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Opinion: Could Man United target young free agent striker as Ighalo replacement?

Manchester United could well be in the market for a striker this summer, with speculation rife that Odion Ighalo, who has made such a big impression in his short time at the club, could be heading back to his parent club Shanghai Shenhua at the end of the week.

United have already been linked with a host of strikers, from high profile ones such as Kane, Aubameyang, Werner, Dembele and Jimenez to even old flames such as Bournemouth’s Josh King and the lesser known Alassane Plea.

Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have all pulled their weight and shared the goals around in encouraging campaigns, but fresh competition is always welcomed.

Sky Sports have today added a new name to the mix, but one who is no stranger to links to Manchester United. This name will not feature heavily on many people’s lists but Reading’s Danny Loader is sure to spark plenty of interest whenever the 2019-20 season draws to a close.

Loader was starting to build a promising CV, having been part of the illustrious England Under 17s World Cup winning squad in 2017, which of course featured the likes of United’s prime target Jadon Sancho, fellow potential free agent Angel Gomes and Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

He was first blooded onto the big stage at Reading at a mere 16-years of age by former United legend Jaap Stam. Loader’s progress has stalled somewhat with Reading’s rise up the table under new manager Mark Bowen attributed greatly to his decision to play more elder statesmen such as Sam Baldock and Yakou Meite.

The financial effects of COVID-19 have hit the Championship club hard, to the point where they have been unable to offer improved terms on a new contract to the promising striker.

As such, Loader is due to leave on a free transfer but Reading could be entitled to a compensation fee set by a tribunal, should a mutual fee not be agreed with Loader’s next club.

Loader could actually have been employed by Wolverhampton Wanderers had things gone differently on deadline day in August, only for Reading to veto the deal at the last minute.

Following that, United have been closely monitoring his progress, which has largely been limited to Under 23 football due to Reading’s struggles in the Championship, and United have previously been linked with him.

United were able to witness Loader first hand as early as January 2019 as he played the full 90 minutes as a lone striker in Reading’s 2-0 defeat to United in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. That was during Solskjaer’s interim spell and it remains to be seen how serious United’s interest is in the present.

Loader could appeal to United as he stands at 6 foot tall and, although he operates primarily as a central striker, he is comfortable on either wing with United’s main emphasis on fluid, versatile forwards. He is also homegrown, would not need to be registered and has space to grow further under Solskjaer’s striking tutelage.

The only blemish really is he has barely featured at first team level for some time, only appearing in 7 Championship matches this seasons, and it is difficult to gauge just how a lack of action impacts on a young player.

With young, relatively cheap signings, sometimes it is worth a gamble as you might unearth a gem. In all likelihood, were Loader to be signed, he would largely feature in the Under 23 setup or gain first team experience on loan.

There will be plenty of interest in Loader given his impending free agent status, Wolves could revisit the deal as they could part with Raul Jimenez this summer, but it might represent shrewd, risk free  business for United.

He is one we will certainly be keeping our eyes on.

READ MORE: (Video) Harry Kane gets career advice from former United and Spurs striker

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More Stories Anthony Martial Danny Loader Marcus Rashford Mason Greenwood Odion Ighalo Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Raul Jimenez