You could feel the urgency and impatience in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s voice.
Both before and after Manchester United’s Europa League defeat by Sevilla, Solskjaer was asked about transfers. And even in the build-up to the maddening 2-1 reverse in Cologne, the Norwegian spoke more openly about the need for reinforcements than ever before.
“It’s a race. You can see teams building. We’re always looking at the squad and player logistics,” he said. “It is definitely about quality – and it is going to cost money to get in players who are better than the ones we already have.
Following the Sevilla defeat, after seeing his United side plagued by a criminal shortage of substitute options to establish a grip on the semi-final, the stance from Solskjaer was even clearer. Again, it was a message aimed at the Old Trafford corridors of power, just like his decision to refrain from making changes until the 87th minute had been.
Asked if his squad needs a ‘marquee’ arrival such as Jadon Sancho and Solskjaer was firm. “It’s not about marquee, it’s about quality,” he added. “You need to have the right player, the right personality, someone who fits into the group and makes us better. We might look at it today and see where we can improve it.”
The truth is that United have been ‘looking’ for some time now.
It’s more than a year since they settled on Sancho as the near perfect target: a young English player with that brilliant blend of potential and proven elite level ability that makes him so attractive. But still supporters wait for his arrival. With each passing week it looks less likely, as Borussia Dortmund’s power-brokers send shot after shot across the bows of their United counterparts.
The German club insist Sancho — who ticks those Solskjaer boxes in terms of quality, personality and improvement — will not be sold. Yet it is understood Solskjaer is a huge admirer of the 20-year-old and his recent interviews suggest he would love United to sign Sancho, whatever it takes.
But the real challenge for United this summer is improving their overall set of options. On the face of it, a front three comprising Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood is strong, among the most talented in the Premier League and with scope to get better.
But the Sevilla semi-final exposed a lack of faith from Solskjaer in those back-up options. Daniel James, Odion Ighalo and Juan Mata all came on, but there wasn’t much expectation that any of them would shift the game back in United’s favour. James is 22 and looks shattered after an up and down debut season in the top flight; Mata, 32, is into the final year of his deal and could depart; Ighalo was a punt of a loan addition who doesn’t offer the same verve as Martial up front.
United must find an alternative to Sancho, or even a target who could play in the same squad as the Dortmund star — if he eventually arrives.
Bournemouth’s David Brooks could be the solution. At 23 and with plenty of Premier League experience, the Wales international has plenty going in his favour. Unlike the addition of James from a mid-table Championship side a year ago, this would be a player comfortable with his status, with 39 Premier League appearances and eight goals to his name.
And unlike Sancho, he would surely be available for a very reasonable price. MEN Sport reported in May that Brooks was on United’s radar.
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Given Bournemouth’s need to sell following their relegation, United would not have to work overly hard to make the 23-year-old a reality. Brooks can play across the attacking line, on either flank or as a No.10, with his versatility making him an asset even if Sancho arrives on the right-wing.
For too long now, Solskjaer has been asked to use Mata, Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira and others as his substitute options. But he knows United need depth and extra quality to kick on from a promising but ultimately fruitless campaign.
They could do a lot worse than Brooks.