Things are finally looking up for Manchester United this season. They have improved in the Premier League, and are the favourites to win the Europa League. As the summer approaches, the Red Devils are yet again linked with Borrusia Dortmund‘s Jadon Sancho.
In a COVID-19 era, United’s transfer committee will look to improve upon their dealings in the past and make quieter, value signings. Instead of digging deep into their pockets, this tactical analysis suggests smarter alternatives to Sancho. Our analysis includes players under the sub £80 million price tag that will fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s tactics.
1. Ruslan Malinovskiy (Atalanta)
This may come as a surprise to many due to the fact that Malinovskiy is a number 10 that has played across different positions in the midfield. However, the Ukrainian’s per 90 statistics are quite similar to Sancho.
Having a fairly similar radar in the above image, Sancho outperforms Malinovskiy in his key passes, goals and assists. Conversely, Malinovksiy surprisingly records a higher percentage of successful dribbles.
The Ukrainian is adept at creating something out of nothing and has been playing higher up the pitch as a second striker for Atalanta. Moreover, his per 90 statistics are one of the best in Serie A. His inconsistent game time and a price tag of around £25 million create an opportunistic scenario for United to swoop in for the Ukrainian.
Malinovskiy’s flair and technical abilities would harmoniously support Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes and Anthony Martial going forward.
2. Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)
Manchester United need a versatile and well-disciplined player with an eye for the goal. And Nkunku ticks all the boxes. The 23-year-old Frenchman has been one of Julien Nagelsmann’s most impressive players in the Leipzig project. He has played a whopping 9 different positions across midfield and attack and has 6 goals and 4 assists this season.
Nkunku is adept at playing in a system with 2 or 3 centre-backs. At United, he would be given more freedom to problem-solve on the pitch and cement his place as a well-balanced utility man with a high work-rate. United could buy him for a price tag of £30 million.
3. Nikola Vlasic (CSKA Moscow)
The Croatian wizard Nikola Vlasic is another midfielder-turned-number-10 that fits Man United’s profile. Vlasic has been the best player in the Russian League, having recorded 10 goals, 5 assists and a whopping 4.3 Shots-per game. Having a relatively similar statistical mold, Vlasic’s output around zone 14 and the opponent’s box could bring the Red Devils a ton of joy. In addition, the Croatian’ shooting prowess from distance is one of the best in Europe. At a price of around £30 million, United could make a statement to their rivals by buying Vlasic.
4. Yusuf Yazici (Lille)
Yusuf Yazici has been one of Lille’s most potent attackers in their title charge this season. He is currently the top scorer of the Europa League with 7 goals and has the second higher Shot Creating Actions per 90 in Ligue 1 with 5.48. Moreover, his Expected Assists (xA) per 90 of 0.36 ranks 4th in his league.
The above comparison highlights that Yazici is a more direct player as compared to Sancho. This would help United break down structurally rigid oppositions more effectively. The Turk’s ability to bring himself or his teammates into shooting positions could be an invaluable asset for Manchester United.
5. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)
This is a move that would prove that romance in football is not dead. Ronaldo has reportedly been unhappy at Juventus after being kicked out of the Champions League to Porto. In Serie A, Ronaldo has had one of his best seasons with 23 goals. And despite being 36, buying one of the greatest players of all time for around £60 million is an opportunity United will cherish. Playing as an out and out winger, Ronaldo’s output is unsurprisingly more goal-oriented as compared to Sancho. In addition, being a sharp aerial threat will add a classic number 9 dimension to United’s attacking output. Thus, despite being 36, Ronaldo will be the ultimate spark for the Red Devils that may permit them to challenge for a title in the upcoming seasons.