There was a picture that bounced around social media not long after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment as Manchester United manager earlier this year. It showed the Norwegian crouched down on his haunches imparting some wisdom to Marcus Rashsford on the training pitch. Rashford could barely hope for a better mentor.
Solskjaer knows more than most about what it takes to be a Manchester United striker. He was, after all, an icon of his time and scored goals that carried the Old Trafford club to title after title, including one title that stands out above all else; a triumph they still sing about at The Theatre of Dreams to this day.
Given Solskjaer’s grounding in the subject of strikers and what it takes to succeed as one at United, it’s surprising that he is seemingly so keen on adding Fernando Llorente to his squad. The Spaniard is a free agent after leaving Tottenham Hotspur at the end of last season and recent reports claim the Old Trafford club have offered him a two-year contract.
It’s certainly true that Man Utd could use another forward. The sale of Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan as their only proven goalscorer and the impending exit of Alexis Sanchez (also to Inter) has left Solskjaer’s options in the final third somewhat threadbare, with Rashford his only out-and-out central striker.
The early signs this season are that Anthony Martial will be used through the middle, with the Frenchman taking back the number nine shirt he had upon his arrival at the club four years ago. That will at least give Solskjaer another option, but despite Martial’s strong scoring start to the campaign there’s no guarantee he will continue in that vain over the whole campaign.
Beyond those two players, Mason Greenwood is Man Utd’s only designated forward. There is much excitement over the teenager and his performances over pre-season suggested he could play a role in the first team squad, but at 17 years old it’s unrealistic to expect that he will contribute much more than just a few cameo appearances off the bench and perhaps a handful of starts in the cup competitions.
Solskjaer went to great lengths over the summer to mould his team in the way he wanted. And to a certain extent he has succeeded, at least going on United’s first two performances of the new Premier League season – they dominated Chelsea and were on top for much of their away draw against Wolves.
Llorente would not fit into this fast and furious style of Solskjaer’s, though. The argument could be made that he would give United another option off the bench, someone to hit with long balls and crosses, but his goalscoring record, or lack thereof, suggests he would do nothing to replace the goals that left with Lukaku.
What’s more, the signing of Llorente would add to an issue United are already trying to untangle. The Old Trafford club made a number of poor recruitment decisions over the past few years, opting for short term fixes over long term solutions. Now they are stuck with those short term fixes (players like Matteo Darmian, Marcos Rojo and Sanchez) on bumper contracts. In time, Llorente would become another one of these players.
As slow as progress has been, Manchester United are showing signs that they are heading in the right direction, that they have accepted the mistakes of the past and are attempting to fix them. The signing of Llorente would represents a step backwards, though. Solskjaer may well desire another striker to beef up his options, but signing one for the sake of it would be misguided.