Memphis Depay? Marcus Thuram? Who Manchester United could sign in January following Cristiano Ronaldo's exit

The purse strings look to be tight at Manchester United this January but Erik ten Hag will still be keen to strengthen after Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Old Trafford.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 29 December 2022 - 1.36pm
Memphis Depay and Marcus Thuram

Despite the news on Boxing Day that Liverpool had swooped in to sign Cody Gakpo under Manchester United's noses, the mood was buoyant on the pitch less than 24 hours later as Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both netted in a 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest.

Rashford was in a rich vein of form before the World Cup and both attackers have been trusted by Erik ten Hag since his arrival in the summer. 

However, the Dutchman did admit after the game against Steve Cooper's side that an incoming striker is something he'd welcome, especially with Cristiano Ronaldo off the books following his explosive TV interview. 

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Martial currently occupies that No 9 role but is too injury-prone and inconsistent to be relied upon, while Rashford is considered most potent when attacking infield from the left.

In addition, the uncertain situation regarding the club's future ownership means the Glazers are unwilling to commit large amounts of cash to transfers before leaving Old Trafford, an explanation for why they missed out on Gakpo. 

So, if United's options are restricted by their limited budget, which arrivals are a possibility? Here's a rundown of some possible incomings...

Memphis Depay

Depay is of course familiar with Manchester United, having signed for them in the summer of 2015 for around £25m from PSV Eindhoven. 

However his time in England was a massive disappointment and he moved to Lyon in January 2017, going on to score 76 goals in 178 appearances for the French giants across all competitions

His goalscoring threat and creativity earned him a switch to Barcelona in the summer of 2021, and although he finished last season as the team's top scorer in La Liga, this campaign has been a different story with Depay featuring in just two league games due to a debilitating thigh problem. 

It had been reported prior to the World Cup that Barcelona felt Depay was exaggerating the extent of the problem so that he could sit out club matches to be fit for Qatar, something the 28-year-old has vehemently denied. 

In Depay's absence though Barcelona have only drawn blanks twice - against Inter and Bayern Munich in the Champions League - and have lost just once domestically during that time, against Real Madrid. 

Although Depay has the versatility to play on the left of a front three and as a No 9, he might struggle to dislodge Ferran Torres on his return to the fold and will only be granted a start as a centre-forward when Robert Lewandowski is either injured or rested. 

Another source of encouragement from United's perspective is the fact that - along with Barcelona's apparent willingness to get Depay off their massive wage bill - the Netherlands international's contract runs out this summer, making the Red Devils' chance of agreeing a fee much more likely. 

United fans may not want to return for a player who flattered to deceive under Louis van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, but his career trajectory and affordability make him a pretty attractive proposition. 

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

While Depay is likely to be consigned to Robert Lewandowski's shadow if he remains at Barcelona, Choupo-Moting has blossomed since the prolific Pole's departure from Bayern Munich. 

Written off by virtually everyone following a forgettable season with Stoke in 2017/18, the Cameroon international then largely struggled to make his mark at Paris Saint-Germain before warming the bench at Bayern in his first two campaigns at the Allianz Arena. 

However, at 33, Choupo-Moting is finally blossoming into a goalscoring force. The Cameroonian has scored 11 goals in 16 matches across all competitions for the Bavarians this term, as well as finding the back of the net against Serbia at the World Cup. 

Like Depay though, he also has just six months left on his current contract and it remains to be seen whether Julian Nagelsmann will want to hand out a new deal to a man who turns 34 in March. 

Choupo-Moting is someone who has shown in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League recently that he can thrive off service if given the chance at Old Trafford, with 10 of his 11 Bayern goals this season coming from inside the box.

Marcus Thuram

Many would not have known much about Thuram before he set foot on the pitch at Lusail Stadium in the World Cup final, but his introduction as part of a bold double substitution by Didier Deschamps was transformative and will have almost certainly increased the number of suitors for the Borussia Monchengladbach forward. 

The 25-year-old's flick for Kylian Mbappe's (first) equaliser was a brilliant piece of imagination and underlined his creative abilities along with his obvious goalscoring prowess as 10 goals in 15 Bundesliga games this season highlights.  

Thuram, born in Parma where his dad Lilian was playing at the time, made his senior debut aged just 16 in April 2014 for Sochaux's second team and racked up 81 appearances in three seasons for them and the club's first team. The young attacker then moved up a division to Ligue 1 outfit Guingamp, where he featured even more regularly, bagging 13 goals in 38 games across all competitions in his second campaign at the club (although this proved futile in stopping the Red and Blacks from being relegated). 

However, Thuram's star continued to ascend and he left in 2019 to join Monchengladbach where he enjoyed his best-ever campaign, netting double figures in a league season for the first time as well as scoring twice in the Europa League, his first experience in European competition. 

The 2020/21 season wasn't quite as impressive on a personal level, but Thuram still bagged a brace against Real Madrid in his first Champions League campaign, helping the Foals to the last 16, where they were knocked out by Manchester City. 

The next season saw Thuram struggle with several niggly injuries, but he looks rejuvenated and better than ever this term under former Norwich head coach Daniel Farke, excelling as a penalty-box predator, but also able to alleviate pressure on his team by dribbling out of his own half and leading counter-attacks. 

His close control is a massive asset and allows him to create chances for himself in seemingly congested central areas. Like Depay and Choupo-Moting, his contract also expires this summer, and despite never having played in England, he speaks the language fluently. He's surely worth a punt. 

Alvaro Morata

Morata's previous spell in England was underwhelming as he often misfired in front of goal for Chelsea, but he still ended up with 24 goals in 72 appearances for the Blues. 

The striker has since bobbed between Atletico Madrid and Juventus, but with Atleti's financial outlook worsening after finishing bottom of their Champions League group, the option of Morata moving to Old Trafford on loan in the winter window would appear appealing to both parties. 

The 30-year-old largely impressed at the World Cup, scoring in all three group games against Costa Rica, Germany and Japan despite just 127 minutes of game time in that period.

Despite not offering much in the way of pace, Morata possesses a notable aerial presence at 6'3'' and is a deceptively good dribbler. 

Given his age though, a permanent move to The Theatre of Dreams later down the line seems an unrealistic expectation, with his current contract expiring in the summer of 2024. 

Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring for Spain against Japan at the 2022 World Cup
Alvaro Morata scored three times at the 2022 World Cup and could be a short-term option for Manchester United

Along with strengthening up front, United are still likely to want to bolster their squad in other areas, with David de Gea's Red Devils career at a crossroads. This is an option they may want to consider to temporarily replace their experienced No 1...

Yann Sommer

Sommer is Marcus Thuram's team-mate at Borussia Monchengladbach and has been a consistent performer for both them and Switzerland for years. 

The 34-year-old is approaching 350 appearances for the club based in North Rhine-Westphalia after joining in 2014, and in August he made a record 19 saves in a Bundesliga game as Monchengladbach secured a 1-1 draw at Bayern Munich. 

Sommer's shot-stopping ability has never been in doubt. He has the second-highest save percentage and the joint third-highest goals-prevented figure in Germany's top flight this season.

His contract is also up in the summer, making this the perfect opportunity to pounce if United want to nab the former Basel goalkeeper. 

Borussia Monchengladbach's Yann Sommer saves from Thomas Muller
Yann Sommer made a record 19 saves in a Bundesliga match to help Borussia Monchengladbach draw with Bayern Munich