While Jose Mourinho has undoubtedly improved Manchester United and made the side competitive again, particularly in cup competitions, United’s attacking unit is still lacking in the required capabilities to win a Premier League. United creates chances and moves the ball with greater fluidity than under Louis van Gaal, but the added creativity has only yielded 33 goals in 23 matches, less than six other teams in the league, including Bournemouth.
Jose Mourinho explained the fact that United’s overall goal tally does not reflect attacking capability, but nonetheless, United needs to find a way to score more goals. Looking at the side’s strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford are already good, and the addition of Antoine Griezmann could carry United through the next five years. In midfield, United has settled upon Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, though Jose Mourinho should undoubtedly consider using a more attack-oriented midfield setup in smaller fixtures. Out wide, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Juan Mata would be assets to any side in Europe, and while Jesse Lingard has failed to kick on from his first senior season, he still has a future at United.
However, barring Martial, United’s wide players could be helped massively by the opportunity to play in central areas. In search of depth on the left side of attack and pace on the right, here are three targets who could change the way United attacks in matches, and convert draws to wins in Jose Mourinho’s second season.
Ideal Signing: Lucas Moura, Paris Saint-Germain
The ideal player to fit Manchester United’s system would be Lucas Moura, a blistering Brazilian right-winger with an eye for goal and a bag of tricks. Moura was linked with United in 2013, but he didn’t sign, and Sir Alex Ferguson famously criticized the €40 million shelled out for the winger by PSG. Having seen the consistency with which he has contributed to PSG’s success in Ligue 1, though, the transfer fee is a mere afterthought.
From the right-wing, Lucas Moura has scored 28 goals and provided 23 assists in his first four full seasons of European football, earning a WhoScored rating of at least 7.2 in all four seasons and over 7.4 in three of said seasons. This season, he has 12 goals and seven assists from the right side of midfield. Signing Moura would give United the valuable option of playing Henrikh Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata in a central area and having two top-quality pace outlets for them to pick out in wide areas. The consistency he brings, along with the fact he has connections with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, combine to make him the perfect signing.
Likely Signing: Felipe Anderson, Lazio
Another player linked with Manchester United in multiple windows, Felipe Anderson could have become a United player a long time ago without many qualms. Silky skills on the ball, an excellent knack for long-range efforts, and the ability to carry the ball to the byline, Anderson is capable of playing across attacking midfield and making an impact on the biggest stage. Partnering Neymar at Santos, Anderson showed the same qualities that made his compatriot world-class at Barcelona.
Currently, WhoScored rates Anderson as the best player in Serie A, with two goals and seven assists averaging out to a 7.8 overall rating. Averaging 2 key passes and 3.3 dribbles per game, it’s easy to understand why pundits have been raving about Anderson for years, and his presence at Old Trafford would add depth to United’s left-wing, and give United a completely different option on the right side. While Anderson shows flashes of inconsistency in comparison to Moura, he arguably makes up for it by being completely two-footed, making him an even better option to play on the wing.
Unorthodox Signing: Gelson Martins, Sporting
United famously took risks on Sporting youngsters in the past, signing Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani from the Portuguese club. While neither of those occurred in this decade, the Red Devils seem keen on similar transfers nonetheless, signing Anthony Martial from Monaco and involving him in the first team from the offset. Gelson Martins has shown his colours as a proper natural winger in Liga NOS this season, but he also proved his ability to succeed in the Champions League, where he was a constant threat against the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
With four goals and seven assists in just 20 appearances this season, it is easy to forget that Martins is only 21- he was linked with United for obvious reasons, but there would be equally obvious risks in signing him. Memphis failed to adapt to Premier League football after a high-budget transfer, and considering a similar fee would be needed to attract Martins away from Portugal, United wouldn’t be irrational to have reservations about this move. However, Martins could add another dimension to United’s attack with his direct wide threat, which means he should certainly be considered as a potential transfer target to help United next season.
Manchester United may have scored three goals against Leicester City over the weekend, but further additions to the side are needed to help push United to the Premier League title. There remains a lack of variety in United’s pace options. Andreas Pereira could join the first team upon returning from loan, and Antoine Griezmann may come to United, and both would likely prove to be important additions, but to address all areas of United’s attack, a natural winger could play a massive role in the side.