The £52m dazzling winger who could galvanise Man Utd’s limp attacking threat

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Serge Gnabry has been linked with a January move to Manchester United - can he be the answer to Erik ten Hag’s attacking problems?

You may not have noticed after being dazzled by a 3-0 EFL Cup third round win over Crystal Palace’s second-string, but Manchester United have a few problems right now. On the field, United can count themselves a little lucky to have enough points for a mid-table berth. Off the field… well, quite a lot of it is on fire.

And one of the many issues United are facing is a distinct lack of quality out wide. Marcus Rashford has his slot on the left flank nailed down, of course, although he may be needed to start up front every now and again. Past that…

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Antony is unavailable while he faces an investigation for alleged assault, and wasn’t playing all that well to begin with. Mason Greenwood is on loan at Getafe after a public outcry against a potential reinstatement following his own serious allegations. Jadon Sancho is persona non grata after refusing to kiss and make up since falling out with Erik ten Hag. Alejandro Garnacho and Facundo Pellistri are talented but plainly not ready to start week in, week out in the Premier League. Amad Diallo is injured. It’s a paragraph that amounts to a huge hole in a struggling attacking line.

Mason Mount could, and probably should, be given a go in the front three now he’s back from injury, but he’s not used to playing on the right wing, which is the most glaring vacancy. Whatever happens, United direly need to find a right-sided forward in the January transfer window. Happily, one may just be available.

Serge Gnabry has become an established top-level player since leaving Arsenal back in 2017, and the 28-year-old has scored 82 goals in 224 games for Bayern Munich over the past five years, not to mention hitting more than a goal every other game over his 43 caps for Germany. He’s versatile and has played all the way across the attacking line, but is first and foremost a right winger. A goalscoring right-sided player with few holes in his play in precisely what United need – and he may well be available.

Gnabry found himself in and out of the starting eleven somewhat last season, and hasn’t played the full 90 minutes since the curtain-raising DFL-Supercup against RB Leipzig. It may be a stretch to say that he’s out of favour with Thomas Tuchel, but his stock has fallen slightly with Leroy Sané, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Mathys Tel all impressing in recent games. His game time is limited, and there were rumours that he had fallen out with previous Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann when he began agitating for a move. The manager may have changed, but Gnabry may well still feel that it’s time to move on.

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A number of media outlets have reported over recent days that Gnabry has become a United target as they look to sort out one of their problem positions in January. £52m is the figure being bandied about, which seems like a fair price for a high-class player in his theoretical prime. If United want to contend for the top four again this season, his guile, firepower and experience could be crucial.

And Gnabry would offer United plenty even if they do find themselves in a position to call upon players like Antony and Sancho again. He’s smarter with the ball than the Brazilian, and better in front of goal than the English winger. He’s far more experienced than players like Garnacho, Pellistri and Diallo.

He isn’t the perfect player and hasn’t been at his best in recent months, but he’s still a hugely dangerous player around the area. His ball carrying skills and ability to stand a man up aren’t as strong as some of the world’s best wingers, his passing is solid but not spectacular and while he’s quick, he isn’t among the very best athletes in world football. But his all-round game and intelligent use of the ball are up there with the best, and he scores goals – something United badly need.

There are problems with the proposed deal, of course – not least that Gnabry was taken off in a recent DFP Pokal game against Preußen Münster with a broken arm. Tuchel said that he will be sidelined for a “few weeks”, which at least implies that the fracture isn’t too serious and that there’s no reason to believe he won’t be out of his cast by the time the transfer window reopens.

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He’s also on a pretty hefty contract, reported to be as much as £315,000 per week, which runs until 2026. It’s unlikely that the German would be willing to take an especially big pay cut, so United will have to open the chequebook wide to make the deal happen even if the initial fee is relatively standard between top-level clubs in this day and age.

And then there’s the big problem that any player United sign will face – United are repeatedly finding that their players are underperforming at Old Trafford, whether it’s in training or on the field of play on a Saturday afternoon. Reports of low morale and fallings out with staff are relatively routine, and have been for some time now. United simply don’t seem to be building an environment where they can get the best out of their players and keep them feeling fresh, strong and motivated. If they can’t fix that problem over the coming months, then it may not matter who they buy. But if they can… Gnabry should be right at the top of the shopping list.

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