Manucho unlikely to debut against Scots


Goals against South Africa, Senegal and Egypt lit up the African showpiece and saw the 24-year-old signing with Manchester United, capped by being named in the African Nations Cup all-stars.

Now, Panathinaikos boss Jose Peseiro will decide today whether to name the striker, who has been loaned to the Greek outfit for three months, in his travelling party for the Euro Cup trip to Glasgow.

The Apostolos Nikolaidis return leg is scheduled for Thursday, February 21, and could be a more realistic target for Manucho.

The Scottish Premier League leaders will also be missing forwards. Jean-Claude Darcheville starts a three-match Euro ban and Daniel Cousin’s Fulham transfer saga is still no closer to resolution.

The 24-year-old won’t be making his Old Trafford debut this season as he doesn’t meet the criteria to be eligible for a work permit in the UK.

However, the Old Trafford management team remains confident that Manucho will be considered for a work permit in the summer.

With United also linked heavily with several star strikers in the recent transfer window, including Lyon’s Karim Benzema and Klaas Jan Huntelaar of Ajax, both of whom remained with their clubs for the time being, the management are still clearly assessing their options in this department.

United currently sit second in the Premiership and - mainly thanks to the exploits of Ronaldo, who has 19 goals from a wide position - haven’t lacked for attacking thrust.

However, Carlos Tevez with 11 goals is the only other player to have reached double figures at this stage of the season. Rooney has managed 6 in the league and the next highest are Ferdinand, Nani and Giggs, all with 2.

Whilst many, especially at the beginning of the season when United began in most insipid fashion, questioned the logic of pairing Tevez and Rooney together, the duo seemed to have hit it off. They also unquestionably benefit from the increased space given to them as defences increasingly turn their attention to stopping Ronaldo.

However, it is undeniable that Tevez and Rooney are very similar types. Both like to drop deep to receive a pass but, thanks to their combined football intelligence, ensure that neither repeats the runs, but does something different. And in this respect Ferguson could benefit from having an out-and-out striker.

In steps Manucho, who should be available from next August. "Why spend upwards of £12 million on a top striker when you already have one" must be roughly the thinking with the purchase of Manucho. The 4 games that Mancuho played in for Angola have certainly given us an idea of the 24-year-old’s capacities.

He appears to be quick, agile and also excellent in the air. Like many African forwards he loves to receive the ball to feet and his dazzling footwork has left a trail of bewildered defenders in Ghana. He scored a goal with his head in the 1-1 draw with South Africa, showing plenty of bravery, and, despite the effort being in a futile cause, rattled in a superb long range strike against Egypt.

Given his height (he is registered at 6”2) and willingness to take the ball both with his back to goal and facing the target, inevitable comparisons could be drawn with Nigerian forward Kanu, who has successfully plied his trade in the Premiership with Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Portsmouth.

So is Manucho the striker who could save the United management a packet? He is undoubtedly an excellent forward and, despite his record coming in the relatively modest surroundings of the Angolan league, notched 34 goals in 78 appearances for his former club, although was unable to get them into the African Champions League group stages last season.

He is somewhat taller than both Tevez and Rooney, so offers a more natural threat in the air than the more established partnership. However, his lithe frame, may mean that to survive in the rough and tumble of the Premiership he may need to increase his bulk.

He is also a player who likes to drift out of the centre of play, and started his career at Petro Atletico as a left winger.

If United are in the market for a genuine forward, they would be better advised to look for a striker who only plays on the shoulder of the last defender as United already possess sufficient talent in midfield, plus forwards who drift deep to look for the ball.

Furthermore despite Mancuho’s creditable four goal haul in the African Cup of Nations - potentially the highest level of football he has ever played - he didn’t strike one as a genuine goal scorer. His squandered chance just seconds into the second half against Egypt when he chipped past the post was one that a more natural goal scorer could have put away. With the game delicately poised at the point, his second goal would have brought his side level, but the wasted chance leads one to contemplate whether he possess sufficient big game nerve.

At 24, Manucho is no youngster, so will have to progress in the fashion that Arsenal forward Adebayor has for Arsene Wenger if he is to make it at Old Trafford. Furthermore, his slender figure would only benefit from a year with a Championship side in the way that United’s rivals City have posted young Ishmael Miller with West Bromwich Albion. A season in arguably Europe’s most physically demanding leagues would undoubtedly toughen up Manucho and prepare him more for the rigours of a full Premiership season.

However, United have already lost the remainder of this season after being obliged to stable him in Greece under the guidance of Portuguese coach Jose Peseiro, and would be understandably reluctant to loose another season out of their new acquisition.

With these factors in mind, it seems unlikely that Manucho is the answer to United’s demands if indeed they are looking for a new striker in the summer to enhance their options in the attack.

Nevertheless, given the right service and some opportunities there is no reason why Manucho can’t forge himself an excellent career in the Premiership although he will have to muscle past both Tevez and Rooney if he is to gain a first team place on a long-term basis.