Can Alexander Isak solve Manchester United's striker issues?
Background image: Ian Mcallister/Wikimedia Commons.
Manchester United’s troubles refuse to fade away altogether. They leaked goals aplenty last season, this term scoring them has become problematic. Loses to Bournemouth, Newcastle United and West Ham serve as proof. So does the more recent goalless draw against Wolves.
With Marcus Rashford’s injury set-back, Odion Ighalo was signed as a short-term solution. When thinking long-term, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will prioritise blooming younger talents. Anthony Martial remains his go-to centre forward, but there’s a clear need of a second option.
The Red Devils are assured to hunt for a striker in summer. With prices being further inflated knowing their sorrows, they must be clever in finding the right choice. Peeking into Spain would find an ideal one at Real Sociedad. No, not Martin Odegaard. Nor Barcelona-bound Willian Jose. Alexander Isak is best-suited for their needs.
Not just because he boasts eight goals in his last six appearances. But he’s the proactive centre-forward they crave for prowling around the opposition penalty area. The 20-year-old was considered as Jose’s prodigy at the Basque club, but has turned that reputation in recent months.
That being said, he’ll also be an alternative option to Anthony Martial at United. The Frenchman could be having a few quiet games, but he’s still trusted to do good things with the number nine shirt. Considering he isn’t as bothered playing second-fiddle mostly at Sociedad, doing so with the Red Devils would perhaps be an upgrade.
The former Borussia Dortmund striker also brings something different to the table which none of their speedy frontmen seems to possess. A clutch player inside the box, he makes best use of opportunities whenever they arrive. In fact, every shot at goal he’s attempted this season [in La Liga] has come from inside the penalty area [Understat] while his expected goals per 90 [0.59] is only bested by Marcus Rashford[ 0.72].
Isak isn’t the quickest nor most creative player around. But he is skilful in converting chances. The Swede has 14 goals in all competitions this season from just 29 appearances, a bulk being substitute cameos. Considering those goals have reaped from just 21 shots on target proves he doesn’t miss very often.
The 20-year-old possesses the instincts knowing how or when to glide past defenders into creating promising scoring positions for himself. While Martial and Rashford both love running past defenders into scoring beautiful strikes, Isak is the kind to demand indulgence.
His superior 0.7 [WhoScored] aerial duel wins per 90 as compared to any United attacker this season suggests he tends to deliver on crosses. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James or Luke Shaw can all benefit from a poacher capitalising on their balls into the area.
Rather than just focusing on swift-breaks to get the job done, the Red Devils could be aided in breaking down sturdy backlines with the Swede’s clinical nature. Dubbed as the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he’d do wonders for the Red Devils if he ever ends up imitating the impact the former United striker did.
But the young striker’s best asset is how just impactful he is coming off the bench. Indeed, he netted four times after being subbed in the latter stages. It includes thrice guaranteeing all three points for his side. Mason Greenwood has scored twice out from his various substitute cameos this season.
With the Red Devils often failing to finish off games or being unable to score at all despite late pressure, the young striker should solve those problems. He’d perhaps be the Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez replacement they never found.
Taking into account his ability to link-up with team-mates, he’d also bring a different dynamic. Isak checks all the boxes required in the striking department for United. The fee could be a hassle - knowing he’s tied to Sociedad till 2024 - but his stark eye for goal makes it a risk worth taking.