If Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was watching his rumoured favourite target Erling Haaland and the man who was close to moving to Old Trafford, Jadon Sancho, he will have seen reasons why both could improve Manchester United's attacking force.
Returning from injury, Haaland showed little sign of rust and but for good stops from Koen Casteels he could have scored twice, while Sancho ended the first difficult run of his career, possibly a result of a dream move being scuppered, to score the second goal in a 2-0 victory over Wolfsburg.
As to who will fit into United’s side better, it is not an obvious answer.
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In favour of Haaland, United have not had a goalscorer who has scored 20 league goals since Robin van Persie in his golden year of 2012/13 when United secured their 20th league title.
Haaland is their best bet to do this. It is easy to see him latching onto passes from Bruno Fernandes and balls from Marcus Rashford or Anthony Martial from wide areas, as well as giving these forwards a target to play around.
His presence will also mean they will get more out of crosses into the middle from full backs and an outlet for longer balls over the top.
Twice against Wolfsburg he made unspectacular through-balls look better than they were, quickly taking a racing line towards goal and putting the ball on his rocket-fuelled left foot before aiming at goal.
That said, United are scoring at a rate at over two goals a game for the first time since their last league win. So do they need him?
BVB-Stars Erling Braut Haaland und Jadon Sancho
Image credit: Getty Images
Liverpool do not play with a spearhead, with Roberto Firmino an unconventional No.9, and it is easy to see why Solskjaer might want to stick with a flexible, rotating forward three making it harder for defences to stop Fernandes’ sublime delivery.
Sancho would certainly enhance this tactic, capable of playing on the right or left flank, as the highest forward on the field or coming deeper, with United likely without Paul Pogba in the near future, to assist Fernandes in creating moves.
His little slide-rule ball for debutant Stefen Tigges into the left-hand side of the penalty area, which almost resulted in the substitute scoring with his first touch, was a good illustration of perhaps an underrated facet of his game.
That said, copying the current fashion often means missing out on the next winning trend. Other than the current Liverpool outfit, and Arsenal when Thierry Henry’s favoured position was often on the left hand side with Dennis Bergkamp withdrawn, it is difficult to think of too many sides who flourished without a designated front man.
The point of difference Haaland offers could be what is swinging Solksjaer and the Old Trafford decision makers towards him.
Sancho’s outswinging corner which Manuel Akanji headed home was exceptional, but it is difficult to see him taking Fernandes off set-piece duties and, similarly, the way he raced towards goal to net the clincher is the type of goal we have seen before from Rashford or Martial.
Last season Mason Greenwood seemed capable of being deployed in the No.9 role and though one hopes he can rise to this promise, it does not look likely in the short-term and neither would he provide the type of physical presence Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Romelu Lukaku did during their brief spells in the red half of Manchester.
So don’t be surprised if in the 20th year since his father’s career effectively finished at Old Trafford the son, born nine months before the infamous challenge from Roy Keane, makes his way there.
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