Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has confirmed that the club plans to sign a striker to replace Cristiano Ronaldo in January.
Speaking at United’s warm-weather training camp near Jerez, Spain, Ten Hag, when asked if he was looking for a striker, said: “Yes, but only when we find the right player. We’ll do everything we can. We’ll do our research every chance we get and we’ll do everything we can (to sign them), if there’s a chance.”
Ten Hag is known to be an admirer of Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos – the man who took Ronaldo’s place in Portugal’s World Cup squad and duly scored a hat-trick – and also believes PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo is a very good player.
Asked by Gapko, Ten Hag said: “I can’t comment on specific players. I never do. Players have contracts and I respect that, but make sure we work behind the scenes to get the right players in.
For United to make a move for a striker in January, two conditions must be met: the player must be guaranteed to improve the squad and also be reasonably priced.
Erik ten Hag: “Ronaldo told me he wanted to stay in the summer. The interview changed that
On the first condition: Ronaldo was a big name, but there were always question marks about whether he really improved the team. United must learn from this. In connection with the second, the club’s finances were burdened first by the pandemic and then by the heavy summer expenses. They don’t spend money they don’t have now.
Ten Hag knows that it is not easy to find a striker who fulfills both conditions, so the club’s chance of getting someone to replace Ronaldo is not certain.
However, the reality is that fifth-placed United lack firepower. They have scored just 20 league goals in 14 games this season, half the total of second-placed Manchester City.
No United player is in the top 20 of the Premier League’s top scorers this season. The club’s top scorer, Marcus Rashford, has only four goals to his name. Ronaldo was United’s top scorer last season with 18 league goals, but managed just one this season before leaving the club.
Explained: Manchester United’s quarterly accounts
Importantly, Antony Martial, who has only started two Premier League games this season due to injury, is back fit. Ten Hag and United hope he can deliver in the second half of the season – regardless of whether the club sign the striker in January.
Ten Hag likes Martial but is wary of his bad recent injury woes. “His first challenge is to be available and fit, which he has to be responsible for. But we have to support him in every way we can,” the United manager said.
– We have seen that when he is available, he has a huge impact on our game. He has 350 minutes, four goals and two assists. It’s a really good record.”
Asked if Martial is happy after his time on the sidelines at United, Ten Hag said: “I think he is, but he was so disappointed that he had bad luck with the injury.
“In the past maybe it was something he did wrong, I don’t know, but now it was also bad luck and you come into the process with injuries and now we have to stop the process and we get him and he gets himself in a better position so he’s fit and available.For his game and his development and his progress, that would be great.
Asked if he would put a supportive arm around Martial, Ten Hag said: “Sometimes, just not with him. The players need it and they need to be supported.”
If United sign the striker in January, both he and Martial will need all the support in the world if United are to climb the table.
Cristiano Ronaldo – what happens now?
(Photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)