Kane over Ferguson: Man Utd fans want Van Persie title guarantee over Rooney-ish potential
Do Manchester United fans want 20+ goals guaranteed for five seasons or the potential for 20+ goals a campaign for well over a decade?
The international break has sent Manchester United striker speculation into overdrive. Erik ten Hag’s handed over shortlists, clubs have set lofty asking prices in accordance with the Antony tax, and Rasmus Hojlund has emerged as the ‘next Erling Haaland’ because he’s Scandinavian and scored five goals in two games.
And two of United’s rumoured targets scored goals at opposing ends of the international spectrum. Harry Kane became England’s record goalscorer with his 54th goal against Italy, before his 55th three days later. Evan Ferguson scored his first goal for the Republic of Ireland.
In the Sir Alex Ferguson days, United may have signed both: master and apprentice. But they won’t have the money if the Glazers dig their heels in, and even if Sheikh Jassim takes over, Ferguson’s ‘priority’ is said to be game time and he wouldn’t get much as understudy to Kane. Vincent Janssen, Fernando Llorente, Carlos Vinicius and Richarlison can attest to that.
The question we posed to Manchester United fans was: which would you prefer?
It’s essentially a question of age vs experience. Kane is 29 but as good a guarantee of goals as pretty much any player in Premier League history. Ferguson is an 18-year-old with scary potential who’s scored just three Premier League goals. United would be buying either a 20+ goal striker for five years or a striker with the potential to score 20+ goals for 15 years.
Then there’s the financial consideration. Reports suggest United are ‘weighing up’ an £80m bid for Kane, though they will likely have to put something rather more significant on the scales to persuade Daniel Levy into selling to a rival.
United would have to pay quite a bit more than the £9m Transfermarkt currently values Ferguson at, particularly if Brighton get him to agree to the ‘mega-contract’ they’re rumoured to have in the works, but the outlay would still be significantly less than that required for Kane.
The Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie transfers were more extreme versions of the same conundrum.
Van Persie, like Kane, was a 29-year-old guarantor of goals, but had to be managed closely from the point he arrived at United. He trained infrequently to avoid injury, and having won them the Premier League with 26 goals and 15 assists in his first season and Ferguson’s last, faded dramatically in his second and third campaigns for the Red Devils.
United will be hoping for more than one good season from Kane, but then Van Persie only cost them £24m.
That’s only slightly more than they paid Everton for Wayne Rooney in 2004. £23m was the highest amount ever paid for a teenager at the time, but United stumped up that fee with good reason. Like Ferguson, Rooney was 18, but he had already played close to two full seasons in Everton’s first team and drew the eyes of the world with his four goals for England at Euro 2004.
The comparison is brittle given Van Persie was more injury prone than Kane and Rooney was more of a sure thing than Ferguson, but the key underlying consideration is the same. Do they sign an already world-class striker, who could immediately win them the Premier League? Or a striker who will take longer to (or may never) reach that same required level, but could do the business for well over a decade?
Manchester United fans, which striker would you prefer in the summer?
— Will Ford (@willfordy25) March 31, 2023
We could have included Hojlund, Victor Osimhen or Goncalo Ramos in the poll but purposefully limited it to the two strikers at polar ends of the spectrum. Kane coming out on top isn’t a great surprise. It feels like United are close to a proper Premier League challenge, and 20 goals from a striker could be enough for them to win it next year.
The danger is Ferguson’s upward trajectory continues at a rate to make United regret their decision pretty quickly. Chelsea and Bayern Munich are also thought to be tracking the teenager, whose stock is only going to rise.
It may not feel like such a smart move when a 33-year-old Kane is moved back into midfield due to a lack of mobility and a 22-year-old Ferguson is banging in 30 goals for a rival. But then the goals Kane has already scored to secure a couple more Premier League titles would likely ease the pain.