Manchester United recruited well during the summer transfer window, strengthening a number of important positions all over the squad.
But the work isn’t finished and one area they didn’t touch was up front, where a 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and a perma-injured Anthony Martial are the only true ‘number nine’ options.
The January market isn’t always the easiest time to buy, with players not usually available in the same way as summer. Yet it isn’t a closed door and United’s capture of Bruno Fernandes midway through 2019/20 is a good example of the success that can be had in the winter window.
Preparation for the next transfer window has already begun – Erik ten Hag has confirmed January is on the radar, while there is a World Cup to contend with before then that is likely to have an impact on player availability and prices.
Read on for eight potential striker targets Manchester United could pursue in January.
Erik ten Hag was keen to bring Brian Brobbey to Old Trafford during the summer, which would have been a reunion for the pair after previously working together at Ajax – Brobbey was handed a debut by Ten Hag in 2020.
The Dutchman was poached by RB Leipzig last summer, only to rejoin Ajax on loan in January and quickly rediscover his old form once he was back in Amsterdam. That deal then became permanent for around €19m.
Brobbey has promised that he will leave again in the future – “I will provide a nice transfer fee for Ajax” – but could he be persuaded to choose United by Ten Hag, who has already been in touch via text message?
United were heavily linked with Moussa Dembele back in the summer of 2020 after the Frenchman had scored 44 goals in two seasons with Lyon, only to see him suddenly go off the boil.
A loan to Atletico Madrid in January 2021failed to rejuvenate him, but Dembele then surged back to form in the second half of last season by scoring 13 times in Lyon’s final 12 Ligue 1 games of the campaign.
The former Fulham talent, now 26 and potentially at his peak, is actually out of contract next summer and so Lyon may have to consider a cut-price January sale if they cannot agree a new deal with him.
This may seem a little wild because his first time in the Premier League wasn’t all that good and he isn’t known as a prolific striker, but Alvaro Morata could actually be pretty effective in the right team.
At 29, he has a decade of experience at the highest level and has consistently scored double figures in the league when given a proper chance – even at Chelsea he got 11 in his debut Premier League season and 20 in all competitions for Juventus in 2020/21.
Morata has made a decent start to this season now that he is back at Atletico Madrid and could be a shrewd addition to squad depth.
Although not an out and out ‘number nine’, Christopher Nkunku has turned prolific in the last 12 months – he got 35 goals and 20 assists from a variety of attacking positions for RB Leipzig last season.
The Frenchman signed a contract extension with Leipzig over the summer, but with the understanding that a release clause that becomes active next summer will make him available for a not unreasonable price.
United wouldn’t get the benefit of that €60m clause in January, but moving early might help them steal a march on the competition, even if it means paying slightly more than if they were to wait.
Jonathan David has been working his way up and building a solid reputation in European football ever since swapping his youth club in Canadian capital Ottawa for Gent in Belgium in 2018.
Now 22, he has consistently scored goals in France for Lille after joining them in 2020, even winning Ligue 1 in his debut season, and has already scored another five in his first eight league games of 2022/23.
David will play for Canada at the 2022 World Cup this winter in a tough group against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, which could give an indication as to whether he is now ready to step up to a new level again.
Memphis Depay wasn’t ready for Manchester United in 2015. He had not long turned 21 at the time of his big money move from PSV Eindhoven and probably still had some growing up to do on and off the pitch.
But Memphis has shown during a successful spell at Lyon and a respectable goal tally last season at Barcelona that, at 28, he is capable of doing a job at a high level. Now might be the right time to come back.
The Dutchman is only likely to be a back-up player at most the longer he stays at Camp Nou and has entered the last 12 months of his contract.
One thing is for certain, Victor Osimhen would be the most expensive striker target that United could pursue in January, with Napoli paying an initial €70m in 2020 and valuing him at €120m just last month.
The electric Nigerian is very good though. He made a name for himself with Lille and managed 18 goals in all competitions for Napoli last season.
Intriguingly, Osimhen recently ran Liverpool ragged in the Champions League, albeit succumbing to injury during the first half of that game, and would be a good fit for United’s group of young vibrant attackers.
Some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest transfer successes came when he poached players from other Premier League clubs – think Eric Cantona, Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham in the 1990s.
Ivan Toney is only at the beginning of his second proper season as a top flight player, but he has already forced his way into the England squad and is developing a fantastic all-round game not dissimilar to Harry Kane.
The Brentford star will score goals himself when given chances – he could even reunite with Christian Eriksen in Manchester – but would also play a vital role in creating them for others.