Arnautovic will be better than all of Man Utd’s strikers – and that’s the problem

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese Updated: 7 Aug 2022 21:11 BST 4 min read
Marko Arnautovic, Bologna, 2021-22

In one of the shock stories of the 2022 summer transfer window, it was revealed on Sunday that Manchester United are in negotiations for Austria veteran Marko Arnautovic.

News of this story has been met with utter disbelief and dismay by Manchester United fans, who are already depressed following a dismal summer market and dreadful 2-1 opening-day Premier League home defeat to Brighton.

It is understandable why fans feel this way. After all, Arnautovic is now 33 and went into semi-retirement when he left West Ham three years ago in order to move to China.

After two years with Shanghai Port, the half-Serbian attacker was convinced to return to Europe by Bologna manager and Serbia legend Sinisa Mihajlovic.

Marko Arnautovic, Bologna, 2021-22

Expectations for Arnautovic at Bologna weren’t exceptionally high. It was expected that he would prove to be a useful focal point in attack for a team that generally finish in mid-table.

But it wasn’t believed that he would play at a level that one year after joining would result in interest from major Italian or European clubs.

But that is exactly what has happened.

How good is Arnautovic now?

Arnautovic enjoyed a fine season for Bologna. He was undisputedly the team’s leader and inspiration in a season where Mihajlovic bravely merged his job with treatment for leukaemia.

The attacker scored 15 goals in all competitions (14 in Serie A) – with only seven players scoring more in the Italian championship.

He proved to be a real handful for the best defences in Serie A, and he scored the equaliser against former team Inter towards the end of the season which proved decisive in them relinquishing their crown to city rivals Milan. Arnautovic also scored against Juventus, while he has continued to perform excellently for his national team. He now has 33 goals in 102 caps for Austria.

Arnautovic better than Rashford and Martial

Despite his age, assuming he joins Man Utd and Cristiano Ronaldo leaves, he will become the club’s best number nine.

He is better than any of the other options that Erik ten Hag has in that role. Marcus Rashford showed all of his shortcomings against Brighton on Sunday as the number nine. During the game he missed two great chances, won no aerial duels won, lost the ball 10 times and won it back only once.

Anthony Martial has also shown conclusively in recent years that he can’t play in the middle of a front three or as a lone striker. He has five Premier League goals in his last two seasons, and he scored once on loan at Sevilla in the second half of last term.

With Mason Greenwood out indefinitely, and Jadon Sancho an underperforming winger, Arnautovic will do a better job in the centre than any of the post-Ronaldo options.

He can hold the ball up, he can play with his back to goal, he is excellent aerially, he wins free-kicks and he is a handful.

Arnautovic should not be mocked (Juventus also wanted to sign him this summer as a backup to Dusan Vlahovic) but, at the same time, the very fact that he would become Man Utd’s best striker shows what a crisis the club is in.

A well-run superclub should not be scrambling around three weeks to go before the end of the transfer window to sign a 33-year-old like Arnautovic.

It demonstrates a lack of proper transfer planning and the lack of a well thought-out project.

And it is why Man Utd will struggle again this season to finish in the top four.

Most Read Football Transfer News