Champions League football this season could be a hurdle they’d be unable to overcome. There has, of course, already been substantial interest in his services from elsewhere.

 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Victor Osimhen: It’s not difficult to see the appeal of this particular player to Manchester United. His club, Napoli, have already been connected with Cristiano Ronaldo and with United trying to shop around for value in the transfer market, there is an obvious appeal to making Ronaldo a makeweight in a swap deal. Osimhen contributed 18 goals and six assists in 32 appearances for Napoli last season, but again there are sticking points.

The fee being discussed earlier this summer for Osimhen was £84m, although they might try to negotiate that figure significantly down, Ronaldo’s transfer value isn’t high. Even if United were able to, say, persuade Napoli that Ronaldo had a transfer value of £10m, that would still leave United paying even more than they did for Jadon Sancho with a bit of a reputation for being injury-prone. And at a time when they need several new players and when missing out on Champions League football is only likely to be constraining their spending, United may just find that spending more than £70m on this player is slightly out of their range.

 

Hugo Ekitike: He’s only 20 years old and has only scored just 20 career goals in all competitions, but there’s been a buzz around  the Stade Reims forward Hugo Ekitike for some time now, and Newcastle United have lost contact with him already twice, once in January and again during this transfer window. Their offer in January was rejected because it was reported that the player didn’t consider that the right time to leave Reims. This summer, Newcastle had an offer of up to £30m accepted by Reims, but were unable to agree personal terms and ended up walking away.

But again, Ekiteke would be a bit of a gamble. He’s only played 52 senior league games and 15 of them were in the French second tier for Reims II. Furthermore, his apparent reticence to leave Reims may be connected to his age and that lack of experience. There seems to have been little to indicate that Ekiteke is particularly bothered about leaving his club right now, and as Newcastle have already found to their cost, you can negotiate all you like with a club, but that doesn’t mean anything if the player isn’t that interested in moving. It may well be that this is all brinkmanship on his part. Ekitike himself is known to be a self-confessed Kylian Mbappe fan, and if PSG were to come calling for him, he would surely end up at Stade de France. But again, if this is one of the best young attacking prospects in the world, why would he go to Manchester United right now?

 

Jonathan David: With 58 goals in 135 league matches and 21 goals in 30 international appearances, it’s hardly surprising that the Canadian international has been on the Manchester United radar for more than two years. United were linked with him in 2020, when it seemed likely that he would be leaving his first club Gent, but rather than going to Old Trafford he went to Lille instead, a decision that couldn’t have been any better justified than it was by the fact that he ended his first season there with a Ligue Un title.

Just over a year on from that, Manchester United may well still be interested in David, but Bayern Munich are believed to want him as a replacement for Robert Lewandowski should he leave the club this summer, and that would be a formidable obstacle for United to get past, were they to make an offer to him.

 

Jamie Vardy: Well, it would be a wild card choice and with Vardy now 35 years old it could only really be a short-term option, but Jamie Vardy does at least know the route to goal, is very, very experienced, and only has a year to run on his contract, which may make him available at an attractive price. But there are two potential stumbling blocks they’d have to overcome.

Firstly, Vardy has just completed his tenth season with Leicester and may not want to leave the club. Speaking about the possibility of extending his contract again this summer in May, manager Brendan Rodgers told the press that “he’s very happy here”. Vardy only played 25 Premier League games for Leicester last season, and seemed to be coming towards the point of starting to wind his playing career down a little. Would he want the hassle of uprooting to Old Trafford at this late point in his career? Secondly, whether Erik ten Hag would want a player who’s 35 is open to question. Vardy may well be a reasonable option as back-up or as a short-term fix for the departure of Ronaldo, but he can hardly be considered anything more than a stop-gap option.

 

Mauro Icardi: We’ve been here before, of course. At the start of the January transfer window it was reported that Manchester United would prepare an offer for the PSG forward if both Edinson Cavani and Anthony Martial left the club. Icardi is highly experienced and, with lengthy periods at both Inter and PSG, has the experience of big clubs and their suffocating expectation levels, but also may be interested in more first-team football, considering that he’s now 29 years of age but has made just 23 league appearances in his three years in Paris.

But Icardi is a PSG player, and would be unlikely to be inexpensive. His career has been controversial at points, and there’s also the suggestion that he might not quite be the player that he was. It seems clear that Icardi will not be getting a starting place at PSG, but he has the feel of being a bit of a gamble, and an expensive one at that.

 

Neymar: ‘Man Utd contacted by Neymar reps in blockbuster twist as PSG division comes to light’ squawked the Daily Express on July 1, in that unfamiliarly near-incomprehensible style so beloved by tabloid newspaper headline writers, but how realistic is it that this could come to fruition? On one level, it feels like a perfect Manchester United signing, a wildly talented player who would hit every social media metric available and for a price that might not be as high as many would initially assume, considering the absurdly high fee that PSG paid to prise him from Barcelona in the first place.

But players of this calibre have expectations, and one of their key expectations tends to be Champions League football. And for all the talk of PSG having ‘opened the door‘ to him leaving the club, that’s the one thing that United simply can’t offer him for the coming season. He’d likely be in extremely high demand were he to be made formally ‘available’, but it’s difficult to see how Manchester United could end up as the most attractive option, while he’s hardly the ‘Number Nine’ type that United might be looking for and the baggage that accompanies him around is probably the last thing that Manchester United need right now.

 

No-one at all: The truly radical option for Manchester United and Erik ten Hag would be for them to respond to the loss of Ronaldo by simply bringing through the players already at their disposal. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are both stories of ‘lost potential’, but it’s possible that, under better coaching (and there seems little question that Manchester United’s players have been appallingly coached over the last few years, considering the number that have regressed rather than improving) and with better delivery from Christian Eriksen or (presuming that these transfers go through – neither is confirmed at the time of writing) Frenkie de Jong, either or both of these players could yet shine next season. It’s a crazy scheme, this not spending a nine-figure sum in what would look very much like a bit of a panic, but it might just work. And if it doesn’t, well, there’s always the January window instead.

The article Ten players that Manchester United could use to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and his goals appeared first on Football365.com.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting