Somehow Louis van Gaal has managed to survive a miserable December with his job intact. Now he must strike in the transfer market to bring the goals back to Old Trafford.
In a Christmas period that saw Manchester United turn from title challengers into top four hopefuls, Van Gaal’s side could only muster a pitiful two goals in five Premier League matches – both in consecutive 2-1 defeats to AFC Bournemouth and Norwich.
Anthony Martial’s five league goals represents the benchmark for United so far this season so who can the manager bring in to transform United’s impotent displays in front of goal?
Here are five realistic (i.e, not Gareth Bale or Neymar) targets who could fit the bill.
United made a late attempt to sign the Southampton man in the summer and he has continued to be linked with move to Old Trafford despite Ronald Koeman’s insistence he will not be sold in January. However, the Senegalese forward was dropped from the starting line-up against Norwich on Saturday for poor time-keeping and looks as though he is keen to force a move. The 23-year-old is still raw but his pace and direct running could add some urgency to United’s attack whether he is deployed out wide or as a number ten behind Martial or Wayne Rooney. One thing he will need to improve on if he makes the step up is his goalscoring, with only three goals in the league this season from 20 appearances. That said, his astonishing two minute and 56 second hat-trick against Aston Villa in May proves he knows where the goal is.
A name United fans are used to hearing over the last 18 months. The 22-year-old Brazilian enjoyed a breakthrough campaign last year with Lazio in Serie A scoring 11 goals in all competitions and catching the eye with his speed, dribbling ability and long-range shooting. This season Anderson has been hugely inconsistent but still has five goals to his name in a Lazio side who currently sit tenth in the table. Reports suggest his club could be willing to cash in this month but with a fee of up to £35 million being quoted it would represent a huge gamble for United who need someone to make an instant impact.
The giant striker scored 138 goals in 236 Bundesliga appearances for VBF Stuttgart and Bayern Munich and is back in the German national squad having found the net 15 times already this term on loan at Besiktas from Fiorentina. Still only 30, Gomez would offer a better option from the bench than Marouane Fellaini and is the kind of penalty-box predator United’s wide men would love to find on the end of their crosses, the odds on Manchester United signing Mario Gomez have shortened over the past weeks and with a JackpotJoy promotion code on offer for all, you can certainly see why bets are coming in. Van Gaal knows exactly what Gomez could bring the side having managed him during his title-winning stint at Bayern but a lack of mobility could be an issue. Surely worth a punt if United can find a way to convince Fiorentina to cut short his season-long loan in Turkey.
Another Senegalese attacker with a growing reputation having scoring ten goals and provided 12 assists for Lokomotiv Moscow this season and United are believed to be one of a number of Premier League clubs, including Tottenham Hotspur, to have scouted the 25-year-old in the last few months. Standing at 6ft 2, Niasse has been deployed down the middle in a 4-3-3 formation for his club side this year and has bags of pace but is yet to be tested in one of the top European Leagues. He has however been a regular in Lokomotiv’s Europa League campaign which saw them qualify from a group including Sporing Lisbon and Besiktas.
United have been linked with the Fulham striker for more than a year but reported interest in the former PSG man from Italian giants Juventus could force van Gaal to act quickly. Still only 19, Dembele has scored ten times for the Cottagers this term and has become an integral part of the first-team. If United do make a move this month however, it is unlikely he will ready to make an instant impact in a United forward line that already includes so many inexperienced players. A loan move back to the Championship would prove better for his development but Van Gaal has shown before the trust he is willing to place in youth.