With the January transfer window looming large, rumours have it that Manchester United are actively pursuing a new centre-forward and have earmarked Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic as their primary target.

Mandzukic, who has been with the Turin club since 2015, is yet to play a competitive game for Maurizio Sarri and on the back of an agreement, has been training away from the first-team. And despite having a contract until 2021, it is believed that the Croatian will be allowed to leave on a subsidized transfer fee and United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has hinted towards a possible bid already.

"There might be some experienced players who can come in and help the younger players - that might be worth the money,” the 46-year-old was quoted by Sky Sports in October.

"So, it depends on who is available. If there are players available and at the right price, I'm sure we will spend.”

The question in this entire speculation though is that how will Solskjaer use the 33-year-old in a squad whose average age in their Premier League opener against Chelsea was 24 years and 227 days?

Perhaps, the answer lies in the question. Maturity and experience of playing high-level football.

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Lack of experience has played a big part in United’s stumble this season and the fact that no other side has dropped more points from winning position than Solskjaer’s team in 2019-20 is the perfect specimen of the fact. 

Of course, Mandzukic doesn’t fit Solskjaer’s blueprint of building a young and hungry team, but the Croatian will be a potent option in the second half of the season when Europa League and Premier League will bring excessive fatigue to the already limited attacking options.

At 6 feet 3 inches, the 33-year-old will not only provide United with a towering presence in the box, but his physical aspect coupled with an ability to combine with others would be of great help. The Croatian, when not on the ball, works tirelessly and never backs down in building the high press, which in turn creates space for his team to attack. His tactical side of the game is top-notch and the best way to analyze this is to examine how swiftly he used to interchange positions with Cristiano Ronaldo last season.

Also disciplined with his approach, Mandzukic is that quick-witted striker who likes creating his own space to get into goal-scoring positions; something which United players have failed miserably in their attempts. At 33, Mandzukic won’t be a long-term solution, but the lack of options coupled with early injury worries for United means he will be a quick fix rather than being a part of an extended strategy.

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For United, Mandzukic’s current situation works like a charm as he has not played even a single game for Juventus this season. More importantly, there’s benefit for all the parties involved. Often described as the ‘big-game player’, Mandzukic doesn’t represent the Solskjaer’s approach of building his team on papers, but the unfortunate place United are in right now makes this deal an important go-ahead for the Norwegian.

A proven goal-scorer like Mandzukic, who is known for his heading abilities and knows how to stretch defences with his intelligent forays, is a character United desperately needs in the dressing the room. Short-term? Yes. Be it as it may, United need a scorer and Mandzukic remains the only available option.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Marco Bertorello