Manchester United have to address the lack of depth they have in the centre forward position. Gabriel Barbosa is an option Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should explore in January.
The Red Devils’ form has significantly improved since the return of Anthony Martial from injury, but United’s attacking threat cannot rely on the fitness of the Frenchman for the remainder of the campaign.
Last weekend when United’s forward line failed to show up at Bramall Lane in a shambolic opening 70 minutes before sparking into life, Barbosa scored two late goals to give Flamengo a 2-1 win against River Plate in the final of the Copa Libertadores.
Here are three reasons why United should pursue Gabriel Barbosa.
He’s prolific in Brazil
The Brazilian striker has scored 31 goals in 38 games this season and has also produced 10 assists.
Gabigol’s goals have been crucial in helping Flamengo win their first Copa Libertadores since 1981 and clinch the Brazilian Serie A title.
However, his prolific form in front of goal doesn’t mask a disciplinary problem, which has seen him pick up 11 bookings this season as well as a red card against River Plate in the closing stages of the final.
He has got a total of 3 red cards this season and missed four games through suspensions.
His impressive performances in his native Brazil could earn him another high-profile move and the opportunity once more to try and take Europe by storm.
Gabigol moved to Inter from Santos in August 2016, but has since had loan spells at Benfica, Santos and Flamengo.
The striker has made just 10 appearances in the three years since he moved to San Siro and has just one goal to his name for the club, his last appearance for the Nerazzurri came in May 2017.
Flamengo are eager to sign Gabigol on a permanent deal, but after previously failing to transfer his goalscoring form from South America to Europe, he may feel he has unfinished business with the latter.
His loan spell with Flamengo ends at the end of December.
There is every chance that Barbosa could come up against Liverpool at next month’s Club World Championship, if he impresses in that competition and against the Champions League holders in particular, Inter’s asking price could soar.
Fits the profile
At the age of 23, Barbosa has his peak years ahead of him and that is something that will appeal to Solskjaer.
The Norwegian is eager to build a talented youthful squad that has the capabilities to develop and gel together, with the long-term aim of competing for major trophies once again.
Once dubbed the next big Brazilian prodigy, Gabigol is in the headlines once again, but for the right reasons, he is doing what he does best and putting the ball in the back of the net.
His pride will be tainted due to the black mark he has next to his name after failing to adapt to the challenges European football brings.
Solskjaer would be taking a punt on Barbosa if he were to sign him, but it could be a gamble that brings major success.
The pacey left-footed striker has the ability to play out wide and loves to cut inside off the right channel.
He has the quality to dribble past players with ease and when played through on goal he very rarely misses.
Solskjaer may have already identified his long-term targets, but if Gabigol continues to shine he could play his way into the Norwegian’s plans.
Bolster striker options
The departures of Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku to Barbosa’s parent club Inter was always going to leave United short upfront after no replacements were signed.
That has left United with Martial, Rashford and Mason Greenwood as the number 9 options.
When Martial had his spell out of the side, Rashford didn’t look comfortable or happy leading the line and Greenwood’s starts have come in the cup competitions.
Since Martial has returned, Rashford is currently in the form of his life coming inside off the left-wing, and alongside Dan James, the trio when they get ammunition can be devastating.
However, apart from Greenwood, if any of the three were to get injured, Solskjaer is having to call upon the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Andreas Pereira as back up attacking options.
United need more firepower in their ranks and with Gabigol heading for the exit door at Inter, Solskjaer should try and use the relationship the club’s have built during the summer to negotiate a deal.
An ideal scenario for United would be to take Barbosa on a six-month loan in January with a view to a permanent deal if he were to impress.
United need to move fast because there is already a number of European clubs who are chasing his signature.
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