Roy Keane was absolutely clear in his assessment over the weekend: Manchester United should sign Harry Kane and really kick the club’s rebuild to the next level.
“Go and get Kane from Spurs. Easy, just go and get him. He'd score 20 goals a season for you with his eyes closed,” was the former United captain’s determined stance.
It is easy to mock. United are at their lowest ebb in 30 years, while Spurs are less than six months removed from the 2019 Champions League final. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
People have spoken plentifully about United’s wretched run of form since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was named permanent manager in March, yet Spurs are in the midst of a malaise that began in February – reaching the Champions League arguably papered over cracks that were forming.
Their European win over Red Star Belgrade this week was just a fourth victory of the season in all competitions, hardly any better than United’s three (excluding penalty shootouts).
Keane used the word ‘disarray’ to describe Spurs, and he’s not exactly wrong.
The team that Mauricio Pochettino built when he took over in 2014 is at the end of its life cycle. Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld are all out of contract in June and are expected to leave then, or sooner. Danny Rose could follow them out of the door, while Hugo Lloris had seen his form utterly desert him the months prior to a nasty elbow injury.
With one project at an end, having fallen short of winning a first major trophy since 2008, Pochettino admitted earlier this month that the club is yet to figure out its next step.
“After the final of the Champions League last season, it was a chapter closed and now the club is in a period when they need to open another chapter and decide a project – medium, long-term,” he said, expressing frustration as pressure appeared to begin mounting.
That was quickly followed by broadsheet-sourced gossip of fears that Kane is becoming ‘disillusioned’ and ‘losing patience'. Despite being one of the best strikers in the world over the last five years since breaking into the first-team, he hasn’t won anything. Indeed, for a player of his quality, what good is always being second, third or fourth?
And so to Manchester United.
Most would suggest that heading to Old Trafford right now would a backward step, and that if he were looking to leave Spurs it should be to a superpower like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus, or even Manchester City.
But because of the finances, there is hardly anywhere he can feasibly go.
Still determined to get Paul Pogba and now seriously eyeing Kylian Mbappé as well, Real Madrid almost certainly wouldn’t be able to afford him, bearing in mind the price tag could well be north of £200m.
Barcelona are in a similar boat and didn’t have the financial power to re-sign Neymar during the summer. Then there is Manchester City, who seem to be proud of the fact that their transfer record is a relatively modest £63m and refused to meet the asking price for Harry Maguire.
If Kane wants to go anywhere, he might not have a lot of choice, but United is one.
That would be to imply that he has to move for the sake of it, which isn’t the case. It has already been addressed why he may have outgrown Spurs, but the ceiling at United is much higher, both in terms of wages and arguably still on-field potential. That is despite the recent plight.
Unlike at Tottenham, the new project and next phase has already started.
What’s more, he must gamble on himself and his ability to be a talisman for a fallen giant trying to get back on its feet. If he has the faith that he can do it, would Kane not get more career satisfaction bringing United back to life? Too many modern players seem scared of a challenge.
Imagine being the catalyst that steps in and makes Manchester United great again. That is genuine legend-worthy stuff à la Eric Cantona in 1992.
Solskjaer is certainly a fan. In response to Keane’s comments, the Norwegian was not shy about praising Kane, likening the 26-year-old to Alan Shearer and Ruud van Nistelrooy, two of the very best and most natural goalscorers English football has ever seen.
“Our [forwards] are different types of players, but I have to say I like someone who can finish half a chance and he does that. He’s one of the best, but he’s a Tottenham player,” the United boss said.
If you think back to the likes of Andrew Cole, Dwight Yorke and Robin van Persie, all proven Premier League goalscorers at rival clubs, then Kane is exactly the type of player that United would once have targeted under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson.
If United are ever to return to that former level, they have to think big.
Even though he is a readymade superstar, pursuing Kane would not be at odds with the club’s new found recruitment policy that now primarily focuses on younger players. At 26, he is approaching his peak and has a number of years left at the top, rather than being over the hill, while being English is a big plus given that United are also preferring to buy domestic players.
United will only get so far targeting young players alone, which is why getting the Maguire deal over the line was crucial. The squad has one blossoming leader in David de Gea, while there are hopes for Maguire, but Kane would go a long way to building that all-important spine.
Harry Kane has more chance of winning trophies in the long-term with Manchester United, he just needs to back himself and take a leap of faith because legendary status awaits.