Should Manchester United sign Antoine Griezmann, as is being widely reported, it could have some interesting implications for those currently playing in Jose Mourinho's attacking line up.
The Swedish centre forward has by and large been a success in his first season at Manchester United, scoring his 20th goal of the campaign against Leicester City on Sunday. There can be few complaints about the contribution of the big Swede.
Without him the team would be considerably worse of as it has shown an over reliance on the enigmatic forward for goals. However, with Ibrahimovich turning 36 next season, the arrival of Antoine Griezmann is likely to change Manchester United’s attacking emphasis. Were United to pay the French forward's release clause in the summer, it would be inevitable that the team will be built around him rather than around Ibrahimovic, as is currently the case.
As a result, next season could see the Swedish striker's playing time reduced and it will be a question of whether Ibrahimovic would want to stay on in a reduced capacity. After a brilliant campaign in his debut season which has proved a lot of doubters wrong, the talismanic striker would not be short of options and may opt to seek new pastures if he doesn’t have assurances of a first team place
Verdict: Probably decides to move on
While the Armenian has struggled to find consistency in his form, as he showed against Leicester, when he is in form, he is quite simply unplayable. There were doubts about Mkhitaryan at the start of the campaign and questions as to whether he could ever be a ‘Mourinho player.’ However, those doubts have now been dismissed as Mourinho considers the Armenian playmaker as a key part of his current set up.
The problem for Mkhitaryan is that Griezmann plays in the same position as he does. Mkhitaryan’s best role is arguably as a number 10 and though the Armenian insisted post-match at the King Power Stadium that he would play anywhere for the team, this is the position that he comes alive in the most. It is where he has shown his ability to create special moments. The number 10 position however is also a role that Griezmann favours.
With a big money move on the cards, one would imagine that like his friend Paul Pogba before him, Griezmann would walk straight into the first team and be key to how Mourinho sets his team up going forward meaning a change in tactics or a change in position or selection for the existing attacking players of which Mkhitaryan is one.
While Griezmann’s signing is likely to have an impact on the Armenians involvement in the first team and where he plays if selected, given his performances this season, it is unlikely United’s number 22 will be getting his P45 just yet.
Verdict: Staying put
Mata is the darling of many United fans but that may not be enough to save him if as expected, Griezmann does arrive at Old Trafford this summer. While Mata has done well to establish himself in his manager’s thoughts this season, Jose Mourinho is unlikely to want to stock pile little number 10s in the way that his ‘favourite’ manager, Arsene Wenger does. Therefore, it is inevitable that Griezmann’s arrival will spell the end of the road for a few of United’s current attacking crop.
Unluckily for Mata, Griezmann may be viewed as an improvement on him or in reversal he may be viewed as ‘Griezmann-lite’. There is no doubting Mata’s talents and creativity but United’s inability to break teams down and take their chances this season have also been impossible to ignore. United’s profligacy in front of goal has cost them a title charge and may yet cost them even more.
All United’s attacking and creative players must share the blame for this but especially players like Mata.
This is because one of Mata’s main responsibilities in the team is to break down stubborn defences and score key goals. Therefore, United’s inability to do both reflects badly on him as it does the other attacking players. Prior to his goal against Leicester City, with Griezmann rumours circulating, Mata missed crucial opportunities against Stoke and Hull City that if taken would have put United in a more commanding position in the league. It is these margins that have fuelled the pursuit of the Atletico Madrid star.
In the summer, Mata would have been at United for three and a half seasons, the arrival of Griezmann might mean there will be no more
Verdict: End of the road
The united captain finally stands alone as the record goal scorer for both England and Manchester United, beating United legend Sir Bobby Charlton's long standing records to achieve both feats
In doing so, he has rightfully established himself as a United legend where previous misgivings had pulled that status into question in the past.
However, the general consensus is that the time is right for Rooney and United to part ways. The arrival of Griezmann will only serve to intensify those feelings.
For all the protestations of the Rooney brigade, while Rooney has been a great player for United, he is not currently a great player. Time catches up with us all and sadly has caught up with the one time boy wonder.
Antoine Griezmann will prove to be the new face of Manchester United should he arrive and in cases like this it is often easier to settle in when the ‘old face’ isn't present.
With Rooney unable to influence games in the final third from open play as well as he could in the past, becoming no more than a bit part player on huige wages and with the goal scoring record broken, the time has never felt so right for a Manchester United without Wayne Rooney.
Verdict: Farewell to a legend
Sam Allardyce once commented that if he was called Sam Allerdici he would have had a shot at managing Real Madrid and some of Lingard’s strongest supporters argue that he would be more appreciated had his first name been Jose rather than Jesse. Lingard does have his merits. At the end of last season and the beginning of this one, he was playing reasonably well in the United and England set up, so much so that Sir Alex Ferguson once compared him with Tottenham’s Dele Ali, suggesting that they would develop on a similar trajectory. That prophesy hasn’t quite materialised and whether that is down to game time or lesser ability is up to debate.
Another thing up for debate is how Lingard would fare with the introduction of a Griezmann.
Should the Atletico Madrid forward arrive, Lingard is likely to see his playing time reduced even further as Mourinho looks for a system to bring out the best from Ed Woodward’s new summer present. The question for Lingard may come down to whether he wants to remain a small fish in the big pond of the club he loves or whether he wants to become the big fish somewhere else.
Verdict: Wave goodbye to’ Jose’ Lingard
There should not even be a discussion about Martial’s status in this United team. He is arguably the team’s most talented player and the only player along with Pogba amongst the current squad genuinely capable of developing to a world class star. Yet, Martial’s future in the team is consistently a topic of discussion with rumours circulating around the young French striker of a possible move away from Manchester.
Martial used his Twitter account to dismiss the exit rumours but the longer the player stays away from the first team, the more the question of his future stays in play.
With the purchase of Griezmann requiring a huge budget both for the transfer fee and wages and with Mourinho apparently keen on strengthening at least three other positions this summer, Martial is Manchester United’s most valuable asset on the market and there are likely to be a huge number of takers. Would there therefore be a temptation to cash in on the French striker in order to fund transfers in other positions?
The sale of Martial will prove a very unpopular decision amongst the United faithful but should the French forward be pushed and prodded by his agent this summer to demand a move, anything is possible.
Verdict: As Cristiano Ronaldo would say, only God knows the future