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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Man Utd don’t need Cody Gakpo

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Is it funny that Liverpool have once again snuck in during the dead of night (while they were playing away at Aston Villa on the return of the Premier League, to be more precise) to steal a transfer target from under the noses of bitter rivals Manchester United?

Yes. Of course it is. Even United fans aren’t going to dispute that.

Cody Gakpo will join the likes of Fabinho and Sadio Mane in signing for the Reds instead of the Red Devils, another top young player making his way down the M62 into Merseyside after going round and round on the M60.

The Dutchman has been very vocal about United’s previous attempts to sign him and Erik ten Hag’s personal pleas. For months, it seemed destined that Gakpo would end up heading to Old Trafford, potentially taking the famous number seven shirt after it had been disgraced by the most recent occupant.

And yet United may end up walking away from this saga without regret. They won’t immediately because they’re a massive club who shouldn’t be beaten to their top targets and the board are well aware of this now, but Gakpo is not the profile of player that they need (90min’s Dutch football expert Finley Crebolder has extensively argued this).

Though Gakpo is able to play as a number nine, it’s not his strongest position and it would have been a massive gamble to expect him to lead the line for such a major sporting institution, let alone just for a relatively good football team. The pressure of making such a leap added to adjusting to a new position in a new country has often been a recipe for disaster, and United too well-versed in conjuring those.

Where Gakpo thrives is coming in off the left, but that’s a position United have forever been well-stocked in. For the Netherlands, he’s played in the hole, but Bruno Fernandes’ role there should be untouchable.

In terms of simply adding general quality to a squad still in need of fine-tuning, then yes, United have missed out on a player who could become world class. That’s a loss. But football is increasingly becoming about right fits at right times.

When Cristiano Ronaldo rejoined last summer, he appeared to be the missing piece of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s puzzle, the elite goal scorer to take United from fringe contenders to actual contenders. What they really needed was a midfield enforcer to take control of games and allow Fernandes to continue supplying the goods to their other talented forwards.

It’s not quite the same situation this time around, but United’s recalibration to find a number nine more suited to Ten Hag’s needs could be the sliding doors moment they needed, one they were only going to get with such a humiliation.

United fans now just have to hope the ace up the club’s sleeve isn’t like Odion Ighalo ordeal.

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