Amid a dearth of quality midfield options, Manchester United should consider making a move for Russian playmaker Aleksandr Golovin.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is crying out for quality midfield technicians who have the vision and guile to make goal winning contributions out of nothing. Golovin could be the man to solve one of the Norwegian’s growing problems.
Ligue 1 giants Monaco saw off competition from a host of top European clubs, and signed the Russia midfielder from CSKA Moscow on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee after an eye-catching World Cup.
Golovin was a key member of the Russia team which reached the quarter-finals of the tournament they hosted in 2018.
He started four games, scored one goal and made two assists as Russia made it through their group and then knocked out 2010 world champions Spain in the last 16.
In seven Euro 2020 qualifying matches, Golovin is averaging more than one goal contribution per game, with 2 goals and 7 assists.
The 23-year-old was at his best in a 4-0 win against Scotland during the international break, he scored one goal, assisted a further two, and made four key passes.
How is he faring in France?
Golovin has struggled to settle at Monaco, but he hasn’t been helped with the departure of key players and the hierarchy’s ruthless approach to sacking managers, which has seen Leonardo Jardim leave and return to the helm in the space of a year, with a disastrous Thierry Henry stint in between.
Monaco finished 17th last season, two points ahead of the relegation places. Golovin had a disappointing campaign, in 35 games in all competitions, he produced 4 goals and 4 assists.
Things aren’t particularly going any better for Jardim’s side this season, after 9 games they currently sit 16th in the table, one point above bottom of the table Metz.
Golovin is finding it difficult to have the same influence he has with his national side at club level, in 8 domestic games this season, the attacking midfielder has two goals and one assist.
With Monaco struggling to rekindle the breath-taking form that they showed only two years ago, Manchester United should try and lure Golovin to Old Trafford for a potential cut price.
A wealth of star names have left the Stade Louis II in recent years, it was the likes of Radamel Falcao and Youri Tielemans who departed this summer.
With Monaco not participating in Europe this season, United could take advantage and convince the French club into selling one of their prized assets to ensure they balanced their financial books.
How does he compare to United’s options?
Golovin can operate in a central midfield three, but he is at his best in the attacking midfield role, it is an area that Solskjaer needs to address, with the likes of Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard producing too many below par performances.
Between Mata and Lingard, neither have made a goalscoring contribution in the Premier League this season.
Mata averages 0.6 shots per game, Lingard 0.5, Golovin is way out in front with 1.6.
United fans have had to become accustomed to uninspiring football in recent weeks, this has been epitomised by the lack of creativity coming from both Mata and Lingard.
So far this season, both the Spaniard and the club’s academy graduate average 0.7 key passes per game, but Golovin is producing 2.1.
United’s number eight has never been known for his lightening dribbling skills, he is averaging just 0.1 dribbles per game, Lingard is faring slightly better with 0.7, but that doesn’t get anywhere near the 1.5 Golovin is currently averaging.
Golovin’s mazy direct dribbling runs are forcing opposition defences into diving in and bringing him down, he is getting fouled 1.8 times per game.
It isn’t just the attacking side of the game that Golovin is performing better than the United pair, it is from a defensive aspect as well, which highlights the work rate he would bring to Solskjaer’s team.
The Russian is currently averaging two tackles and 0.9 interceptions per game. Mata is averaging 0.6 tackles and no interceptions, Lingard is achieving 0.7 tackles and 0.3 interceptions.
It is Golovin that is showing his full array of talent and willingness to get on the ball when his team needs it the most. He averages 37 passes per game, Mata is making 22.6 and Lingard 21.2.
Monaco’s number 17 is also averaging 1.4 crosses and 1.8 long balls per game, he has more to his game than intricate passes in tight spaces, Golovin has the tools to hurt teams in a variety of ways.
Lingard and Mata are averaging 0 crosses per game and just 0.2 and 0.4 respectfully for long balls.
It is clear that Golovin would be a significant upgrade on Mata and Lingard, and if the Russian can produce those impressive all round game stats in a side that is languishing at the foot of the table, then surely he can help inspire a United side in need of a spark.
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