Erik ten Hag’s first summer as Manchester United boss has seemingly changed nothing as far as the club’s transfer business is concerned.
Although the start of the Premier League season is just beyond the horizon, the Old Trafford chiefs are still scrambling around in their pursuit of long-time target Frenkie de Jong, whilst every other top six club has succeeded in unveiling a marquee signing of their own.
And meanwhile, whilst peering with envy at Manchester City’s capture of Erling Haaland and Liverpool’s signing of Darwin Nunez, the Red Devils have lost the favour and confidence of star man Cristiano Ronaldo, who is actively pursuing an avenue out of the club.
Striker Benjamin Sesko is on Manchester United’s transfer shortlist ahead of the new season
Sesko scored with a tidy finish against Liverpool in RB Salzburg’s 1-0 win on Wednesday
The teenager has impressed at Red Bull Salzburg and is attracting interest from Newcastle too
No matter the outcome of Ronaldo’s showdown talk with the new boss on Tuesday, Man United need a star for the future. A world-class youngster to breathe fresh life into Old Trafford, spark hope within the wounded fanbase and support Ten Hag in his quest to revive the former champions.
Rightly or wrongly, 19-year-old striker Benjamin Sesko has been tipped for greatness, prompting Man United to monitor his situation closely at Red Bull Salzburg.
Newcastle have also expressed interest in the highly-rated centre-forward, with the Saudi-backed club eager to build a new dynasty around a future star.
He scored the winner with an accomplished finish in Salzburg’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool on Wednesday night in pre-season to further fan the flames of hype surrounding him.
So why is the Slovenian youngster being linked with moves to the Premier League and what makes him a unique talent? Sportsmail has taken a look at Sesko’s background and analysed how he would fare at Old Trafford under Ten Hag.
Erik ten Hag is eager to revamp his attack after Cristiano Ronaldo handed in a transfer request
Player profile – the next Haaland?
Sesko has impressed since arriving in Salzburg as a 16-year-old, although his first two seasons were spent on loan at fellow Austrian outfit and Red Bull farm team FC Liefering.
Used predominantly as an impact substitute during his first season, the striker bagged 11 goals in all competitions with the second-tier club, before kicking on admirably the following campaign.
He notched 21 goals and six assists in 29 league appearances in 2020-21, with most of his contributions coming towards the latter end of the season under Matthias Jaissle.
The tall and natural goal-scorer has been compared to ex-Salzburg wonderkid Erling Haaland
Jaissle, having only been at Liefering for six months, was thrown into the RB Salzburg hotseat in the summer of 2021 and did not want Sesko out on loan again, entrusting him to play a goal-scoring role at the Austrian giants.
Despite starting just 12 matches in all competitions, the Slovenian international contributed 11 goals and seven assists as RB Salzburg won their ninth consecutive title.
So far this season, Sesko has two goals and one assist to his name in just a pair of appearances.
Standing at 6ft 4in and blessed with natural pace, the striker shares a similar profile to new Man City star Haaland, who also announced himself on the European stage in Salzburg.
Impressed with his development, Sesko’s team-mates have compared his ability to the Norwegian superstar, suggesting that he may one day surpass the £51m-rated forward.
In an interview with Slovenian reporters, Sesko said: ‘Such comparisons motivate me and give me energy. They do not represent pressure. I will listen and learn so I can be even better than he is.
‘My team-mates at the club tell me that Haaland and I are very similar, especially in terms of speed. Most of them even tell me that I’m better than him!’
Haaland scored his first Manchester City goals against Bayern Munich after his £51m move
Red Bull Salzburg – the perfect breeding ground?
RB Salzburg’s 10 most expensive departures
Brenden Aaronson – Leeds (£29.56m)
Karim Adeyemi – Dortmund (£27.00m)
Patson Daka – Leicester (£27.00m)
Naby Keita – Leipzig (£26.78m)
Enock Mwepu – Brighton (£20.70m)
Sadio Mane – Southampton (£20.70m)
Dominik Szoboszlai – Leipzig (£19.80m)
Erling Haaland – Dortmund (£18.00m)
Amadou Haidara – Leipzig (£17.10m)
Duje Caleta-Car – Marseille (£17.10m)
Using a well-researched ‘buy-to-sell’ transfer policy, RB Salzburg have built a reputation for nurturing talent and setting young players up with fruitful careers.
In addition to Haaland, the Austrian giants managed to kick-start fruitful careers for Bayern Munich stars Sadio Mane and Dayot Upamecano, Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita and RB Leipzig ace Kevin Kampl, who each play Champions League football.
Due to the club’s infrastructure, Salzburg have only ever spent more than £10m on a single player three times in their history. They choose not to offer hefty fees for new recruits and instead rely on excellent scouting and coaching to develop young stars.
Were Sesko to exit the Red Bull Arena this summer, he would be the quintessential Salzburg departure – scout and sign a promising teenager, hand him a few valuable loan spells and eventually integrate him into the first team before selling him on for a healthy profit.
It is not uncommon for players to move on quickly. Haaland and Upamecano were snapped up by wealthier clubs after just 33 appearances each in Austria.
This summer, the Red Bull club have already sold Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen to Leeds for a combined fee worth over £40m, and 20-year-old striker Karim Adeyemi joined Borussia Dortmund for £27m.
Considering Salzburg’s proven track record in breeding young talent and providing European clubs with future superstars, Sesko could well be the next wonderkid to emerge from the Austrian champions.
Salzburg already sold a striker this summer after Karim Adeyemi joined Dortmund for £27m
Newcastle – serious transfer rivals?
Sesko’s agent whipped up a frenzy of excitement amongst Newcastle supporters last week, as the fanbase were led to believe that a deal had been agreed between their club and the Slovenian striker.
The St James’ Park chiefs are actively looking to bolster Eddie Howe’s squad ahead of next season, eager to put their Saudi-funded treasury to good use, and had expressed interest in signing the 19-year-old.
Agent Elvis Basanovic posted photographs of his trip to Tyneside on Instagram last Tuesday, including pictures of Newcastle Airport and the Quayside.
Sesko has been linked with a move to Newcastle as the Saudi owners look to build a dynasty
As Sesko is his most valuable client, Magpies fans poured on to social media to speculate a potential arrival, but Basanovic swiftly deleted all evidence of the photographs from his account.
His visit to Newcastle has not yet been explained, although agents are known to travel across Europe in a bid to find potential destinations for their clients.
Still a teenager, Sesko is likely focused on developing his game and is thus more patient in the pursuit of silverware or team success. Although Newcastle still have some way to go before carving out a serious top four challenge, the Slovenian could be tempted to join a budding project.
Eddie Howe wants to add more attacking options to his Newcastle team for the new season
At Man United, Sesko would be surrounded and perhaps overshadowed by high-profile stars such as Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. Thrown into the Old Trafford pressure cooker, he would also be expected to deliver results instantly.
In contrast, the teenager would likely receive more minutes on the pitch and more time to settle at St James’ Park, making Newcastle an attractive destination.
However, considering Ten Hag’s seemingly thin depth in attack, Sesko would struggle to snub the Red Devils were an offer placed on the table, as he would be on the brink of a first-team spot.
Ten Hag’s system – the perfect fit for Man United?
Upon hearing of Man United’s interest in Sesko, Salzburg delivered a tongue-and-cheek reply to show just how highly they rate the striker.
The Austrian club posted on Twitter to say that they would only let the Slovenian join Man United for £300m plus Fernandes, a fee ludicrously above the youngster’s market value.
But presuming all quips were set aside and the Red Devils were able to agree a fair price with Salzburg, Sesko could emerge a useful addition to Ten Hag’s squad.
The Red Bull club cheekily put a valuation of £300m plus Bruno Fernandes for the Slovenian
So far in pre-season, the Dutch coach has switched between his favoured 4-3-3 formation at Ajax and the 4-2-3-1 Man United deployed last season, using the latter during an impressive 4-0 victory against rivals Liverpool.
As his reign at the club develops, Ten Hag will likely persist with a 4-3-3 and opt for the same tactical set-up he utilised in Amsterdam.
Much like Reds boss Jurgen Klopp and other like-minded modern managers, the 52-year-old boss advocates a high press in attack, instructing his front three to chase down defenders while the midfield hunt in packs to support them.
Ten Hag seems to have rekindled a spark in Anthony Martial, who has impressed in pre-season
Ronaldo, despite his 18-goal return in the Premier League last campaign, was often criticised for his lack of intensity in attack, prompting many to question whether he was the ideal centre-forward to play at the club.
Meanwhile, Anthony Martial has impressed with three goals in pre-season following his return from Sevilla on loan, but the Frenchman was once viewed as lethargic and listless amongst the Old Trafford fanbase. Reinvigorating Martial with energy and enthusiasm has perhaps been one of Ten Hag’s success stories of pre-season.
However, possessing great fitness, a towering frame and raw speed, Sesko is naturally built for the manager’s pressing game and still has the instincts to finish off chances in and around the penalty box.
Chiming in on the comparisons to Haaland, Sesko’s agent spoke of the striker’s exceptional work ethic and modest personality, which would no doubt suit Ten Hag’s dressing room.
He previously told Zurnal 24: ‘Many compare him to Haaland, but I think they are different types of players.
‘They are similar in physical construction and speed, but they are different players. Benjamin is more of a team player.
‘He is maybe better technically with his skills, but Haaland is a bit more wild with his energy, in a positive sense. He remains a humble, hard-working boy.’
Although he is far from the finished article as it stands, Sesko certainly fits the profile Ten Hag is looking for as he plans to build a new-look United.