When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said that Manchester United needed to be in position to exploit — his word — the uncertainty caused to the transfer market by football’s current hiatus, he was absolutely right.
Some didn’t like his choice of word but Solskjaer is the manager of a giant football club and is paid to spot and take advantage of opportunity.
Such is United’s financial power that the club will emerge into football’s new world stronger than many, if not most. They will carry a certain degree of sureness into the market.
Harry Kane is desperate to win trophies but has so far been out of luck with Tottenham
Manchester United are a rich club and they need to make Kane an offer he cannot refuse
With that in mind, it would be madness if they didn’t take a serious look at signing Harry Kane.
Kane is 26 and at the peak of his powers. Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy would doubtless rather set fire to his own house than sell him, especially to United.
United would have to spend an awful lot of money to get the deal done, even in these financially chastening times, and would have to make Kane their highest earner while they were at it.
None of this should be allowed to get in the way. United are a big club and it is time to act like one once more. They have spent heavily in recent years on players like Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba. Not all of those transfers were particularly well thought out. By contrast, it is hard to build any kind of case against a sustained pursuit of Kane.
Daniel Levy would doubtless rather set fire to his own house than sell Kane at his peak
The signing of Paul Pogba was not universally praised but a pursuit of Kane makes total sense
Solskjaer’s United are not a team who score goals freely or create large numbers of chances. The signing of the Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes in January already looks to have helped with one part of that. Kane would help them with the other.
Whether Kane should leave Tottenham for a club who do not have the same pull they once did is interesting. Just 18 months ago, with Spurs surging forwards under Mauricio Pochettino, this would have been a different conversation.
But playing centre forward in a Jose Mourinho team always presents a challenge and Kane knows after three and half months under his new coach that he will be asked to live off a different kind of service from this point on.
United’s obligation now is to offer the England captain an alternative exciting enough and grand enough to properly turn his head. This is where the club have failed before.
Jose Mourinho (centre) will be desperate to keep Kane at Spurs as he bids to win a trophy there
United are in a position to offer the England captain big money to move to Old Trafford
In an Instagram live chat with Jamie Redknapp, Kane admitted he is desperate to win trophies in his playing career
Back in the more successful days of Sir Alex Ferguson, he and his chief executive David Gill became a little obsessed with value for money. It was a mantra that saw them lose out on players like Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack to Chelsea and, further back, the great Brazilian Ronaldinho to Barcelona.
On one of the occasions when United loosened the reins a little, they paid Robin van Persie handsomely to choose them ahead of Manchester City in the summer of 2012 and it was a transfer that pretty much won them the Premier League title.
That was a perfect example of what a centre forward can do to a team. Van Persie was only good for one season. He seemed to lose interest when David Moyes replaced Ferguson a year after he arrived. But he was the difference between United and City when it mattered.
Kane’s influence would have to be more prolonged but there is no reason to think it wouldn’t be.
Van Persie was 29 when his first United season started. Kane would be 27 and — just as importantly — would come with an awful lot more to prove. The Tottenham player hasn’t won a thing yet in his senior career and that is crucial.
Even during their recent fallow years, United have an FA Cup, League Cup and Europa League.
Despite their persistent shortcomings — and many remain — they were still in two of these competitions when the season came to a halt this time round.
Kane earns big money at Tottenham but United would be in a position to offer him even more
Robin van Persie at United was a perfect example of what a goalscorer can bring to a team
In terms of style of play, Kane is certainly a fit. At his best at Tottenham, Kane benefited from the width brought to Pochettino’s team by full backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose and from clever supporting players like Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Son Heung-min. Solskjaer’s team still has holes in it but it also has some of the above qualities, if not in quite the same depth.
For Solskjaer and his executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, this would be part of the sell. But as crude as it sounds, money must be allowed to talk also.
An executive at another Premier League club spoke privately just last week of the pressure that Tottenham’s new stadium had placed on the club’s finances.
‘It must feel like it is suffocating them,’ he said.
It is this that United must seek to take advantage of. Levy pushed the envelope in giving Kane a £200,000-a-week deal before the last World Cup but United are in a position to go far beyond that.
As crude as it sounds, money would be part of Ed Woodward’s sell to bring Kane to United
Kane already plays for a very good football club but United must test the water and try for him
In terms of the transfer fee, it’s time for United to be bold and trust their judgment.
Harry Maguire cost the club £80m last summer and Fernandes’ fee was north of £60m when he arrived in the new year. Both deals felt top heavy at the time but they don’t any more. That is often what happens when you sign good players.
For Kane, the crossroads of his career is approaching and in some ways he cannot lose. He already plays for a very good football club.
But his state of mind is not for United to fret about. They must test the water and indeed seek to ‘exploit’ the advantage they may hold once football’s wheels start to turn again the other side of this coronavirus pandemic. United must test Tottenham’s resolve to hold on to their best player.
If there is a convincing argument to the contrary, I would like to hear it.