Last season, Manchester United fans became ever so accustomed in hearing the name ‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic’ being shouted down the microphones of commentators and also being sang around Old Trafford. On paper, the big Swede’s short stay in Manchester looks a relatively successful one, in which he added three more trophies to his already illustrious cabinet and of course finished the year as the Red’s top goalscorer. However, despite having been the first United player since Robin Van Persie in the last title winning campaign to score over twenty goals in a season, this particularly doesn’t tell the whole story.
Although the history books may record the 16/17 season as a successful one for United, admittedly from a fan’s perspective it was a very frustrating one to endure at times. This frustration no doubt specifically relates to the lack of clinical finishing within the side, that resulted in United not being able to finish teams off and subsequently draw a rather ridiculous 15 league games.
Following the lack of goals, or perhaps more the lack of goal scorers, has no doubt led to United being linked to numerous attacking prospects across Europe, as that extra firepower up top is certainly required. Despite being linked to various names, there is one that has prominently stuck to the headlines and certainly looks to be an imminent arrival. That is no other than Alvaro Morata. Fans have undoubtedly become rather impatient with regards to this prolonged transfer, with many disagreeing with the potential fee being mentioned and others just wanting him to sign regardless of the price. So is Alvaro Morata the answer to our goal scoring problems?
Does he fit United’s current system?
In United’s current preferred system, the rather structured 4-3-3 formation, clearly leaves room for just the one lone striker in which the team predominantly operates around, rather than the striker himself making the chances. With Morata predominantly operating as rather an unorthodox style of striker, in the sense that he possesses a strong and tall standing physique whilst also having a burst of pace and agile dribbling in his locker, he could be an ideal fit as the lone striker but ultimately he does tend to flourish with a strike partner.
During his time at Juventus, Morata was used in numerous positions due to his athletic versatility that allowed him to be utilised as a wide forward, a number nine or even in the number 10 position. This of course is where Morata’s most iconic moments in a Juventus shirt occurred, particularly in the Champions League where once given the space in behind his striker partner, Morata excelled in bursting down the middle of the field and was given the room to create chances. On this note, one may question as to whether United should rethink their current system in order to allow Morata more space on the ball, perhaps even a simple 4-4-2 with him and Rashford up top.
Despite impressing during his time at Juventus, the Spaniard’s goal scoring record must be brought into question, particularly if he is being brought to Old Trafford as the number one source for United’s goals. During his two-year spell in Italy, Morata scored 22 goals across all competitions and managed 10 goals across the two previous seasons with Real Madrid, where he was used in a ‘super sub’ role. However during the 16/17 season, Morata has raised a few eyebrows with his tally in La Liga where he recorded an impressive record of 15 goals in 26 games, with just 14 of these being starts.
In what has been another star stellar season for the famous white shirted side of Madrid, Zidane has managed to create a side that has performed of such high intensity across all competitions, something that has been manufactured through his squad rotational policy. Morata has evidently flourished in this role, enjoying short bursts in the team where through a combination of staying fresh and his own quick witted style of play, he has been an effective tool for Real Madrid throughout the season. However on the flip side to this factor, this does of course pose the uncertainty of whether Morata will be able to produce these types of numbers across a whole season, acting as this starting main man.
Whilst the signing of Alvaro Morata would certainly provide as a good acquisition for the club, as of course he is a player that possesses a high quality level of ability, there can undoubtedly be questions as to whether he is the clinical striker that can mount United into title challengers. If the Spaniard were to arrive, the side would also require the arrival of another attacking prospect in order of bolstering the squad with more firepower. Whether this be through a midfielder who can chip in with goals such as the likes of a James Rodriguez or simply through the addition of another striker, i.e. a proven goalscorer such as Bellotti or Lacazette, the current United side does need more than Morata if they are to step up a gear next season.
With the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United will be losing the man who scored 32% of their goals in the league and thus the attacking line looks severely deflated. The signing of Morata is a comfortable step forward in improving the squad, but for myself the side does need even more firepower if United are going to be realistic about a title challenge.