Ever since breaking through to devastating effect in his debut season at Rennes, scoring 12 goals and being voted best Young Player in Ligue 1, Ousmane Dembele became one of the most sought-after youngsters in world football.
Borussia Dortmund sealed Dembele’s signature last summer for £12.75 million after fighting off interest from Bayern Munich, Barcelona and a list of Premier League clubs.
Last season the 20-year-old continued to impress by scoring six goals and registering 13 assists in 32 Bundesliga appearances. He was recently named the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Season, and is certainly a player Dortmund’s new manager Peter Bosz, formerly of Ajax, wants to keep at Westfalenstadion.
Dembele is among the current crop of French youngsters — Kylian Mbappe, Kingsley Coman, Anthony Martial, Thomas Lemar — who are the best herd of colts of their age group. There are high hopes for the future of French football just like when Karmin Benzema, Samir Nasri and Ben Afra came through. In hindsight, however, you can only say one of those fully fulfilled his promise on the basis of success.
Capable of playing on either wing or centrally as a No.10, Manchester United could make use of a player who is devastatingly good with both feet. This unique ability, referred to ambidextrous, makes him unpredictable for the opposition. When dribbling, Dembele can comfortably manoeuvre in any direction often leaving defenders on their rear end.
But he isn’t your typical show pony, though, as seen with Nani whose career went downhill since leaving United. Every Dembele move culminates in an incisive pass to pick out the run of a team-mate or a shot on goal.
However, the issue at United last season was not creativity. It was the end product, i.e, striking the ball into the back of the net. As a result, the club ranked eighth for goals scored in the Premier League (54), which is not what you would expect for a side expected to challenge for titles.
Dembele is capable of delivering double figures for goals and assists in a single season — a feat no United player managed in 2016-17. He would be a fine alternative to Antoine Griezmann, who decided to stay at Atletico Madrid because of a transfer ban restricting the La Liga outfit from conducting any incoming transfers until January 2018.
If Mourinho throws Dembele in the mix with Alvaro Morata, also linked with a move to Old Trafford, United can go from being overly hesitant in the final third to having the option to counter-attack at lightening speed and hit opponents where it hurts. The manager already has Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial at his disposal to make that happen.
This is a young player with an ever-growing reputation. Not yet in the league of a Neymar or Gareth Bale, Dembele’s stock is high and he would unquestionably enhance United’s attack next season.
Calling Ed Woodward — here’s a global superstar of the future.