With relationship broken, who might United find to replace Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo’s explosive interview with Piers Morgan has ensured there’s no way back for him at Carrington.
The 37-year-old has struggled to accept a bit-part role under Erik ten Hag this season, and he aired his dirty laundry in a 90-minute interview on Piers Morgan Uncensored on TalkTV. In the chat, he accused Manchester United of disrespecting him and trying to force him out of the club.
Whether the hierarchy wanted him out in the summer or not remains unclear, but with his controversial comments, Ronaldo has convinced them to cut ties as soon as possible.
Having already removed a mural containing Ronaldo’s image from Old Trafford, United are exploring ways to terminate the superstar’s contract.
With the bridges burned, the Red Devils will now be forced to alter their transfer plans. Initially, they wanted to wait until next summer to pursue a new striker but will now have to jump into the winter market to replace their talisman.
This development poses another challenge. Despite links with Kylian Mbappe and Victor Osimhen, it would be near-impossible to lure in a marquee forward mid-season. Keeping this in mind, here are four players who would be more attainable in January.
Ivan Toney – Complete striker
The most complete and natural No. 9 on this list, Toney has been one of the best strikers in England in the past two years. Harry Kane (12) is the only Englishman to score more league goals this season than the Brentford man (10).
His excellent hold-up play and creativity would be ideal for any possession-heavy team. Further, the threat of Christian Eriksen’s delivery from set-piece situations would increase tenfold with Toney’s aerial presence. The duo combined well during Eriksen’s short stint at Brentford.
However, Toney has been charged with breaching FA betting rules, the outcome of which could impact any potential move.
Cody Gakpo – Versatile
The PSV star has been on Ten Hag’s radar since the summer window and the forward even held talks with the former Ajax boss. But the expensive arrival of Antony ended the possibility of another attacking addition.
With a direct hand in 21 league goals – as many as Erling Haaland – Gakpo has shown why the Dutch coach was keen to sign him.
He is capable of playing anywhere across the front line and has the physical and technical ability to carry both creative and goalscoring duties for his side.
Memphis Depay – Another Return
United tend to make emotional moves. Cristiano Ronaldo’s return was driven more by the romance of the prodigal tale than any sporting idea.
Ironically, the club can do a lot worse than dive into their history books once again to bring back another former No. 7.
Depay’s return to United this time would make sense with regard to the squad dynamics. The Netherlands talisman has matured into a flexible box presence and incisive finisher since his last stint in England. He is adept at both occupying central zones and drifting wide to make space for other attackers to disrupt the opposition’s backline.
Financially, Depay is likely to be available for nothing, with Barcelona keen to offload him to free up space on their wage bill.
Joao Felix – Risk-free
The 23-year-old is already viewed as Ronaldo’s successor in the Portuguese setup and should be considered to fill his boots at United as well.
Felix is not as prolific as Ronaldo or any other aforementioned forward for that matter but offers different traits to elevate his side’s attack. His ability in possession makes him a very good outlet in tight spaces. Further, his tendency to drop deeper would open space for midfielders to attack the box – the scenario in which Bruno Fernandes thrives.
With Felix currently out of favour under Diego Simeone, United have a chance to lure him on loan in January before accessing their options at the end of the season.