Manchester United might have felt well stacked in the attacking department following the 2-1 over Liverpool last month.
Anthony Martial had just returned from injury to provide the assist for Marcus Rashford’s winner, the Englishman’s first of four in three matches. All this while five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo watched on from the bench.
But injuries to both Martial and Rashford have sidelined them in recent weeks while Erik ten Hag was given a scare when Ronaldo went down bloody-nosed and disorientated following a clash during Portugal’s 4-0 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday.
He was fine to play on, but it sent a warning to the United boss that his striking options are not wholly reliable. It’s why he may dip back into the market in January, and there are a number of cut-price deals to be had with several players out of contract next summer.
The Real Madrid attacker is unhappy at Los Blancos amid heavily reduced game time, failing to start a game this season. He has been linked with a shock move to rivals Barcelona although his head could easily be turned by another appealing offer.
United should be in the mix for the 26-year-old, who has won three Champions Leagues and scored in the 2017 final. His burst of speed and energetic style fits Ten Hag’s system like a glove and the Reds boss may not get a chance to buy a player of such quality at such an age for a low price again.
The former Old Trafford forward underwhelmed during his two-year stint at United before leaving in 2017, but has rediscovered his form since. It led to outside links that Ten Hag could make a move for the Barcelona star at the end of the summer window.
He revealed he had been contemplating an exit when he admitted to ‘deciding’ to stay at the Nou Camp on deadline day. Depay’s relationship with the starting XI at Barcelona has wavered through bouts of injury, and he has just returned home from the Netherlands squad with another issue.
It’s something United must consider but at 28, the striker still has lots to offer while attaining valuable experience that can fire United into the top four. Cash-strapped Barcelona need the money too, so might be willing to sell him off from his contract early.
The Lyon forward netted an impressive 22 goals last season and earned the captain’s armband towards the end of the term before Alexandre Lacazette was given the honour in August. It shows he has leadership qualities as well as an important eye for goal.
He will be hot property in the summer if he does become a free agent and United ought to be making enquiries about a potential January exit. Demeble has scored twice this season despite only starting once – showing his clinical prowess.
Meanwhile, United have more potential options in other positions. N’Golo Kante’s relationship with Thomas Tuchel was strained amid his injury troubles and while the picture could change under Graham Potter, his deal currently still runs out in June and the Blues may not want to risk allowing him to go for nothing.
Raphael Varane is playing excellently for United but he is not getting any younger. Inter Milan centre-half Milan Skriniar, 27, becomes available in the summer but could go for a reduced price in January. Finally, United need a successor to David de Gea, whether it be long-term or short-term.
Jan Oblak’s deal at Atletico Madrid runs dry in the summer, although turns 30 in January. Still, he will receive no end of offers in June so it may be worth Ten Hag chancing his arm in January to get his oar in before anyone else.