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Antonio Valencia-type winger is desperately needed by Manchester United, and there’s an obvious target.

Next season, Man United will require a creative in addition to a goal scorer. They could do worse than adopting a strategy similar to that of Sir Alex Ferguson.

A conservative assessment suggests Manchester United will need to add seven players in the summer—a backup goalkeeper, a right-back, a center-back, two central midfielders, a winger, and a goalscorer—barring an incredible comeback.

Both Tom Heaton, who is 38 in April, and Jonny Evans, who is 35 and brittle, have contracts expiring in the summer. With Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire, something has to give, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka has a one-year option on his contract that is likely to be exercised in order to maintain his resale value.

It would be foolish to accept Fiorentina’s offer of €20 million for the purchase unless Sofyan Amrabat turns in a demon-like performance over the following six months. Both Casemiro and Christian Eriksen—who were 32 in February—have passed away from injuries; Antony is a bust; and Martial, who bears his name, is another erratic Frenchman that United must cut go.

That doesn’t even include the meek Donny van de Beek and Jadon Sancho, two guys United needs to try cutting their connections with come January. Seven signees is hardly a big number.

The least amount of forwards needed to make a dull attack more sharp is two. With just one goal in 16 club games, Marcus Rashford is the lone striker for United to score in the Premier League. Three of the winning goals have come from Bruno Fernandes, and four more have come from defenders.

Rasmus Hojlund leads all scorers in the Champions League group stage, but his goals have also been United’s undoing. In the Premier League, Hojlund has not lost any games and has not scored any goals. The 20-year-old has not been short on opportunities either, with three against Crystal Palace, three more at Sheffield United, a blundering one-on-one against Manchester City, and two desperate misses against Luton Town.

Hojlund is not the sole undeveloped assailant. Alejandro Garnacho, who won’t turn 20 until July, just made his career debut by starting four straight games. Although he occasionally showed impressive maturity, he was not a goal danger and gave up when facing Luton goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski one-on-one. After spending two years in the Eredivisie, Antony, a €100 million acquisition, has not assisted or scored a goal in the last six months.

Though Antony’s cameo against Luton was his best performance of the season, he mishandled the ball and allowed Rashford to score with a feeble shot after it bounced onto his standing foot. And Rashford is United’s main goal scorer right now, having had his greatest season yet.

When it comes to their offensive, United must adopt a new mindset. The costly acquisition of Antony came to an end on September 20, 2022, deadline day, following disastrous matches against Brentford and Brighton. Any other long-term left-footed winger who had not played for Erik ten Hag was not given much thought by United. An bid for Chelsea’s Hakim Ziyech at the time was rejected by the club.

There are lessons to be learned from the playbook, despite the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson had a unique talent sense and that elite teams nowadays are unfamiliar with managerial autonomy. United signed a striker similar to Javier Hernandez in Hojlund. For an artist, they must go back an additional year.

It made sense to target Antonio Valencia in order to counterbalance Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2009 world record sale. After Ronaldo left, Wayne Rooney was repositioned as a No. 9, therefore United needed a traditional winger to support him.

Ji-sung Park was at the peak of his infield dominance, Ryan Giggs had evolved into a central midfielder, and Nani was inconsistent. After three years at Wigan Athletic, Valencia, 23, was up to speed in English football even though he hardly spoke the language when he signed for £16.5 million. Valencia had a key role in one of Rooney’s rare seasons where he performed at a high level, and his shift-and-cross style was reminiscent of Andrei Kanchelskis.

Valencia crossed for Rooney to nod four times in four games, with the most memorable one coming in February 2010 against Aston Villa in the League Cup final. Even though Valencia was the deserving player of the match at Wembley, Rooney scored his sixth headed goal in as many games.

After overcoming a fractured leg, the Ecuadorian played a crucial part in United’s dramatic comeback in 2010–11, and his performance in the second half of 2011–12 earned Valencia the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year title. Just as renowned as Ferguson’s decision to sit Mark Hughes at West Ham on the last day of 1995 was his decision to reserve him for the crushing derby loss at Manchester City.

After David Moyes gave Valencia the legendary No. 7, he was such a shell of a player that he went back to the 25. After Ferguson had initially tried him out as a right-back, Louis van Gaal made the permanent switch, and Valencia had an outstanding season under Jose Mourinho.

However, Valencia’s years spent playing as a winger are what still matter. He was among the final quality ones that United purchased. Take a look at the people that came after: James, Sancho, Antony, Obertan, Young, Zaha, Di Maria, Depay, Martial. Before reaching their 30s, two relative successes, Valencia and Young, were demoted to full-back positions.

Ferguson was looking for a straight Premier League specialist with experience dealing with target men. Even though Ivan Toney will always be in the spotlight, Bryan Mbeumo should be the man that United calls Brentford about.

Mbeumo, who turned 24 in August, has made 85 Premier League appearances for a team that made its comeback to the top division in 2021, tallying a commendable 19 goals and 17 assists. In 2021–2022, Mbeumo struck the woodwork seven times in a row.

Depending on the formation, the Cameroon international has started for Brentford either up front or on the right wing this season. Four of his six league goals have come from the right, where he has shown greater potency. Mbeumo is the only player above Jarrod Bowen, Callum Wilson, Son Heung-min, Erling Haaland, and Mohamed Salah in the Premier League goalscoring leaderboard.

Toney’s contract expires in 2025, and there will be no shortage of suitors eager to acquire the Premier League England international striker. He was suspended for eight months for breaking betting regulations but was cleared to play again in January. Since Mbeumo has a contract with Brentford through 2026, it would be wise to pursue the reliable forward that Brentford acquired from Troyes in 2019.

Mbeumo is a more effective foil from the flank than Martial is, and he would be the consistent attacker Hojlund needs. His two new hires may be said to be one by the Glazers.

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