Man Utd are looking at signing a forward in January and the World Cup could prove to be a fruitful scouting experience.
If you were looking for the most unimaginative attacking transfer Manchester United could seek to pull off in January, then how about somebody impressing a global audience at a winter World Cup who plays for Ajax? It ticks just about every box.
At least United know who to contact in Amsterdam if they want to show any interest in Ghana star Mohammed Kudus. Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar is used to fielding calls from United by now, first for Erik ten Hag, then Lisandro Martinez and finally Antony.
That exodus from Amsterdam to Manchester might be enough for Van der Sar to tell his former employers to forget about it, but then United are unlikely to be the only club enquiring about Kudus this January, given his performances for Ghana in the World Cup so far.
Everton will certainly be regretting their failure to get a deal over the line in the summer, when they failed with a £15million bid to try and sign the 22-year-old. He’s unlikely to consider a move to Goodison Park now.
When the Toffees made their move it was to sign a player whose 24 appearances for Ajax last season came as a midfielder or an attacking midfielder, but his profile has changed so far this season. Of his 21 appearances this term, 14 have come as a centre-forward and there have been eight goals in those matches, with four of them coming in the Champions League.
Kudus’ season so far at Ajax has been a little unusual. Despite that record, he has started just five of 14 Eredivisie games, coming off the bench in the other nine, but he did start five of six games in the Champions League.
His goal threat has been on show in the World Cup, scoring twice against South Korea on Monday, having also looked lively against Portugal in the first game. He’s also shown his versatility, playing as more of a midfielder against Portugal but then a more attacking role on Monday.
His experience of playing in attack could be vital for United, if they wished to make a move. He can offer cover for Anthony Martial as a No. 9, even if that’s more of a false nine role, while he can also play on the right of the front three or in a midfield role. That is a significant package to offer.
He certainly looks like a raw talent, but there is clearly potential to work with there and he is someone Ten Hag knows well. His style makes him look like a natural fit for the Dutchman’s system.
Niclas Fullkrug certainly put his name out there with his equaliser for Germany against Spain on Sunday night. It was an emphatic finish for a 29-year-old who is a late bloomer and could fancy a bigger challenge than Werder Bremen. Even someone like Cho Gue-sung, who scored twice for South Korea against Ghana and has an excellent goalscoring record in his domestic league, can put himself on the radar of European clubs at the World Cup.
Those might be more unlikely transfers, but there isn’t going to be a perfect option for United mid-season, with the club initially planning to sign an elite-level striker in the summer of 2023. They might still see that as the best option, which is why any January deal needs to be either short-term or a target that offers some versatility.