Manchester United

Griezmann signing would be true to United's attacking DNA

 • by Mark Thompson
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There aren’t many players that have shared the Ballon d’Or podium with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. And of those players, only Neymar and Antoine Griezmann have done it twice.

The latter of those two is now being linked with Manchester United, the English club reportedly in pole position to sign the Frenchman this summer.

This isn’t the first time the Red Devils have been interested in Griezmann, of course, but with noises emerging that he would like to leave Atlético Madrid, a switch to Old Trafford seems more likely to happen than ever.

Griezmann is now 27 years old and has spent almost five years with Atleti. He will be aware that he doesn’t have long left to make one last big move before the spectre of age looms.

This isn’t to say the forward is about to decline, but the greater the distance from 30 that a club can buy a player, the better. And United, to use an example of a buying club, have seen with Alexis Sánchez that ageing players don’t necessarily match up to what they were in their younger days.

How Manchester United envisage Griezmann fitting into their team is an interesting concept to think about, though. Currently, the World Cup winner plays as a creative second-striker or false nine, a role which doesn’t fit easily into most of the systems Ole Gunnar Solskjær – and before him, José Mourinho – have played this year.

There’s no doubt Griezmann is talented enough to fill many of the roles across the forward line, but a relatively free role is what he has at Atlético, and that’s probably what he’d be best in at United.

The fact that Griezmann is left-footed, while being two-footed enough to be very effective with his right, means that he could fill the hole on the right of United’s attack.

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That area has been a difficult puzzle to solve for the past couple of years, with either a right-footed attacker or a creative-but-less-dynamic player like Juan Mata deployed in the position.

Hypothetically, then, Griezmann could be slotted into a 4-3-3 with a fluid front-line. A forward trident of Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku, and the Atlético star could cause problems for opposing defences by popping up wherever they want.

If he wanted to play more centrally, though, that might cause more problems on two levels. The first is that they’d need someone to keep the width on the right. And the second is that he’d likely crowd out the underrated-on-the-pitch and popular-in-the-dressing-room Jesse Lingard.

Playing centrally would also either mean Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s 4-3-1-2 being made permanent — which could happen but felt more like a tactical response to playing stronger teams — or a 4-2-3-1. Where would Paul Pogba feature in this latter option?

The 4-3-1-2 could prove an interesting option, although would significantly reduce Lingard’s minutes. But with Griezmann operating in pockets of space, dropping deep, making runs behind, and interlinking with Pogba, it could be a very exciting team to watch.

That might require an upgrade at full-back, at least in athleticism, but in Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw there’s at least promise.

The attack might not be the area where United have the most need of an upgrade, but the possibilities with Griezmann could make for some entertaining football.

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