Raul Jimenez’s fantastic season continued for Wolves this week as he scored again in their midweek clash with Burnley.
This took his impressive tally up to 26 goals in all competitions, 17 of which have come in the Premier League, one more than Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford.
Jimenez has been linked with a transfer to United ever since January [Goal].
United’s high profile in Mexico along with Jimenez’s star power, have seen him regularly quizzed on his future, and he has not exactly knocked it back.
He was quoted in The Mirror last month: “They are rumours but it is something good for me to continue growing, making an effort and taking it as an incentive so that, if possible, I can achieve it.”
His national team boss Gerard Martino was quoted by ESPN saying: “We always have the idea that a player has to aim for more and how good it would be for him to go to play for Manchester United.”
Ticks every box except one
Jimenez’s situation is a near-miss, as far as United are concerned. It’s a move which is regularly touted, but probably won’t happen at this point.
The Telegraph report United are still keen to add a striker, with Odion Ighalo’s loan deal expiring in January. Jimenez almost fits United’s needs, but not quite.
On the pitch, Jimenez is a perfect fit. Like Ighalo, he offers something different.
As Martino explained, “Looking at it from the outside today I cannot see a specialist No. 9 like Raul at United.”
Anthony Martial is adding more to his game, but he is always going to be more than simply a traditional centre-forward. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
But with Martial, Rashford and Greenwood all capable of playing in multiple positions, Jimenez like Ighalo would offer United a more direct threat.
He is stronger in the air than all three, and he has scored headers against Liverpool, Arsenal, West Ham and Bournemouth this season. He would give United a more direct way to attack.
Jimenez is also proven in the Premier League now, with 30 goals in the division across the past two seasons.
His creative side and hold-up play is also valuable. This season he has added to his 26 goals in all competitions with a further 10 assists.
He also appears open to testing himself at a higher level. United could probably persuade him to move quite easily.
The problem is inescapable…
The drawback for a potential move for Jimenez is his age. The Mexico international recently turned 29.
In days of old this would not have deterred United. This was the age Robin van Persie was when he signed at Old Trafford.
But combine Jimenez’s age with his contract running until 2023, and Wolves’ own financial strength and competitive edge, and it quickly becomes clear that United would be looking at paying £40 million minimum for the striker.
If Jimenez was five years younger, this would be the perfect deal.
United did sign Odion Ighalo, 31, recently, but the key point here is that it was only on loan. Even after his impressive early performances, United made clear that a permanent move was not and is not an objective. Instead his loan has just been rolled over until January, to give more time to find a younger replacement.
If United had no other priorities, again, perhaps a deal could be worked out.
But with a need for a right winger, a creative midfielder to cover for and help Bruno Fernandes, and extra help at centre-back, it is hard to see United spending £40-50 million on a 29-year-old striker.
How could a move happen?
There are a few scenarios where United do pay up. This would involve probably missing out on Sancho and having to buy a cheaper winger.
It could also happen if there are more player sales outgoing than United expected, or the figures are better than anticipated.
There could also be a scenario where United are so confident in other transfer deals and make-up of the squad, that Jimenez is seen as the final missing piece for a title challenge, and a decision is just made to ‘go for it’ and pay up.
Most likely of course, United will decide to look for a younger player than the Mexican. One who fits the same checklists, but who can have more of a long-term impact at the club.
There are not many young proven and available strikers in the Premier League. So United will probably have to compromise somewhere, and buy a forward from abroad.
The closest United fans will probably come to cheering Raul Jimenez on, is when his Wolves side take on Chelsea on the final day of the Premier League season.
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