Osimhen, Immobile… or could Mitrovic be Manchester United´s ideal Ronaldo replacement?

    Manchester United are on the lookout for a new striker in the January transfer window as they look for a replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo and a solution to their goalscoring problems.

    While United may have scored three goals against poor Nottingham Forest side on their return to the Premier League, they have struggled to score this season.

    With 23 goals in 15 matches, averaging 1.53 goals per game, 10 Premier League teams are scoring at or better than Erik ten Hag’s.

    This means that half of the division is more productive than United, including Brentford (1.56 goals per game), Fulham (1.69) and Brighton & Hove Albion (1.73).

    Indeed, even in that routine victory over Forest earlier this week, United’s wastefulness was clearly visible before he ended up killing the opposition with his third goal.

    “We need to score more goals,” coach Ten Hag said. “We created so many chances and it took us almost to the very end to score the third goal.

    “You can see Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford scoring goals; Bruno Fernandes scores goals. We have a lot of players who can score but we have to be ruthless.”

    The Magnificent Seven

    The key word there is “ruthless”. Ten Hag has made it clear that he doesn’t need a creative player or even a wide striker who scores, say, 10-15 goals in a season.

    As Michael Owen pointed out on Tuesday, Ten Haeg and United need “Ruud van Nistelrooy, Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney who scores over 30 goals in a season”.

    Finding one of these players is easier said than done, of course, not least in the infamous hard-to-negotiate January window.

    All competitions taken into account, seven players from clubs in Europe’s top five leagues achieved that magical 30 points last season, led by Robert Lewandowski (50).

    It’s safe to assume that United won’t consider negotiating Lewandowski in January; the same is true for Karim Benzema (44), Kylian Mbappe (39) and Mohamed Salah (31).

    Christopher Nkunku (35) would have been a much more achievable target had Chelsea not gotten there first, as RB Leipzig have reportedly already been agreed on a fee for a future move to the Blues.

    Thus, Wissam Ben Yedder and Ciro Immobile remain the only forwards in Europe to score 30+ goals each last season. Both scored 32 goals for Monaco and Lazio respectively.

    Ben Yedder and Immobile are still scoring regulars this season, averaging a goal every other game, although both will turn 33 next year and have no English football experience.

    Ten Hag, who has been honest about United’s squad since arriving in July, said any signings must “meet sporting and financial criteria”.

    Negotiating royalties for contract duo Ben Yedder and Immobile, and tying them to deals that run until the age of 30, definitely won’t tick the box.

    So, what United really needs to find is a high-scoring scorer who is on the right side of the 30, achievable and ready to hit the ground running. What could be easier?

    Who needs Vlahovic when there is… Mitrovic?

    There is one player – perhaps an unexpected name at first glance – who fits the bill. Yes, that’s right – Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

    Only Erling Haaland (1.3), Lewandowski and Mbappe (both at 0.95) have averaged more goals per game among Europe’s elite this season than Mitrovic (0.77).

    This puts the Serbian international on par with Markus Thuram (0.76), Nkunku (0.74) and Viktor Osimhen (0.71), all of whom have been regularly linked with United.

    While it would be easy to dismiss these figures as misleading (he averages 0.31 goals in his entire Premier League career), he is playing in the here and now.

    Mitrovic’s 10 Premier League goals were driven by an expected earnings (xG) of 8.6 – only three others have higher numbers, underscoring his fertility.

    To put this 1.4 difference into some context, let’s say that United’s top scorer Rashford is 0.3 per season – far from the ruthless finisher United craves.

    This is no snub for Rashford, who, with 10 goals in a season, has twice as many as any other teammate. Rashford is not a problem; the absence of a central striker is.

    Of course, for a big club like United, there is always the added responsibility of having a set of big names, especially after the departure of a certain CR7.

    This explains links to Enzo Fernandez, Dusan Vlahovic and Cody Gakpo, who starred in the World Cup with the Netherlands but have since agreed to join Liverpool.

    There is a compelling case to be made as to why any of these players, still on the market, could be decisive for United in the second half of the season.

    However, Ten Hag wants a “ruthless” striker again. So how about three names that are arguably more synonymous with United and the January move than any other players?

    Fans’ Choice

    Gonzalo Ramos was still relatively unknown before the World Cup, but his hat-trick for Portugal against Switzerland in the round of 16 changed everything.

    Let’s not forget that Ramos was pushed aside to replace Ronaldo at the top. As the top scorer in the Primeira League this season, he is a young scorer with a pedigree.

    The aforementioned Osimhen has scored 10 goals in 14 games for Napoli this season, which clearly shows why many fans have urged United to make the move.

    Mohammed Kudus is also having a good time at Ajax, and Ten Hag’s previous business suggests he favors players linked to his home country.

    Of course, United have options, but whether the club can be astute enough to get Ten Hag’s top target, or targets in a limited market, is another question.

    However, for all the talk of chasing the Qatar 2022 star or a possible star of the future, United may be better off shopping closer to home to fulfill Ten Hag’s wish.

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