Manchester United’s star-studded attacking unit needs a solution, and time has shown that there is no other solution than Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, a player who possesses the potential to break the mould and change what it means to be a forward. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has carried United’s goal-burden this season and has shown leadership for what he lacks in accuracy.
If Ibrahimovic leaves Manchester United this summer, there will be a striker coming in to replace the Swede, but that striker won’t change the way United plays football in the final third. Griezmann, on the other hand, is a completely different player- his x-factor shines through on the brightest stage, and he’s the natural successor to Wayne Rooney for a multitude of reasons.
Griezmann, highly regarded for his clinical finishing and top-notch work rate, could provide the defensive nous that most other second strikers would fail to offer. This would appeal to Jose Mourinho, and offer him variety in a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2, 3-5-2, or 3-4-3 system- any formation in which Griezmann can play in central areas alongside another forward and he can play his best football.
Purchasing Griezmann will allow Marcus Rashford to maintain his playing time in the side, which is important to the future of Manchester United. Griezmann will be able to support Rashford playing up front, but also play up front when United’s main striker isn’t available next season. As we’ve seen without Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the last week, Marcus Rashford is an exceptional prospect, but he isn’t ready to accept United’s goal-scoring burden.
Speaking of Marcus Rashford, Griezmann has shown his prowess playing in a variety of systems alongside target men and poachers. For Atletico Madrid, Griezmann accepts the burden of carrying the elite Spanish outfit on the counter-attack. Meanwhile, for France at the Euros, Griezmann was the player of the competition and top scorer in a possession-based system, behind Olivier Giroud.
Griezmann’s ability to play in a variety of systems could be particularly helpful under Jose Mourinho- United played on the counter on Sunday against Middlesbrough, for example, but have also played many matches in possession of the ball. While Manchester United’s attacking football has been better this season compared to Louis van Gaal, there are three areas in which United has lacked- penetration from natural wide threats (save for Antonio Valencia), but more noticeably, incisiveness through the centre and finishing off chances.
Adding Griezmann to United’s ranks would almost, if not entirely, solve the latter two problems, adding another tactical dimension to United. Playing a target man on the side, most likely Ibrahimovic, Jose Mourinho could change the game by removing the Swede and deploying Griezmann alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan, particularly in a 3-5-2 formation. All of a sudden, United becomes tactically unpredictable- teams will have to prepare for a variety of tactical styles and threats off the bench.
Griezmann also scores a variety of goals- from prolific finishes with his left foot, to set-pieces like the one below, even ranging to headers, as he contradicts his own diminutive size with impressive aerial prowess. The Frenchman is as prolific a creator as he is a scorer, as shown by his 22 goals and 11 assists in 40 appearances this season. The numbers are, perhaps, even reduced by the side he plays for, as his tally of 14 goals and seven assists in La Liga represents an involvement in 40% of Atletico’s 52 goals in Spain’s top tier.
While many names have been linked to United this season, none can enhance Manchester United’s style the way Griezmann does- finding a way to accommodate the Frenchman and Paul Pogba in a system will result in one of the best teams in world football without a doubt. His brother, Theo Griezmann, is a Manchester United fan, and his footballing idol is David Beckham. He’s also close friends with United’s Pogba, and Griezmann has openly spoken about playing for United, with Pogba, at club level.
Griezmann’s tactical versatility will allow Marcus Rashford to remain a developing player in the side, whereas the signing of a striker alongside Ibrahimovic would likely push him towards the exterior. Through 2016, the Frenchman showed his ability to play in multiple tactical systems, and formations, and his consistently prolific nature when placed alongside a target man. Griezmann’s work rate, pace, and a wide range of skills would appeal to Jose Mourinho and solve all the problems United have faced this season, forcing the opposition to prepare for one of the widest ranges of threats in English football history.
The Frenchman is as good a successor to Wayne Rooney as there will ever be, and if he is open to a move, he could prove to be the transfer of the century for Manchester United. It’s time to make a massive statement and steal the spotlight of world football again, and with a potential Ballon d’Or winner who has changed the way managers look at forwards, United could be picking up the next superb number seven on a long list.