Manchester United should target a striker such as Harry Kane or Erling Haaland instead of pursuing Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, former assistant manager Steve McClaren says.
The Red Devils have been linked with England winger Sancho for many months, but Dortmund have made it clear they will not sell him before next season.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is nonetheless keen to add some more quality to his squad, having seen their season ended in disappointment with a 2-1 Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla – their third defeat in the last four of a cup competition in 2019-20.
United mustered 20 shots against the LaLiga side but could only score through a Bruno Fernandes penalty, while errors at the back allowed Suso and Luuk de Jong to send Julen Lopetegui’s men through.
It was a similar story in the quarter-finals against Copenhagen, when another Fernandes spot-kick proved decisive. Across the two matches, United attempted 46 shots, 21 of which were on target, but failed to score from open play.
Former England boss McClaren, who became assistant to Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford ahead of the treble-winning season of 1999, thinks a centre-forward – and stronger defence – could make the difference to the current side’s progress.
“They had so many chances,” he told talkSPORT. “I was watching the game thinking, if Robin van Persie was there, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke… you name the number nines Manchester United have had throughout the years, they would have put at least one of those chances away.
2 – Including both their quarter-final victory over FC København and their match with Sevilla tonight, Manchester United had 46 shots, with 21 hitting the target; however, the Red Devils managed just two goals from the penalty spot in those matches. Dissect. #UEL pic.twitter.com/VOHVGVLket
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 16, 2020
“That’s what wins big games, and that’s what Manchester United have failed to do in the three semi-finals: win the big games by not taking their chances and defensive errors at the other end.
“Manchester United are out of the Europa League because they failed to score in one box and failed to defend in the other.
“The solution is not as simple as, ‘let’s get in a number nine and all our worries are over’; they also need some defenders because Manchester United should not have conceded a goal against Sevilla. They were simple errors.
“They’ve got a good defender in [Harry] Maguire, and I think they need another centre-half and a good number nine and work very, very hard defensively.
“The front four are so quick, they’re so exciting and they cause so many problems, and [Anthony] Martial is a fantastic player, but in the big games when it really matters, he never looks like a true goalscorer. They need class in that position.
“The manager is helpless if the club don’t back him and go for the likes of [Erling] Haaland. What a perfect fit he would have been. I’ve seen him for Dortmund and he’s an incredible player at 20. Imagine him in the Man United team, that would be spot on.
“I’ve seen Jadon Sancho play a lot for Dortmund and he’s very, very exciting, but he’s a little bit like Martial, Rashford and Greenwood and I wonder, do they really need that?
“He’s not a number nine, and Martial, [Marcus] Rashford and [Mason] Greenwood aren’t number nines either. You’ve got to get a fox in the box, a goalscorer and number nine and they’ve got to find one quick.
“Yes, Sancho would improve the squad, but to win big games and to win cups, you need a number nine and you need two damn good centre-backs.
“Haaland would have been perfect: a young talented striker, a number nine who can play under pressure – they’re difficult to find. Harry Kane, will they get him out of Tottenham? I doubt it very much, but they need someone of that ilk.”
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