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Antony, Gakpo, and Pulisic: Analysing all the strikers linked to Man Utd to replace Ronaldo

2:55 PM IST 20/08/22
Antony Cody Gakpo GFX
GOAL runs the numbers on all of the strikers interesting Erik Ten Hag

Manchester United had months to solidify their attack this summer but are now entering crisis mode after their top targets proved either too costly or unattainable. Cristiano Ronaldo's desire to leave threatens to thin an already fragile front-line, and they are desperate to add reinforcements soon.

The club have cast a wide net to identify someone, anyone, who might be able to offer them the cutting edge in the final third that they have lacked. The players on their radar have varied dramatically in age and skill level, and just weeks before the window closes, it remains unclear who they might land.

GOAL has thumbed through the statistics of Manchester United's most-linked attacking targets and here are the results.

  • Matheus Cunha Atletico Madrid 2021-22

    Matheus Cunha

    Considered a huge prospect after impressing at Hertha Berlin, Matheus Cunha did not kick on as he might have hoped in his inaugural Atletico Madrid campaign. He was largely used as a substitute last term, and his stock has dipped somewhat as a result.

    There is plenty to like about the Brazilian, though. Cunha is full of energy and defends from the front, while his flexibility allows him to play pretty much anywhere along the front-line. He may not be a big name, but it is not inconceivable that Erik ten Hag could mould him into an effective Premier League attacker.

    Unfortunately for the Red Devils, Atletico Madrid are expected to reject any offers that come their way.

    2021-22 Appearances - 45
    Goals - 7
    Assists - 5
    Successful pressures (league only) - 80
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.43
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 0.59

  • Antony Ajax 2022-23


    The transfer saga that just won't go away this summer...

    If Ten Hag had his way, Antony, his golden boy at Ajax, would have arrived at Old Trafford weeks ago. Quick as a whippet and an expert at cutting in from the right, he has already been capped by Brazil despite being just 22.

    The negatives? His numbers are not mind blowing, and Brazilians from the Eredivisie do not always settle in the Premier League. Just ask Afonso Alves.

    2021-22 Appearances - 39
    Goals - 12
    Assists - 10
    Possession won final third (league only) - 24
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.30
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 2.2

  • Sasa Kalajdzic, Stuttgart 2022

    Sasa Kalajdzic

    If Ten Hag is searching for someone tall to lead his line, he needn't look any further than 6-foot-7 Sasa Kalajdzic.

    We're sure a couple of United fans out there are reading his stats through their fingers, so it is worth noting that the Stuttgart frontman has scored in greater volume when he's been fit. During the 2020-21 campaign he managed 16 Bundesliga goals and six assists, and he is surprisingly mobile for a big man.

    2021-22 Appearances - 19
    Goals - 6
    Assists - 1
    Successful pressures (league only) - 70
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.38
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 0.44

  • Cody Gakpo PSV

    Cody Gakpo

    It is hard not to get excited about Cody Gakpo, who reached a new level at PSV last season.

    Gangly and graceful on the ball, the 23-year-old can glide past defenders with ease. His goal record is impressive, too, and he is equally creative when fielded out wide.

    His failure to impress over two legs against Leicester in the Europa Conference League is a slight worry when considering how he would fare against Premier League opposition - but it's unfair to read too much into such as small sample there.

    2021-22 Appearances - 48
    Goals - 21
    Assists - 14
    Possession won final third (league only) - 16
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.37
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 3.6

  • Morata-Atletico

    Alvaro Morata

    Despite only ever reaching 15 goals in a league once in his career, Alvaro Morata boasts an impressive footballing CV.

    It is no secret that Morata can be a shaky finisher, but he remains popular with elite clubs thanks to his work off the ball, selfless nature and ruggedness. He could work well at United as a facilitator to two prolific wide forwards. If only Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho could find some form...

    2021-22 Appearances - 60
    Goals - 17
    Assists - 5
    Successful pressures (league only) - 124
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.35
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 0.78

  • Joao Felix

    Joao Felix

    Joao Felix is an interesting case. Despite showing flashes of brilliance, it is hard to shake the feeling that his development may have been better served at a different club than defence-minded Atletico Madrid.

    With the Spanish organisation fraying at the seams financially, United could look to test their resolve with a massive bid. Comfortable across the front three or in attacking midfield, Felix has the potential to ascend to the top table of European players, provided he is coached well.

    Convincing the 22-year-old to put his Champions League ambitions on hold is a tough sell, though.

    2021-22 Appearances - 39
    Goals - 10
    Assists - 5
    Successful pressures (league only) - 38
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.53
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 1.86

  • Mauro Icardi PSG 2022-23

    Mauro Icardi

    It's hard to see this one happening, given the Argentine's checkered history with team-mates and Manchester United's disharmony. Sounds about as good an idea as adding the milk first when making a brew.

    Besides, Icardi has struggled to make an impact on the pitch of late, as he endured a season to forget in 2021-22.

    2021-22 Appearances - 30
    Goals - 5
    Assists - 0
    Successful pressures (league only) - 35
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.38
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 0.18

  • Hakim Ziyech Chelsea 2022-23

    Hakim Ziyech

    Blessed with a left foot carved by the gods but yet to find his full groove in the Premier League, it is hard to say whether signing Hakim Ziyech is a good idea.

    Ironically, he would probably work well with Ronaldo, as it's easy to imagine Ziyech hanging up deep crosses to the back post for the 37-year-old to nod home.

    He has worked fruitfully with Ten Hag before at Ajax, and the interest from the head coach is there.

    2021-22 Appearances - 42
    Goals - 8
    Assists - 6
    Successful pressures (league only) - 78
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.21
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 2.38

  • Moussa Dembele Lyon 2021-22

    Moussa Dembele

    Perennially linked with the Premier League, Lyon's Moussa Dembele flopped when he stepped out of his Ligue 1 comfort zone with Atletico Madrid in 2020-21, failing to score in his seven appearances.

    Last season represented a return to form, and with just one year left on his contract the typical on-the-shoulder striker is financially feasible for United this summer. His link-up play isn't great but he should deliver goals if he gets the service.

    2021-22 Appearances - 37
    Goals - 23
    Assists - 5
    Successful pressures (league only) - 89
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.43
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 1.10

  • Pulisic-Chelsea-2022-23

    Christian Pulisic

    Christian Pulisic's Premier League career has been far from perfect so far, with the Hershey-born forward being blighted by injury and inconsistency since joining Chelsea.

    The potential for more production has always been there, though, and the marketing possibilities for the American are out of this world.

    2021-22 Appearances - 48
    Goals - 13
    Assists - 5
    Successful pressures (league only) - 72
    Goals per shot on target (league only) - 0.55
    Successful dribbles per 90 (league only) - 1.4