Manchester United know where to find their perfect back-up striker
Man Utd will need a long-term replacement for Odion Ighalo when he returns to China and they now know the ideal player they should be after.by Tyrone Marshall, http://www.facebook.com/TyMarshallMEN/
Odion Ighalo might not fit the profile of an ideal Manchester United signing, but he has at least given the club an outline of the kind of striker they need to complement the attack.
Eyebrows were raised when United signed Ighalo on a four-month loan deal on the final day of the January transfer window but the 30-year-old has proven to be the ideal foil for Anthony Martial.
It's not just been the goals - four of them in three starts in cup competitions - but the fact he's been able to give the Frenchman and a rest and that he offers a point of difference to the frontline.
United's attackers before Ighalo signed all fit a similar bracket. There was pace to burn, an abundance of threat on the counter-attack and forwards who liked to drop deep and wide and run with the ball, at times it could all be too similar.
United also lacked a striker who could come off the bench and offer a variation. Ighalo has done that, he is more physical than Martial and Marcus Rashford, stays more central and offers a focal point. He can also hold the ball up, a vital tool late in games when his side are holding on to leads, and while his late cameo against Manchester City was one of his briefest, it was also one of his best. It was the kind of impact off the bench in a winning cause that United have so often lacked.
So when Martial returns to China, either early next week or, as United hope, once this season is finished, it will be time to find an alternative. Martial and Rashford need to know there is a back-up striker available, reducing their workload, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will want another attacking body to call upon off the bench or in the case of injury or rotation.
The success of Ighalo has made it clear that he is the type of forward that would complement the existing attack. There is a lot of excitement around Timo Werner as he continues to plunder goals for RB Leipzig at an eye-catching rate, but he's also very similar to what United already have.
Werner is a forward who can play wide, drops away from the penalty box and has a blistering turn of foot. He might be the perfect replacement for Martial, but not the ideal alternative.
Instead United need a younger version of Ighalo and that might lead them to Lyon and Moussa Dembele. The 23-year-old might not quite have the physicality of United's Nigerian loanee but at 6ft he still an imposing option and he can play as a traditional No. 9, staying central and holding the ball up.
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Dembele would likely be a cheaper option than Werner as well, not to mention more attainable, with the German looking likely to move to Liverpool if he does leave Leipzig this summer.
The former Celtic striker's contribution at Lyon across two seasons amounts to 42 goals in 88 games and there is a feeling he may be set to depart the club this summer, especially with Lyon likely to be without European football next season. Ligue 1 has already been terminated as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and, with Rudi Garcia's side only in seventh before the season was suspended, they won't qualify for either continental competition.
President Jean-Michael Aulas hasn't taken that decision lightly and Lyon aren't going quietly without European football, but for footballing and financial reasons it will cast further doubt on the future of Dembele.
Ighalo's short contribution to United so far has been memorable, but he's also highlighted the path Solskjaer should go down when looking for competition and back-up in attack.
Dembele is unlikely to demand to be playing every week if he does move, but he will have enough chances to oust Martial while also offering an alternative weapon in the final third. The Frenchman looks a better option for United than Werner.