Manchester United are reportedly scouting 22-year-old Uruguayan striker Darwin Nunez. The Benfica forward has been watched three times but on the latest scouting trip, the player seemed to flop as the club lost 1-0 to Portimonense.
It is suggested that maybe the pressure of being scouted got to him, which is an alarming thing to say because of the pressure to achieve at United would be high. Some supporters of the club on social media are always complaining about not seeing the best of things at the club, so the pressure and scrutiny at United would be too much for him.
Portuguese newspaper A Bola has reported that United have had scouts watching Nunez twice before and were said to be watching him again on Sunday. It shows that the club are trying to find a forward to come in and replace Edinson Cavani, with his contract ceasing at the end of the season. There has also been speculation linking the player with a January exit, so United may need to make a move for a player soon.
About a fortnight ago, United scouted Nunez in Benfica’s 3-1 victory over Boavista with the Uruguayan scoring a brace in the match, opening the scoring for his club and scoring their final goal of the match. They were also present at the 3-0 victory over Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League, with the player also scoring a brace.
This season, the 22-year-old has six goals in eight appearances for his club, which will likely get him many admirers if he continues the season in such good form. Last season, the Uruguayan made a total of 44 appearances for his club, scoring 14 goals and 12 assists, playing 2,773 minutes of football. The season prior (2019/20) he made 32 appearances, scoring 16 goals and three assists for UD Almería in La Liga 2 in Spain.
The Uruguayan made the move from Spain to Portugal in the summer of 2020, after the coronavirus pandemic delayed world football, signing for Benfica for €24 million (£21.8 million) on a five-year contract. As part fo the agreement, Almería would revise 20% of any future transfer fee for the player, which will keep the Spanish club happy if United really are in the market for him.
That said, it is early days and United will most likely be scouting many strikers in the near future, of which many will be reported in the media and some will not. It seems clear that United are trying to find a player with potential, not a player that will cost a high transfer fee, or as high as some players will cost in the coming transfer windows.
It has been suggested that United would be interested in Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund, but there is likely to be a lot of interest in the player in the summer, considering his release clause comes into effect. It is suggested that both Real Madrid and Barcelona have an interest in the player, despite the clubs financial difficulties at this present time.
As a youth footballer, Nunez came through the ranks at both La Luz, San Miguel de Artigas and Peñarol, first joining the club at the age of 14, despite that stay lasting a few months. He rejoined the club in the summer of 2017, suffering a knee injury at the time during his first few months at the club.
In the first team at Peñarol, Nunez made a total of 22 appearances, scoring four goals and one assist. At Almería, he made a total of 32 appearances, scoring 16 goals and three assists. So far at Benfica, he has made a total of 52 appearances, scoring 20 goals and 12 assists, which is the best form he has shown in his career.
At international level, Nunez has been capped 14 times for Uruguay U20’s, scoring four goals, four time for the U22’s, scoring one goal and four times at senior level, scoring twice. He has not played for Uruguay since 2020 but has been selected for the squad during this international break as the country will take on Colombia, Argentina and Brazil.
Nunez has many strengths to his game, including key passes, dribbling and long shots. His weaknesses include holding onto the ball and offside awareness – which are two things he can work at changing. His style of play see the player liking to cut inside, dribbling with the ball, also with the player keeping his head and not diving into tackles.
The 22-year-old has played in many positions during his career. At Peñarol, he largely played as the centre-forward, playing 16 times and scoring three of his goals in that position. He also played as a right-winger three times, assisting once and a left-winger three times, scoring once.
At Almería he played 31 times as the centre-forward, scoring all 16 goals and three assists from the position – playing as a left-winger on the other appearance, failing to score or assist. That would suggest to me that the player is likely stronger in a central position, but will go wide to cut in, as that is a strength of his.
At Benfica, Nunez has only played centrally, which confirms where his position lies in the future. In the centre-forward position, he has played 47 times, scoring 14 goals and 12 assists in that position, also playing as a second striker five times, where he scored six goals. He could be some player in the future if he continues to develop in these positions.
United will be seeking to sign a striker that will strengthen the club and have a long career. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has two Uruguayan players at the club currently; Edinson Cavani and Facundo Pellistri. The former has played 43 times for United, scoring 17 goals and six assists. The latter has yet to feature for United competitively but had a good pre-season – he is currently on loan at Deportivo Alavés.
Written by John Walker