Friday, July 21, 2023

Manchester United Sign Onana, Striker Still Needed

Manchester United continues to retool under Manager Eric ten Hag. The club inked goalkeeper Andre Onana this week, reuniting ten Hag with his former Ajax goalkeeper. Onana is fully familiar with ten Hag’s preferred style of play and is highly proficient with the ball at his feet. Former goalkeeper David De Gea was uncomfortable coming off his line. Onana will at times seem almost too adventurous as he strays far from his net. That proclivity was supposedly at the heart of Onana’s decision to retire from international football over tactical disagreement with the national coach. The style is perfect, however, for ten Hag’s desired possession style of football and this could thus be one of the more impactful signings in the Premier League this summer.

The Cameroonian keeper is joining his new teammates in America where United will face Arsenal at a sold-out MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Saturday night. Whereas the earlier signing of midfielder Mason Mount prompted some head scratching, the signing of Onana makes perfect sense for the way ten Hag wants to see his team play. Onana’s statistics for Inter Milan last season were decisively better in terms of ball distribution versus De Gea and, interestingly, also showed an advantage in save percentage over the former United goalkeeper. The new man in town also brings Champions League pedigree, having been part of Ajax’s 2019 semifinal team and appearing between the sticks for Inter in this spring’s Champions League final versus Manchester City.

Resolving the goalkeeper situation capped a newsworthy week for the Red Devils. Marcus Rashford signed a new five-year contract with the club while Bruno Fernandes was named captain in place of Harry Maguire. The highly compensated Maguire, reduced to a reserve role by ten Hag early last season, remains with the club for the moment amid purported interest by West Ham in the England defender. One more addition will be necessary to declare this a truly successful window for Manchester United. The Red Devils desperately need a striker. The loan signing of Wout Weghorst last season was a strange one and the Dutch striker has since returned to Burnley. Playing Rashford at center forward reduces his effectiveness and Anthony Martial is more often injured than not.

Rumored interest in heavyweight names like Harry Kane and Victor Osimhen has long since cooled and the current focus seems to be on signing Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund from Atalanta. The 20-year-old scored 10 goals in 34 appearances for the Italian club last season. Other possible “fallback” targets to fill the void up front may include Eintracht Frankfurt’s Randal Kolo Muani, Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic and Benfica’s Goncalo Ramos. Manchester United scored 10 fewer goals than any other club finishing in the top six last season and only Aston Villa and Fulham scored less goals among teams in the top half of the table. Mount can hopefully help the attack should the midfielder regain his form after a terrible final season at Chelsea. More firepower up front, however, will likely be required for the Red Devils to extend their stay in the Champions League places.  

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