Could Randal Kolo Muani be the answer in Man United's striker pursuit?

Randal Kolo Muani has risen from the third tier of French football to the World Cup final in three years and is now linked with a £105m move to Man United a year after joining Frankfurt on a free… could the star be an alternative to Harry Kane?

  • Randal Kolo Muani joined Eintracht Frankfurt last summer on a free transfer
  • The forward has starred for the German club and impressed for France in Qatar
  • Kolo Muani has now been linked with a big-money move to Manchester United 

Manchester United’s summer search for a striker has been well-documented, with Harry Kane, Victor Osimhen and Goncalo Ramos among those to have been linked with a big-money move to Erik ten Hag’s side.

The latest name in the frame is Randal Kolo Muani, amid reports the Red Devils could make a £105million move for the Eintracht Frankfurt star.

It would continue a stunning rise from the Frenchman, who was playing in the French third division with Boulogne as recently at the 2019/2020 season.

Kolo Muani enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in the 2020/21 season by scoring nine goals in a struggling Nantes side. His decisive contribution that season came in a relegation play-off against Toulouse, with scoring to ensure Nantes stayed in Ligue 1.

The following season saw the forward score 12 goals in 36 Ligue 1 games to help Nantes finish in the top half and lift the French Cup.

Randal Kolo Muani has been linked with a £105million move from Frankurt to Man United 

Kolo Muani only joined Frankfurt last summer after his contract at Nantes came to an end

The French forward had helped Nantes finish in the top half in Ligue 1 and win the French Cup

His contribution prompted Eintracht Frankfurt to make a move and sign the forward on a free transfer at the end of his contract.

The 24-year-old has gone from strength to strengthen with the current Europa League holders, scoring 16 goals in 34 appearances and lying fourth in the Bundesliga scoring charts.

Kolo Muani also struck twice in the Champions League group stage, with his winning goal against Sporting Lisbon taking the German side into the knock-out stages for the first time.

His first taste of Europe’s elite competition came to an abrupt end when he was sent off in the first leg of their last-16 tie against Napoli, with the runaway Serie A leaders comfortably advancing to the quarter-finals.

Kolo Muani’s performances for Frankfurt prompted Didier Deschamps to call-up the forward to France’s World Cup squad as a late replacement for Christopher Nkunku, after injury ruled the Chelsea-bound attacker out of the tournament.

He spoke of fulfilling a ‘boyhood dream’ after being handed a start in the holders final group stage match against Tunisia. The forward delivered for Deschamps instantly in the semi-final after being brought off the bench against Morocco, giving France a 2-0 cushion.

Deschamps then turned to Kolo Muani in the final with France trailing 2-0 to Argentina. His pace helping to change the game, having won the penalty to give them a foothold.

Kolo Muani admits he is still haunted by a miss in the final moments of extra time in the final, when he was denied what would surely have been a World Cup winning goal by Emi Martinez. He would beat the goalkeeper in the penalty shootout, but Argentina would ultimately emerge victorious.

Kolo Muani scored his first international goal for France in the World Cup semi-final in Qatar

France coach Didier Deschamps praised the forward’s speed and brought him on in the final

‘I still watch it, I know it off by heart,’ Kolo Muani told beIN sports. ‘In my head, I said to myself – Randal, you have to shoot now. I tried to shoot towards the near post but the goalkeeper made a very good save. But there were other options.

‘I could have lobbed him, or find Kylian Mbappe [who was free on the left]. But in the moment, I didn’t see him. It’s only when you watch back that you discover the other options. It’s too late. It still sticks in my throat and it’ll be there for life.’

The World Cup final disappointment marked a rare setback for the star in recent years, but Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner said in January that Kolo Muani’s involvement in the tournament had helped the forward’s self-confidence, having previously been labelled as shy.

Glasner claimed the forward could hardly have achieved more within a 12 month period after winning the French Cup, earning a starting role in a Champions League outfit in Frankfurt and playing in the World Cup final.

The Austrian coach, like Deschamps, has highlighted Kolo Muani’s speed among his key assets when explaining why Bundesliga side moved for him last year. Glasner said he was not surprised by the continued progress the Frenchman has made this year.

Kolo Muani has admitted being haunted by his missed chance in the final minutes of extra time

Frankfurt coach Oliver Glasner has hailed Kolo Muani’s progression since joining the club

‘We [signed] him because we saw great potential in him,’ Glasner said. We saw instantly that he was really quick. ‘He listens and tries things on the pitch, plus he’s a great boy. It’s not that surprising that he is so able.

‘That he’s playing such a crucial, formative role, on the other hand, perhaps is [surprising] but he deserves that due to his performances.’

Kolo Muani’s overall contribution to Frankfurt cannot be understated having also laid on 10 goals for his team-mates this season, as well as scoring 11 himself.

The haul puts him top of the Bundesliga’s assist charts ahead of Bayern Munich star Jamal Musiala, RB Leipzig’s Dominik Szoboszlai and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Alassane Plea.

Perhaps it is no surprise then that Kolo Muani is being linked with a move to Old Trafford.

Kane is believed to head United’s striker shortlist, but there are several interesting points of comparison behind the England captain and Kolo Muani.

Harry Kane is believed to lead Manchester United’s shortlist for a new striker this summer

Kolo Muani, pink, and Kane, blue, are both out-performing their expected goals this season

Using data from this season, courtesy of Delphlyx, both Kolo Muani and Kane compare favourably when assessing their goals and xG (Expected goals).

Kolo Muani is over-performing his xG per game, finding the net 0.54 times per 90 minutes compared to his expected figure of 0.37. Kane has the edge on both accounts though, scoring 0.66 per 90 from an xG total of 0.53.

The French striker is taking less shots on average than Kane, 2.10 to 3.08 per match, but is ahead on his goal conversion rate.

The two strikers are well matched when it comes to build-up play, with both passing the ball around 19 times per game, although Kane narrowly performs better on link-up plays.

Kolo Muani has a marginally higher xA (expected assist) total than Kane by 0.17 to 0.14, highlighting his ability to fashion chances for team-mates.

The Frankfurt striker also touches the ball more often in the box than Kane, perhaps understandably given the Tottenham’s star is known for dropping deep.

Another 24-year-old making headlines this season is Osimhen, the top scorer in Serie A with 19 goals.

Osimhen is vastly ahead of Kolo Muani when it comes to xG, boasting over double his total with 0.80. The Nigerian forward also hits the target more often per match by 1.62 shots to 1.08.

Kolo Muani has the edge when it comes to xA by 0.17 to 0.07, which tallies with Osimhen providing just the four assists in Serie A this season. He also tends to receive passes more on average than the Napoli star.

Napoli star Victor Osimhen, blue, has the edge on Kolo Muani on xG and shorts on target

Kolo Muani’s statistics show a wider involvement in build-up play and defensive output

The defensive contribution of Kolo Muani has previously been highlighted by managers, who have noted his pressing work. This is borne out in the stats which shows he recovers the ball more often than Osimhen, while he tends to win more aerial duels per match.

A worthwhile comparison in the current Manchester United squad would be Anthony Martial, with Ten Hag having previously commenting that his profile fitted with what he wants in a striker.   

‘It’s quite clear in my way of playing,’ Ten Hag said in November. ‘I like the type that Anthony Martial is because he can hold the ball, he’s a target, he can link up, he can also run behind, he has speed, he can finish and he’s a good presser.’ 

The main issue surrounding Martial has been his availability, having being limited to 14 games this season due to injury. Martial did, however, manage 36 matches in all competitions for United back in the 2020/2021 season.

Using data from the season when Martial largely operated up front but also from the left, as Kolo Muani can do, a comparison can by made using some of Ten Hag’s own criteria.

Erik ten Hag claimed that Anthony Martial has qualities he likes in a forward player

Kolo Muani, pink, has shown several of the attributes Erik ten Hag likes in Martial, blue

Kolo Muani goal conversion percentage is vastly higher than Martial’s during that campaign, with similar expected goals.

Martial’s link-up plays are impressive having performed 10.06 to Kolo Muani’s 4.03, but the Frankfurt forward leads his counterpart on ball recoveries and offensive duels won to highlight his ability to press and hold possession for his side.

A move for Kolo Muani would undoubtedly represent a risk for United given the potential fee involved. His rapid rise would also raise the question to whether he can maintain or even build on his current level, compared to a Premier League proven star in Kane.

Yet the upside may be that United could secure a long-term forward in the mould Ten Hag desires to help push his side to become a genuine Premier League and Champions League contender. 

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