Replacing Lukaku with Ben Yedder would be a downgrade for Man United

Graham Ruthven is not convinced by the Sevilla frontman.


Wissam Ben Yedder has good memories of Old Trafford.

After all, it was his double for Sevilla that knocked Manchester United out of the Champions League at the last 16 stage two seasons ago. Inadvertently, that double back in March 2018 put in motion a cycle that could ultimately carry him back to the Theatre of Dreams this summer.

It was that defeat to Sevilla that seemed to snap something in the mind of Jose Mourinho.

From this point on, United’s support seemed to lose faith in the Portuguese, with Mourinho soon deciding to sabotage what little he had built in two seasons, forcing the club to sack him as manager by torching everything in sight.

Mourinho was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who adopted a new approach, sidelining Romelu Lukaku and pushing the Belgian towards the Old Trafford exit door. Completing the line of toppling dominos, Ben Yedder has, according to reports, been lined up as a potential signing should Lukaku leave before the start of the season.

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This would be a backwards step for Man United, though. Solskjaer is guiding the club through a squad overhaul with more new arrivals on top of the already secured signings of Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. There are tough decisions to be made not just over potential additions, but over players not justifying their place at the club.

It’s not entirely unreasonable that United would be open to selling Lukaku this summer.

The Belgian doesn’t have the game to hold down a place in Solskjaer’s fast and furious, counter-attacking side. Lukaku is often misunderstood as a footballer, with the 26-year-old much more capable running towards goal than competing for long balls as a target man, but United can do better.

Ben Yedder is not better than Lukaku, though. The Frenchman netted 29 times last season, with only Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema, Luis Suarez, Iago Aspas and Cristhian Stuani scoring more goals in La Liga over the 2018/19 campaign.

But, Ben Yedder is still unpolished as a centre forward and at 28 there is limited time for further development.

Lukaku can also come across as unpolished, but he is an asset to Manchester United.

Signed for £75m from Everton two years ago, the Belgian is still valued at around that price point.

That value is based on Lukaku’s track record as a proven goalscorer at the top level of the club and international game and his age, which puts his best years still ahead of him.

In the post-Sir Alex Ferguson age, United have been guilty of a lack of imagination in the transfer market.

They found themselves obsessed with the idea of becoming the Premier League’s Galacticos, targeting players on the basis of their reputation over their suitability or worth. This is what led to the appearance of Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and the likes on their transfer market radar.

The targeting of Ben Yedder suggests Man Utd are now willing to be a little bit more creative with their scouting.

Of course, the Frenchman, as a frontman in La Liga, is hardly plying his trade in obscurity, but he has never been a face on a Times Square billboard. As an addition to the existing squad, he might be worth the risk.

But as a replacement for Lukaku, one of the most reliable goalscorers in European football right now, Ben Yedder doesn’t quite measure up. It would be a change for the sake of a change, something Manchester United did in the Louis Van Gaal years and they are still cleaning up the mistakes made during that time.

There is a rebuilding process ongoing at Old Trafford, but there’s no guarantee what is built will be better.

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