Manchester United are pushing forward with their plans to sign a right-sided forward this summer, having been linked with a number of players in this position.
The Manchester Evening News understands that Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho has agreed terms in principle to join United, with his camp expecting the England international to complete his move to Old Trafford this summer, even though their opening offer was rejected by Dortmund last week.
But another player who United have been linked with in recent weeks is Leeds United winger Raphinha, who was a teammate of Reds midfielder Bruno Fernandes at Sporting CP, with the Portugal midfielder even quoted as saying 'I miss Raphinha' and that the Brazilian is 'a player with whom I had a different chemistry from the others, he understood me at a glance'.
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Although it looks likely that United will sign Sancho this summer, there's still a transfer fee to be negotiated, so what if United turned their attentions to Raphinha instead? And, how would the Brazilian perform at United?
To find out, we used Football Manager 2021 to simulate next season with Raphinha in the United squad, to see what would happen.
To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2021 editor to arrange for Leeds United winger Raphinha to join Manchester United on July 1, 2021.
This is how Raphinha's profile on Football Manager 2021 looks as of July 2021 in-game.
Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. The latest edition of the game, FM21, is out now on PC, Mac, Mobile, Touch and Xbox.
The Football Manager database currently contains data on more than 800,000 individuals and 45,000 active clubs.
Data is sourced from their international on-the-ground scouting network which numbers roughly 1,000 people, among their ranks are some who are involved in football in professional capacities, including scouts and coaches.
With Raphinha in the United squad next season, this is what happened!
Raphinha's 2021/22 season at United
Raphinha became a key player for United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with the Brazilian becoming a regular starter on the right side of a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Amad and Daniel James having to play second fiddle to the Leeds man.
Mason Greenwood operated as a central striker following Raphinha's arrival, leaving Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani as second-choice.
Let's take a look at Raphinha's 2021/22 campaign for Man United.
The former Sporting CP winger scored 15 goals and registered 13 assists for United in 52 appearances in all competitions.
This included 11 goals and 10 assists in 33 Premier League appearances, with an additional two goals and two assists in the Champions League too. That's not bad at all.
The winger was one of United's most creative players, with only Bruno Fernandes registering more assists than the Brazilian.
In terms of goals, only Mason Greenwood (28), Bruno Fernandes (18) and Edinson Cavani (16) scored more than Raphinha's 15, showcasing his quality in both creating and scoring goals.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, Football Manager 2021 put together an overall best United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.
This is how the best United XI looked in 2021/22 according to FM21.
Full United best XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Van de Beek, Pogba; Raphinha, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood.
Raphinha was deservedly named in United's best XI, alongside Fernandes, Rashford, Greenwood, Pogba and Van de Beek, who had a good season for the Reds.
So, how did United perform in all competitions in our simulated season Raphinha in the squad?
United's 2021/22 season results with Raphinha
Here is how the final 2021/22 league table looked once the simulation finished at the end of May 2022.
With Raphinha added to the squad, United were genuine title challengers during the 2021/22 season.
However, they were just pipped to the Premier League title by local rivals Man City, by a single point.
Despite outscoring City, their poorer defensive record would come back to haunt them, as just one more point would have seen them win the title.
But Solskjaer's side did win a major trophy, winning the FA Cup.
United also reached the quarter-fiinal of the Carabao Cup and the semi-final of the Champions League, losing to City and Paris Saint-Germain respectively, in what was a pretty strong United campaign.
Football Manager 2021 predicts that Leeds United winger Raphinha would improve the United side and could even help them mount a title challenge next season.
But, what this simulation also shows that whilst a right-sided forward is an important transfer priority, a defensive midfielder and central defender may be just as important, considering their weaknesses during this simulated campaign.