As uncertainty continues to cloud over both Manchester United’s season prospects and their transfer dealings, the search for signings to bolster the squad has seemingly sped up. With forward options so thin, United’s search has led them to consider Atletico Madrid’s Matheus Cunha.
Date of Birth: 27/05/1999 (23)
Strong Foot: Right
Height: 1,84 m (6ft)
Who is Matheus Cunha?
Cunha is a 23-year-old striker currently plying his trade at Spanish giants Atletico Madrid. Cunha left his homeland Brazil in July 2017 and moved to Switzerland where he spent 1 season at FC Sion. He then moved to RB Leipzig where he scored nine goals in 52 games. On deadline day in January of 2020, Cunha moved to the German capital where he spent about a year and a half scoring 13 times for Hertha Berlin. After doing well at Hertha, the Brazilian attacker made the switch to Atletico Madrid last summer for a fee in the region of €26million.Embed from Getty Images
According to ESPN reporter Julien Laurens, Matheus Cunha is a target for Manchester United and while he still has 4 years left on his contract with Atletico Madrid, he’d be keen on a move to Old Trafford. Fabrizio Romano also reports that the Red Devils have held talks with Cunha’s agents in the last few days but no agreement has been reached between United and Atletico with the Madrid club wanting in excess of €50m for the Brazilian striker.
The 23-year-old played 29 times last season in La Liga scoring 6 times and picking up 4 assists. However, only eight of those 29 appearances were games he started in.
One of Cunha’s biggest strengths is his work rate. He’s quite decent at pressing which is really important to how Ten Hag wants to play. Over the last year, he averaged a total of 21.7 pressures per game with 5.66 of them being successful on average – ranking him among the best in his position. He is also very fast and also a really good dribbler having completed nearly 70% of his dribbles during his time in Germany. His pace and skillfulness make it hard for defenders to deal with him which means he does win a lot of fouls.Embed from Getty Images
There have been comparisons between Cunha and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino as Cunha does sometimes drop deeper to get the ball. The 23-year-old is also a good carrier of the ball and averaged more than 3 carries per game last season which is quite impressive. Whilst tackling isn’t necessarily an attribute you associate with attackers, Cunha is quite good at it. Over the last year, he averaged just over 2 tackles per game and won 1.4 of them.
Cunha is very good at linking the play and is also good at creating. He is also quite intelligent and good at timing his runs well. The Brazilian attacker is also versatile. While he’s predominantly a striker, he can also play on both wings and has also played as an attacking midfielder on a few occasions.
One of Cunha’s biggest weaknesses is his aerial ability. He only won 21% of his aerial duels in La Liga last season which is extremely poor. At 6ft tall, it’s certainly an attribute he could improve. As well as his poor aerial ability, his first touch does also let him down at times.
Where would he fit in?
United were always going to need to sign a striker this summer but even more so now with Cristiano Ronaldo’s future uncertain. While it seemed United were desperate to keep the Portuguese attacker, various reports now claim the club are open to letting him go if they can sign a replacement.
If Ronaldo leaves, Cunha would compete with Anthony Martial for the no.9 position. While there’s no doubting the talent and quality of Anthony Martial, he is quite injury-prone and also inconsistent. Therefore, Cunha would probably be United’s first-choice striker if he came and Ronaldo left. At Atletico Madrid, he’s often on the bench and doesn’t start often. A move to United would be a really good step for him in his career to try and get more game time especially ahead of the World Cup.
Even if Ronaldo did stay, Cunha would probably still have quite a prominent role as Ronaldo is now 37 years old and is no longer at the age where he can play every game.
While Cunha is definitely a quality player, he wouldn’t be the smartest signing. He’d cost around €50m, potentially even more, and he’s simply not worth that much.
Whoever United sign in the striker position will need to be a prolific goal scorer, especially if Ronaldo leaves. Liverpool and Manchester City have both proved you don’t necessarily need a striker who will score 20 plus goals a season to be successful. However, if your striker doesn’t score loads of goals, you certainly do need a few players around them who you can rely on to score at least 15 goals a season and United simply don’t have that at the moment.Embed from Getty Images
Marcus Rashford has been out of form for quite a while. Martial, while talented, isn’t reliable and while Jadon Sancho can score goals, he’s more of a creator and hasn’t quite found his rhythm yet at Old Trafford. Bruno Fernandes did score a lot of goals in his first 18 months at United but has also been out of form for quite some time. Therefore, if Ronaldo leaves, the club would need to bring in someone who could guarantee you 20-plus goals a season in all competitions and Cunha simply isn’t a prolific goal-scorer. With that said though, if Ten Hag believes he’s what United need, the club should definitely push ahead and try to secure the signature of the 23-year-old.
United have also been linked to the likes of Alvaro Morata, Mauro Icardi, Jamie Vardy and Sasa Kalajdzic as potential striker signings this summer. It will be interesting to see which striker the club decide to go for.