News From Manchester: Erik ten Hag has wildcard transfer option to solve Manchester United formation puzzle – Liam Wood

It has proven to be a 'nearly' campaign for the plucky Hammers as they were beaten to Europa League qualification by Manchester United after missing out on a place in the final of the same competition. That must have been tough to take as semi-final opponents Eintracht Frankfurt went on to lift the trophy.

Heartache for Bowen and his West Ham teammates, but they will come again domestically – and in the Conference League – after upsetting the regular order over these last two campaigns. They could bolster that charge by winning the race to sign departing United star Jesse Lingard on a free transfer.

If that man Lingard was the difference for David Moyes in the second half of the 2020/2021 season – when scoring nine goals and providing five assists in 16 appearances during a memorable loan spell – then the baton was well and truly picked up by 'unfancied' Bowen this term. His reward was a rather symbolic one, too.

When picking up the phone after the final day on Sunday night he was not being sold a needless item or insurance; he was being sold the dream by Gareth Southgate. In a campaign which promised so much and ended up with West Ham falling narrowly short, Bowen earned his biggest achievement to date with a maiden England call-up.

Coincidentally, that came at the expense of Lingard and United players, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. Cue suggestions that the bridesmaid has finally become the bride.

Such is the abundance of talent that Southgate has at his disposal – particularly in attacking quarters – this came as no understatement to what Bowen has achieved while emerging as one of the most menacing and feared forwards across the Premier League scene. Just ask Manchester City about that.

An ample return of eight goals and five assists offered a sign of his progression in 2020/2021, alongside Lingard, but it must also be noted that only one of those direct contributions came against the embarrassingly labelled big-six. The conversation must have been had with Moyes and, no doubt, it was heard loud and clear.

Bowen made a mockery of suggestions he might be a flat-track bully by stepping up to the mark this season with a substantial tally of 24 direct contributions in 36 games. Goals against Chelsea and Arsenal with assists coming when he stepped up to the plate against United and Liverpool.

Then came, arguably, his defining moment in Southgate's eyes when tormenting City at the London Stadium. On a day where Mark Noble was supposed to take centre stage when waving goodbye to his the east London faithful, it was Bowen who stood out from the crowd.

His two goals offered Liverpool a route back into the title race though, due to results which followed, only delayed what seemed had like the inevitable. Those who shunned Bowen in 2020 when making the January switch from Hull City might have a word in their upcoming scouting meetings.

For those would-be suitors to prize him away now, it would cost substantially more than the 19million fee paid at the time – and raised eyebrows for that matter. But the fact is that the elusive and fleet-footed Bowen would, even before his England debut, look right at home for one of the big hitters.

The way he exposed some marginal frailties in City's defence with explosive pace and cool finishing makes Bowen a hot ticket going into the summer transfer window. It is a price worth paying for United.

Several departures and Mason Greenwood being unavailable means there is a space to fill on the right-hand side as Erik ten Hag sets about his rebuild. In his Ajax line-up – and plenty of others across Europe – a silky left-footed option has proven to be the popular choice.

That has prompted suggestions Ten Hag might look to sanction a move for Brazil prospect Antony – among several Ajax players being tipped to follow his former manager to Manchester – but Ten Hag can do a whole lot worse, and not much better, by dialling in Bowen's number to kick-start his Old Trafford tenure.

We want your views, Reds. You can become even more involved with our Man United coverage by signing up. This will unlock a whole host of things – including joining the comments and taking part in our special Q&As, where you can speak directly to our reporters about whats happening at Old Trafford this week and beyond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.