United Finally Pull the Trigger on a New Striker. Was there ever any doubt?
With the transfer window now closed, United fans were left wondering whether they’d ever sign a striker during the latter parts of the final week. In fact, it wasn’t until the last 48 hours of the window before they finally pulled the trigger on signing a striker to bolster their attacking options.
We often see a frenzy of activity in the last couple of days of the transfer window. Frankly, if you’re not tuning into Sky Sports on the final day of the window, it’s hard to comprehend what in your life you feel is more exciting that this circus show. The climatic and often comical finale to the window usually brings an unseen amount of drama. Failed deals, rushed transfers, knee-jerk transfer requests, and some inflated transfers fees make the Premier League the most exciting league in the world.
During the summer, we saw Louis Van Gaal backed once more by the United board, as he’s splashed the cash on several new players including World Cup winning Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, French international Morgan Schneiderlin, PSV wing wizard Memphis Depay, and full back Matteo Darmian from Torino. However, from the start they made to the season, those acquisitions looked woefully short as United struggled to hit the back of the net.
Wayne Rooney is still yet to score a league goal this season, and there was a ton of question marks hanging over the returning Javier Hernandez’s ability to hit the ground running. That has now disappeared as he saw a move to Bayer Leverkusen push through and end a trophy-laden career with the Old Trafford side.
Even rumours circulated that Maroune Fellani could be deployed as a striker this season. Which left big questions marks over whether United had the attacking options to challenge for the title, in their current state. The need to add someone of the ilk of Edison Cavani, Robert Lewandowski, Neymar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or even the Tottenham striker Harry Kane seemed a necessity but probably highly unlikely. Van Gaal has a large degree of confidence in his captain, and was expected that Rooney will lead the line for the most part of the season.
That was until United clinched the signing of AS Monaco and French Under-21 international Anthony Marial for a reported £36 million initially, with add-ons included. This is definitely not the marquee signing fans were hoping for but at least it shows that Van Gaal is investing in youth, and regardless of Martial being a fairly unknown quantity to Premier League fans, he is recognised as one of the brightest talents in European football right now.
It obviously hadn’t gone unmissed that Liverpool added a proven goalscorer to their ranks in the form of Belgian striker Christian Benteke from Aston Villa for £32 million. Also, Chelsea took Radamel Falcao on loan for the season, after his less than impressive stint at Old Trafford last campaign. The lack of fresh attacking options was somewhat a concern for United. So, at least the Old Trafford faithful can rest easy that they have at least some competition among their forward lineup going into their next game after the international break.
Do they have the depth to challenge Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City? Is Wayne Rooney or Anthony Martial capable of spearheading that push with 20+ league goals? From the start that Rooney has made to the season, it looks like a resounding no. Yes, he did score a hat-trick in the Champions League qualifier against Club Brugge but the opposition were hardly Premier League-quality. One thing is for sure the pressure will snowball quickly if United falter.
Even if Van Gaal did have a relatively successful honeymoon period last season, he will undoubtedly have less room for failure this season. And this season could be judged on whether a signing like Anthony Martial for such a sizeable amount is a success or not.
The addition of Martial to the United squad could well result in Rooney being pushed back into that #10 role that he so often occupied last season. On paper, the trio of Rooney, Martial, and youngster James Wilson still looks woefully short of an attacking offensive worthy of a title-challenging squad. And it’s hardly what United are used to either. Memories of when Cole, Yorke, Sheringham and Solskjaer were jostling for starting berths will no doubt make United fans cringe at the current inadequacies of their forward line.
The need for Martial to hit the ground running could make or break United’s season – even this early in the campaign. If they are to keep in contention for silverware, they need to start scoring, and if Martial is to be a success, the young protégée will have to settle in quickly to the rigours of the Premier League and the demands of the totalitarian Van Gaal.