Man Utd have accelerated a transfer plan in lieu of Cristiano Ronaldo’s mid-season exit that manager Erik ten Hag wasn’t expecting, per a trusted source.
Ronaldo is officially a free agent after his Manchester United contract was mutually terminated. The veteran centre-forward deployed a scorched earth policy when savaging the club that paid his wages in a remarkable interview with TalkTV. The end result was a parting of ways that does appear to be in the best interests of all involved.
Where Ronaldo will play next is one of the most intriguing storylines to emerge from the split. Two Premier League sides have been touted as potential landing spots, with Ronaldo reporting ‘torn between’ one English and one overseas club.
However, of equal or even greater interest is who the Red Devils will sign to fill the void.
On that front, ESPN reported Ten Hag was fully prepared to go without a direct replacement for the rest of the season – so long as it meant ridding the club of its Ronaldo problem.
United have responded by turfing Ronaldo out, though per Fabrizio Romano, they won’t leave their manager lacking for firepower.
The common consensus was United would push hard to sign a top class striker in the summer. But per the transfer guru, that plan has been brought forward to January.
Ten Hag can sign Ronaldo replacement in January
The trusted journalist tweeted the initial plan was to sign a new frontman over the summer. However, United are now ‘already exploring the market to find a solution in January’.
With Newcastle wasting no time turning the ‘big six’ into a ‘big seven’, the fight for Champions League qualification is tougher than ever.
UCL qualification is the minimum requirement at Old Trafford and with the fixture list post-Christmas more condensed than ever due to the World Cup, injuries are expected.
Without Ronaldo, United only have two options to play up top – Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial. The latter was preferred in pre-season, though continues to struggle with injury.
To ensure Ten Hag doesn’t lack for options, United will now move for a new striker in January, per Romano. The Italian didn’t speculate as to who they might sign, though plenty of other sources and publications have.
Elite names dominate Man Utd striker list
The Mirror claimed United hope to pull off the unthinkable and land PSG and France superstar, Kylian Mbappe.
Any deal is likely to cost at least £150m and prising Mbappe away mid-season will obviously be difficult.
A more realistic target, per the Mirror, is Napoli’s Victor Osimhen.
The Nigeria international is the focal point in a Napoli front-line that has fired them to an eight-point lead in Serie A. They also topped a Champions League group that contained Liverpool.
Osimhen has bagged 10 goals in 14 matches this season and the 23-year-old is known for his tireless work-rate as much as his offensive output. In short, he’d be a fine signing, though won’t come cheap with a reported €100m (approx. £87m) valuation.
Elsewhere, PSV Eindhoven’s Cody Gakpo continues to be linked. The Dutch international has 34 goal contributions in 30 matches at club level this season. He was on United’s radar over the summer, though Ten Hag prioritised the signing of Antony instead.
Gakpo has continued to shine since the summer window closed and his previous £35m valuation has reportedly swelled to nearer £45m.
That is a sum well within United’s means, however, and Calciomercato claimed the Red Devils have ‘above al others’ done the most legwork for a transfer.
Our own transfer insider, Graeme Bailey, recently told us why a January switch has a greater chance of success than a summer one did.
“PSV don’t have to sell, but I understand that they are very much open to the idea,” Bailey told TEAMtalk.
“Their finances did take a bit of a hit this year when they surprisingly failed to make the group stages of the Champions League. That was something they had not planned for.”
Whoever United plump for, one thing is clear, Ten Hag will have got the last laugh over Ronaldo with United ousting a problem player and giving him a direct replacement sooner than even he expected.
READ MORE: Ronaldo departs: How Manchester United’s last 10 big-name departures have fared away from Old Trafford
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