Ah, January, such a beautiful time of year. Christmas cheer is gone, the turkey has been devoured, and football clubs across the planet are incessantly trying to pretend they aren’t looking to do business. It’s truly magical.
But, thankfully, some expensive, unwrapped gifts are still to be delivered to fans thanks to club owners spending the money they got from grandma in the January transfer window.
The World Cup’s recent conclusion means this is likely to be a month of bigger deals than we’re used to as the race is on to land the talents who impressed in Qatar.
Here are some bold predictions for the weeks ahead—minus Cody Gakpo.
Manchester United Don’t Sign a Striker
Everybody knows Manchester United are looking for a striker.
Erik ten Hag has made it abundantly clear the Red Devils need to replace Cristiano Ronaldo with a centre forward who can elevate the game of flying wingers such as Marcus Rashford, Antony and Alejandro Garnacho.
Anthony Martial’s consistent injury problems are threatening to overshadow a sharp return. The Frenchman has scored five and assisted two in just 579 minutes across all competitions this campaign, averaging a goal contribution every 83 minutes.
He has played over 75 minutes just once, though, and came off during the 3-0 win over Bournemouth with yet another niggle. He simply can’t be relied on to last the gruelling second half of the season.
Many would have expected Gakpo to join the club after continual links throughout the summer and World Cup, in which he was a standout performer. Football journalist Fabrizio Romano reported that United never bid, though, and Liverpool decided to snap the 23-year-old Dutchman up in a remarkably straightforward deal.
Gakpo arguably leans too much towards the Rashford type of player to have been exactly what United need; versatile, better suited to cutting in from the left wing and not the out-and-out central striker Ten Hag desires for his system.
Links to Borussia Monchengladbach’s Marcus Thuram, per La Repubblica (h/t Goal’s Gill Clark), and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani, per L’Equipe (h/t Metro), have also appeared, but it’s unlikely United will opt to spend heavily while the Glazer family are considering selling the club.
A loan is most likely, with João Félix touted by The Athletic’s David Ornstein. Low-cost options may also tempt United, with players on expiring contracts like Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Memphis Depay possibilities, per The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell (h/t Utdreport).
Félix is obviously talented enough to improve any team in the world, but he’s not the traditional striker Ten Hag seems to be leaning towards.
Memphis would offer cover for Martial and could make sense, especially as he has a point to prove at Old Trafford. Choupo-Moting fits the bill if United are set on planting someone in the box, although Odion Ighalo’s name will likely trend if he does arrive. He’s not exciting, but he could be useful.
In all honesty, it seems like the timing and specific needs of the manager could make this a frustrating window for United fans. Finances are on the mind at a crucial time for the club’s future, and it may prove too difficult to land a deal that satisfies the needs of the manager and the wants of the club’s owners who are likely to walk away soon.