Man United Opinion: Nicolas Pepe would be a tailor-made fit for Solskjaer’s philosophy at Old Trafford
According to the Mirror, Man United are set to firm up their interest in Lille’s Ivorian international forward Nicolas Pepe, with reports claiming that the Red Devils have identified the 24-year-old as an alternative to Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku has been the subject of interest from Serie A giants Inter Milan over the past few months and whilst United have rejected bids of around £50 million for the Belgian, one would expect him to depart Old Trafford eventually before the deadline. (h/t Mirror)
Man United have already splashed £18 million on Daniel James and £50 million on Aaron Wan-Bissaka but manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made it clear that the Red Devils are in the market for two or three more signings. However, Lille’s £70 million valuation of the versatile attacker might be a stumbling block in United’s pursuit of the 24-year-old. (h/t Metro)
However, the door is very much open for the Red Devils to snap up one of the most in-demand prospects in Europe, with Arsenal operating under serious financial constraints and Klopp making it clear that Liverpool are not going to spend big this summer. (h/t Metro)
Solskjaer has made his intentions very clear with deals for burgeoning young domestic talents Wan-Bissaka and James that he is keen to complete a youthful overhaul of his squad ahead of the upcoming season.
The Norwegian is trying to build a squad in his own image in a bid to revive the lost glory at Old Trafford and the acquisition of Pepe could certainly go a long way towards changing United’s fortunes next term.
Pepe racked up magical numbers of 22 goals and 11 assists in 38 appearances for Lille last season and helped his club secure a runners-up spot in Ligue 1 behind champions PSG.
The 24-year-old, who bagged 13 man-of-the-match distinctions in Ligue 1 this past season, was one of the most influential strikers, not only in France but also in the top-five leagues of Europe.
Essentially a right-winger by trade, Pepe is noted for his ability to cut inside from the flanks with his lightning pace, incredible acceleration, quick feet, agility and silky dribbling skills.
The 15-cap Ivorian international has been a real revelation in Ligue 1 since his move to Lille from Angers in the summer of 2017 and few would dare to argue that he has the talent and the potential to hit greater heights in the years to come.
Blessed with the innate ability to create his own space and fire powerful long-range efforts on goal, Pepe is not only about pace and power, with the Ivorian’s subtle movement off the ball, brilliant one-touch link-up play, slick passing, and clinical finishing putting him right up there with the most coveted young forwards in Europe.
To put things into perspective, it is not difficult to make out from the aforementioned attributes that Pepe would be a tailor-made fit for Solskjaer’s philosophy, which revolves around an easy-on-the-eye quick passing game involving fast, agile and mobile strikers up front.
That is exactly the reason why Solskjaer’s philosophy, which is diametrically opposite to former United manager Jose Mourinho’s style of play, brought the best out of attackers like Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard, whilst Romelu Lukaku emerged as a liability due to his lack of pace, sharpness, agility and technical abilities on the ball.
Pepe is not an out-and-out No.9 but given that Solskjaer doesn’t really show much confidence in target-man sort of strikers, the Ivorian’s pace, power, movement and natural finesse could make him a real asset to the Red Devils.
Furthermore, Pepe’s pace and quick passing game make him a potent threat in counter-attacking situations, while his athleticism and superior upper body strength allow him to win aerial duels inside the box with ease.
To sum it up, he has not one but a number of enviable traits in his game, which should prompt the Red Devils to make him a top priority this summer.
Having endured a lacklustre campaign in the Premier League the last term, largely due to defensive frailties, it is a no-brainer that United are going to prioritise the recruitment of a few new defenders this summer.
That, however, doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to invest in other areas of the squad and the acquisition of Pepe would definitely be a strong statement of intent from Solskjaer.
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All in all, Pepe seems to have the capability to guarantee a lot of goals at Old Trafford next season and United should not hesitate to wrap up a deal for him at the earliest, although that might as well depend on whether they manage to offload Lukaku before the deadline.