Why Man Utd need to sign Memphis Depay instead of Cody Gakpo
Manchester United have serious interest in signing Netherlands star Cody Gakpo, that's no secret. But while he's a massive talent, he shouldn't be their priority.
Erik ten Hag and co were interested in the PSV man in the summer but opted not to make a move for him, choosing to focus their time and money on Antony instead.
Since then, Gakpo has gone from strength to strength, getting more goal contributions than any other player in Europe's major leagues before heading to the World Cup with the Netherlands.
He's continued to impress in Qatar, getting three excellent goals, and 90min understands that has convinced Man Utd's hierarchy that the Dutchman is ready for a transfer to the Premier League.
While that may be the case though, that transfer shouldn't be their focus in January because the 23-year-old simply isn't what the team needs right now.
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What Ten Hag undoubtedly needs more than anything is a striker, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo leaving the club.
Many Man Utd fans believe that Gakpo is the man to fill that role, but it's one he's not particularly suited to.
It's easy to see why people would think the Dutchman has what it takes to be a top striker; he's tall, fast and is already one of the best finishers around.
However, he has one key weakness that makes it very much questionable whether he'd be the ideal number nine in a Ten Hag team, and he's recently admitted to having that weakness himself.
"For me, it is important that I play with my face towards the opponent's goal. Then I come into my strength," he told De Telegraaf.
"As a striker, you stand a bit more with your back to the goal. That is not really my quality."
As he said, Gakpo isn't good with his back to goal - he struggles to hold up the ball and play in team-mates.
Doing that is one of the most important jobs for the striker in Ten Hag's system, meaning his compatriot isn't a good fit.
He is of course still young and could well improve that area of his game and adapt to the role, but doing so will take time, especially with him also adapting to the Premier League.
If they want to ensure they qualify for the Champions League, the club need to first and foremost bring in a player that can do the job they need immediately, and they need only look at who's playing next to Gakpo at this World Cup to find that player.
Memphis Depay didn't do well in his first spell at Old Trafford, but that shouldn't discourage the club from bringing him back.
In the six years since he left, the 28-year-old has transformed, becoming a far, far better player in every way.
He's gone from a flashy inconsistent winger to a complete forward that creates and scores goals for fun.
The Barcelona man became that player at Lyon, thriving as the focal point of the team, getting more Ligue 1 goal contributions than anyone except Kylian Mbappe in his four full seasons there.
It's been a similar story in international football with him grabbing 35 goals and 23 assists in his last 51 matches for the Netherlands
Even at Barça, he hasn't done badly by any means despite often being injured or benched, scoring 14 times in 29 starts.
With his creativity, hold-up play and finishing, he has everything needed to be the perfect Ten Hag striker and do the crucial job that Dusan Tadic did during the manager's time at Ajax.
That's not to say that Gakpo wouldn't be a good signing.
If used as a left-winger as he is at PSV, he'd arguably be their best option in that position immediately with Jadon Sancho failing to impress. He might even develop into the striker they need eventually, but he'd most likely need a full pre-season to make that transition.
Signing Memphis or a similar player first would give Ten Hag the time to decide whether to go down that path, keep Gakpo out wide or not sign him at all and save himself a rather large amount of money; after all, there's every chance that Sancho, Marcus Rashford or Alejandro Garnacho makes the left-wing spot their own in the second half of the season.
In the meantime, Gakpo will only get better at PSV. There is of course the risk that another club will swoop in and sign him, but spending a huge amount of money on a player you may not actually need is far riskier, as Man Utd should know all too well by now.