On the 2nd of September 2014, the transfer gods smiled upon the United faithful. Radamel Falcao signed for Manchester United on a one year loan agreement with Monaco FC. The Colombian striker carried with him an impeccable reputation of being a proven goal scorer. His exploits at Atletico Madrid and FC Porto had Manchester United fans drooling at the prospect of him combining with fellow new signing Angel Di Maria and leading United out of the disaster that was David Moyes’ tenure at the club. With his addition, Manchester United could boast of an enviable striking taskforce inclusive of the clinical Robin van Persie, the industrious Wayne Rooney, the master poacher Javier Hernandez, the upcoming James Wilson and the perfect strategist in Louis van Gaal at the helm who could undoubtedly bring the best out of his charges. Times were certainly a’ changing. The stars were aligned, the runes had been read; all the pieces of the puzzle were in place and Old Trafford sang in unison, ‘Let the good times roll.’
Foresight is unreliable. Period.
10 games into the season, United were bruised and battered. With 13 points out of a possible 30 Manchester United had flattered to deceive and were falling a far cry short of expectations. Gradually things improved as the players acclimatized to Van Gaal’s philosophy. Better individual performances and improved understanding amongst the players followed and United’s season was salvaged with a top four finish to their campaign. Despite the positives, a recurring theme in United’s performances was the lack of decisiveness on the attacking front. Radamel Falcao was relegated to the bench by January and Robin van Persie appeared to be a shadow of his former self. Javier Hernandez was loaned of to Real Madrid and James Wilson was simply not trusted enough. Wayne Rooney certainly performed well as the lone striker in Van Gaal’s 4-4-3 despite spending much of the season in the midfield. However, his return of 14 goals in 33 games still leaves plenty to be desired.
The below par performance of last season can be attributed to too many changes in a short span of time. With a season under his belt, Van Gaal has scrutinized his squad and is understood to have identified areas with scope for improvement. Radamel Falcao has now left Manchester and it seems likely that Robin van Persie shall follow suit while Wayne Rooney will probably be deployed in a deeper role. Manchester United are now in the market for a striker.
After analysing speculation in the transfer market, qualities United desire in a striker, and feasibility of transfer, Essentially Sports has identified two possible contenders to spearhead the Manchester United attack:
The 27 year old centre forward currently plies his trade at Real Madrid. A member of the famous BBC trio, Benzema has been a crucial part of the Real Madrid set up since the departure of Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli. He possesses great composure while in possession and links up well with his teammates. He has an excellent first touch and his positioning troubles the best defenders in the game. Benzema also has the ability to drop deep and initiate attacks, qualities that Van Gaal admires. In spite of playing second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo at Madrid, Benzema scored 15 goals and assisted another 11 in 28 games in La Liga this past season and these stats boost his attacking credibility. With him as the spearhead, his goalscoring record shall undoubtedly improve.
Karim Benzema is a proven performer at the biggest stage. With United securing European football, they need a striker who has performed at highest level and Benzema fits the bill perfectly. His Champions League experience shall prove invaluable.
His versatility shall also be an immense asset. Van Gaal often tinkers around in his tactics and enjoys playing versatile footballers. This past season, Benzema has linked brilliantly with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo and could do so at United with former Real teammate, Angel Di Maria. Benzema is intelligent, works hard, and should fit seamlessly into Van Gaal’s structure should a transfer take place.
The primary concern here would be the player’s reluctance to join Manchester United. He is currently happy at Madrid and enjoys a good relationship with Chairman Florentino Perez. Benzema has repelled United’s advances in the past and it appears that his opinion hasn’t changed.
Karim Benzema also suffers from the occasional bout of inconsistency. His goal scoring has been erratic and his return of 15 goals last season is something United would want to assess. However, with Real Madrid desperate to secure the signature of United keeper David de Gea, a swap deal may just be possible.
Harry Kane has had a fairy-tail beginning to life in the Premier League. Having risen from virtual obscurity, Kane has exceeded expectations and has taken the footballing world by storm. The 21 year old has had a stellar season with Tottenham and his contribution of 31 goals in 51 appearances has helped Spurs secure participation in the Europa League.
Kane has risen from the ranks at Tottenham and previously enjoyed a number of fruitful loan spells at various clubs. Injury to Roberto Soldado and a string of poor performances by Emmanuel Adebayor forced manager Mauricio Pochettino to place his trust in the youngster. Neither Tottenham nor Kane have looked back since.
The London born striker is blessed with extraordinary composure in front of goal and exudes a confidence that bellies his young age. He strikes the ball extremely well and almost always manages to pick out the right moment to pull the trigger. He plays best as an all-out striker and performs as a lone striker to devastating effect. Kane plays with enthusiasm typical of a player his age and maturity far beyond. He works his socks off for his team every opportunity he gets. His two goals against Chelsea at White Hart Lane stand testament to his ability and expectations of the PFA Young Player of the Year, 2015, recipient are sky high.
Harry Kane’s most striking feature is his confidence. He isn’t afraid of taking an extra second to make a decision. He continuously presses the opposition and is deceptively quick. Kane also isn’t afraid to take on defenders and dribbles surprisingly well. More importantly, he has proven himself in the Premier League against the toughest tacklers in the world.
At 21 years of age, Kane’s best years lie ahead of him. He will offer Manchester United an option up front for at least a decade should things work out. He has been unfazed by the intensity of the Premier League and it is unlikely that it will affect his gameplay in the future.
Kane possesses all the qualities that the Old Trafford faithful admire. His ‘team comes first’ attitude shall strike the necessary chords with United fans. He has the potential to take up the mantle and win the adulation of the United brethren for many a year.
Dimitar Berbatov. Luka Modric. Gareth Bale. Ring any bells?
For years Tottenham Hotspur have been on the brink of breaking into the ‘top tier’ of Premier League football. Owner David Levy is ambitious and has big plans for the club. Year after year Tottenham lose their best players and stumble in their quest. Levy’s reluctance to part ways with his prized asset could prove to be a major hurdle.
Also, Harry Kane is unproven at the European stage. He is still young and undoubtedly has the ability to perform at the highest level. However, the need of the hour for Manchester United is a top quality striker who has the required experience to propel United back to its lost glory. Is Harry Kane that man? He may have the ability, but he certainly lacks the experience.
Both players possess the qualities that Manchester United need. Benzema’s reputation and proven European pedigree work in his favour. However, European successes have been known to fail to cope up with the Premier League’s physicality. On the other hand, Kane has had incredible success in his debut season in the Premier League. However, he is yet unproven in Europe and there is a risk of him being a ‘one season wonder’.
With both presenting strong cases what it boils down to is simple desire. And on this front Harry Kane should take precedence. Karim Benzema may be one of the finest centre-forwards in today’s game, but he just does not possess the necessary desire to play for United. He has repeatedly refuted the club’s approaches and is evidently content with life at the Bernabeu. Harry Kane, currently, is loyal to Tottenham. But the kind of loyalty he exhibits is one that would certainly fit in well with the club. His British upbringing has ensured that he is not immune to the allure of playing at the Theatre of Dreams. This allure along with the promise of European football should pave the way for a transfer. A sum of $45 million should be enough to convince the reluctant David Levy to part ways with his young striker as Harry Kane begins to step into the next phase of his promising career.