Transfer Talk: United bullish on Leipzig star Nkunku
Manchester United are in need of a forward — and Christopher Nkunku could be set to reignite the Red Devils' attack.
The RB Leipzig star, 24, has been drawing admiring glances from across Europe in recent months, with AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal all reportedly keen to secure his signature.
So, can United beat their rivals to the punch and bring one of the continent's finest talents to Old Trafford?
As Leipzig prepare to face Rangers in tonight's Europa League semi-final second-leg clash, we consider what the future holds for their French frontman.
Needed in Manchester
With the impending arrival of new manager Erik ten Hag, United's squad is likely to undergo a significant revamp this summer.
One of the most obvious areas for improvement is in attack, where the club will be looking for a younger forward to complement the experienced Cristiano Ronaldo.
Edinson Cavani is set to depart next month, Marcus Rashford is out of form and hot prospect Anthony Elanga lacks experience so there is undoubtedly room for a new addition at Old Trafford.
If United do upgrade their frontline, Nkunku would appear to be an ideal transfer target.
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick is clearly aware of the need for attacking reinforcements.
Speaking after Monday night's 3-0 victory over Brentford, he said: "For me, it is obvious Manchester United need two more quality strikers that just give this team more options, more quality and more weapons.
"Modern strikers do not necessarily have to be wingers. If you look to Liverpool or Manchester City and look at their strikers, they have five or six top-class strikers.
"If you look at the number of players they have, they are all strikers who can play in different positions, they can also switch and they can rotate."
It certainly sounds like he is describing Nkunku, who has the versatility that is required from an elite modern-day forward.
Considering Rangnick's future consultancy role at United — and his history with the Red Bull clubs — it would not be a surprise to see Nkunku top the club's transfer shortlist.
Selection of suitors
Nkunku's agent Pini Zahavi is set for a busy summer as United will face plenty of competition for the Red Bulls' No18.
The Paris native is one of the hottest properties in Europe at the moment and most top clubs will believe they can mould him into a dangerous attacking weapon, regardless of their playing style.
Bayern have emerged as a recent frontrunner and have a record of plundering the Bundesliga for rival clubs' up and coming talents.
The thought of Nkunku lining up next to Robert Lewandowski is a tantalising one after his impressive displays alongside strike partner Andre Silva this season.
A goalscorer and a creator, Nkunku's wide-ranging skill set is the key to his appeal.
Only Lewandowski (34 goals, two assists) has a better overall output in the Bundesliga than the France international, who has registered a more evenly balanced 18 goals and 13 assists.
He is particularly direct and can often end up operating as the team's most advanced player, even when he starts out in wide positions or behind a central striker.
The 5ft 9in attacker is more about end product than build-up play, so prospective buyers are likely to have earmarked him for a wide role, rather than as a false nine.
There are undoubtedly similarities between Nkunku and Manchester City playmaker Phil Foden or Tottenham's Heung Min-Son — but perhaps the most comparable players are Liverpool's forwards.
In some ways, he is like Sadio Mane, though not an exact replica. The Senegalese was also a product of the Red Bull system, having spent two seasons with their Salzburg franchise.
United will certainly be hoping that the Leipzig sensation can have a similar impact to the Reds' long-serving frontman if they can persuade him to join Ten Hag's Old Trafford revolution.