Why aren’t Manchester United doing everything to sign Harry Kane?

Kane would guarantee goals for United

Kane would guarantee goals for United – GETTY IMAGES

It was a quite brilliant angled run from deep. Jude Bellingham saw the space and made a dash for it as Antonio Rudiger sprayed a pinpoint raking pass over the top. Raphael Varane was holding the line, looking to play offside, but Aaron Wan-Bissaka had dropped behind the rest of Manchester United’s back line and suddenly Bellingham was through.

His first touch was perfect, taking the ball square from where he lifted it nonchalantly over the advancing Andre Onana on the edge of the penalty area. Karim Benzema, Real’s long-standing centre-forward until his departure for Saudi Arabia last month, would have been proud of the finish.

There is a reason why Jude Bellingham was the most coveted midfielder in the world this summer and the quality of his first goal in Real Madrid colours underlined as much and provided a tantalising glimpse into a future that promises so much.

By the end of the first half, Lisandro Martinez had resolved that the best way to stop the dynamic England midfielder was to pile through him. His lunging tackle, which carried shades of his crude challenge on Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka four days earlier, drew another booking and an angry reaction from Bellingham. “That’s four times,” he told referee Lukasz Szpala. Four times he felt United had been guilty of fouling him and wanted that registered in the official’s mind.

Bellingham chips the ball past Martinez to score in a sparkling performance

Bellingham chips the ball past Martinez to score in a sparkling performance – AP

For United supporters seeing Bellingham in full flow, a couple of thoughts must have come to mind. The first is how much they would love a player of that quality bestriding their midfield. It’s like watching a modern day Bryan Robson and it is terrifying to think the kid from Stourbridge only turned 20 four weeks ago. But watching Bellingham also makes you wonder why United – beaten 2-0 here by Real – are not throwing everything they have got at trying to secure Harry Kane.

Signing Bellingham elevates Real in a way few players on the planet could. At an initial £88 million, he already looks cheaper in these times of crazy transfer fees. He is a game changer.

Kane would have a similar effect on United. That is not to say he would instantly take United to Real’s level – the Madrid giants possess talents like Vincius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde that Erik ten Hag could only dream of having at his disposal – but he would provide a guarantee of goals no other striker realistically available to them could match. Securing his signature should have been the overwhelming priority this summer.

United like to tell us constantly that they are always in for the biggest players but the reality is different. Where has their ambition gone? If it was, they would be pulling out all the stops for Kane this summer.

Instead, they are shopping for a 20-year-old striker who has played fewer than 90 senior club matches in Denmark, Austria and Italy and managed just nine goals in Serie A last season. Rasmus Hojlund may end up having a bright career ahead of him but he is a gamble – no one can confidently argue otherwise – and what Ten Hag does not need right now is a gamble given the utmost importance attached to finding someone who can stick the ball in the net on a consistent basis.

United are keen on signing Hojlund but he is a gamble for the club

United are keen on signing Hojlund but he is a gamble for the club – GETTY IMAGES

What’s more, Hojlund could end up costing just £30m to £40m less than Kane. United consider Kane overpriced at £100m plus but by what barometer? United have just paid £55m rising to £60m for a midfielder in Mason Mount who had a year left on his contract with Chelsea and still has much to prove. Kane is as proven as it gets.

With Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, the England captain is the best centre-forward in Europe right now. His price tag, even with 12 months left on his deal with Tottenham, is more than a fair reflection of his value. He has been posting high numbers in the Premier League and European competition for nine consecutive seasons. Last term, in a miserable Spurs side he carried throughout, he managed an astonishing 32 goals in 49 matches.

So what that he turns 30 on Friday? Kane could be top for another three, four or five years. He has never been reliant on pace, his instincts for goal are as sharp as ever, his passing is among the best in the Premier League. This is simply not the same as bringing a 33-year-old Edinson Cavani, a 34-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic or a 36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford.

United seem to have convinced themselves that Tottenham will not sell. But is that just an excuse? They know that the Spurs owner Joe Lewis has told his chairman Daniel Levy that he must sell Kane this summer if he is unable to convince him to sign a new deal and is unwilling to see such a valuable asset run down his contract and leave for nothing in 12 months. And so what that Levy is tough to deal with? Since when was trying to sign a top player from a rival club ever a straight forward exercise?

It is supposed to be difficult but United, at the very least, should be giving Tottenham something very serious to think about this summer. The idea that they could just stand aside and allow Bayern Munich to have a free run at such a prized goalscorer and fantastic character is inconceivable for a club crying out for the type of improvement in front of goal that Kane would drive better than anyone else they could feasibly sign this summer.

Yes, there is not an endless pot of cash but there are enough players they can sell to swell the coffers and if they had not overpaid so heavily for the Brazil winger Antony last summer – a player they initially valued at £55m but ended up giving Ajax £85m for – then maybe there would be even more wiggle room right now.

Real knew exactly what they were getting with Bellingham. United should be adopting the same mindset over Kane.

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