It’s written in the stars, to borrow a phrase from a Manchester United player of days gone by. When Bayern Munich travel to Old Trafford on Tuesday night, former Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane will be part of their number. The England captain was touted as a possible United signing in the summer. Which will doubtless provoke the gods of football destiny in Manchester. Kane scoring for Bayern tonight in front of the fans he could have played for is kismet, isn’t it?
Even if Kane doesn’t snuff out United’s narrow hopes of progression, he is still a figure that looms over their season. The United recruitment department decided investing £70 million in 20-year-old Rasmus Hojlund of Atalanta was a smarter investment than buying the 30-year-old Kane. It was hailed, at least internally, as an investment in the future rather than the short-termism that has run rampant in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Edinson Cavani, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao have all passed briefly through Old Trafford. Strikers in their 30s who bolstered the squad fleetingly before moving on. It seems like Kane was viewed as another in this category, with the quick-fix culture being something football director John Murtough has been keen to move away from.
Signing Hojlund was a smart move. The young striker was already drawing plaudits and interest at Atalanta, where he netted 10 goals in 34 games last season. But the problem is he is too young and inexperienced to be relied upon as United’s main striker. With Anthony Martial performing so fruitlessly the club are letting his contract expire, the burden has fallen on Hojlund. The fact he hasn’t scored in 12 Premier League appearances shows he isn’t prepared to shoulder that burden just yet.
Kane would have guaranteed goals. He hit 213 of them in 317 games for Spurs in the Premier League. 22 have followed in 19 Bayern games across all competitions. Ibrahimovic and Cavani were viewed as being on the slide when they joined, even if they both proved that assessment to be premature. Ronaldo was a special case given his club history while Falcao was ultimately a failed gamble considering his injuries. But Kane was as close to a sure-fire bet as United could have made.
Yes, the outlay would have been huge. Bayern paid around £85 million for him. But 30 is not 40. Kane isn’t some washed-up figure seeking one last payday. He is far too diligent to ever be considered a mercenary. Kane reportedly harboured ambitions of moving to Old Trafford. No single player is going to solve the mess that United have made over the last decade, but a goalscorer of Kane’s repute would certainly help. Midfielder Scott McTominay is the club’s top scorer this season with five goals from the middle of the park.
The Red Devils would have hoped their decision to go with the youth of Hojlund over the experience of Kane would not come back to bite them. The fact it could do so in such direct fashion is unfortunate. Of course, the England captain won’t be the sole reason United are eliminated from the Champions League.
Erik ten Hag’s side have made such a mess of their Group A games that they sit bottom of the table going into Matchday Six. A record of one win, one draw and a trio of losses sees United very fortunate to even have a slender chance of progression. In order to do so they must beat Kane’s Bayern while Galatasaray and Copenhagen play out a draw. Nothing else will do at this stage.
The Kane train has left the station. But United still need goals. Hojlund has shown enough to suggest he will come good. But he is just one man. United could do with another striker to share the load. One with experience, who knows the Premier League and is well-versed in topping the scoring charts. They needed Kane, really. But it’s too late for that.
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