5 potential replacements for Alessia Russo at Man United

Alessia Russo of Manchester United speaks to the media.
Alessia Russo of Manchester United speaks to the media after the FAWSL match against Tottenham Hotspur on 7 November 2021 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Harriet Lander/Getty Images)

The news that Manchester United fans were dreading was announced this week. Superstar striker Alessia Russo has declared that she will be leaving the club at the expiration of her contract this summer.

Already, rumours are swirling over where she will of go next and as a terrific player right in the prime of her career, the loss of Russo will be huge for Man United. So, who can the Reds consider this summer to replace her?

Of course, United also boast other influential attacking options, such as Lucía García who has made a big impact already. But losing someone like Russo will leave a hole, regardless of who else is on the roster. We’ve taken a look at some possible players who could fill the spot left by the Lioness.

Stina Blackstenius

Embed from Getty Images

If rumour holds true and Russo does join Arsenal, that could create a very crowded front line for the Gunners. Once Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema return from injury, the side would have four legitimate threats up top. Add absolutely in-form Frida Maanum and Caitlin Foord to the mix, and the Arsenal attack might suffer from too much of a good thing. They might have to make room for Russo, and a swap for the Swedish international could be a possibility.

There had been talk that a Blackstenius/Russo swap was in Arsenal’s first pitch in the January transfer window. United passed on the incredible £500,000 deal at the time, and the two players remained with their original sides.

Blackstenius would be a great replacement for Russo. The two players have similar styles, and the striker had a tremendous last season with the Gunners. She potted eight regular season goals, six in Champions League play, and another two in Cup play. A proven goal scorer right in her prime at 27 years old, she would fit right in with United’s high-scoring offence.

Bethany England

Embed from Getty Images

A stalwart of the Women’s Super League and a proven goal scorer, England could step into Russo’s absence nicely. With 67 career goals across all competitions, she has proven time and again her ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Her transfer from Chelsea to Spurs this past season gave her a chance at more playing time, and she absolutely smashed it. A total of 13 goals in 14 appearances proved her ability and mentality — Bethany England is a goal scorer. Her tremendous strength and aerial ability make her lethal anywhere in the attacking third. She also brings valuable experience, and has played with several United players on the country’s national side.

One caveat to England is her current contract with Spurs. She is signed through 2026, and would likely command a transfer fee somewhere in the £250,000-£350,000 range. With Russo leaving on a free transfer, that price tag might look daunting. But England is worth every penny of that, and more.

Ebony Salmon

Embed from Getty Images

Reds fans will remember that the youngster was a member of United’s original 2018 squad. However, Ebony Salmon never actually played a match with the team before moving to Sheffield United on loan. She then moved on to Bristol City the following season before heading to the NWSL in the United States.

Salmon currently plays for Houston Dash, and is a regular starter. Her strength and pace are incredible — Salmon goes hard from opening kick-off to the final whistle, and her energy will help an up-tempo United attack. She does not have Russo’s experience, but has a very similar work-rate and playing style. Salmon does have time spent playing with England’s senior squad, and her youth and desire are great plusses.

Esmee Brugts

Embed from Getty Images

The young Dutch international is a very intriguing possibility. United has been reported to have interest and have made contact with Esmee Brugts during the past year. Her contract with Eredivisie side PSV expires at the end of the season. Her availability to move on a free transfer is a definite selling point. At only 19 years old, she also has a long playing career ahead of her.

Brugts has been a star for PSV the past three seasons, helping the side to top four finishes in the league every season. She has also earned her place in the Netherlands senior squad, and has been selected as part of their World Cup side.

Her style of play is different from Russo’s, as she relies more on speed and is more of a wing player. She would not be the goal-mouth presence that Russo is, and she would provide an option that requires a lot of chasing by defenders.

Signe Bruun

Embed from Getty Images

The Danish international previously played for the Reds in the 2021/22 season, on loan from Olympique Lyonnais. Her time was limited due to injury, and she only appeared in seven matches. However, there was excellent chemistry between her and her teammates, including Russo.

Marc Skinner was keen to keep Bruun, but the deal was too difficult to pull off. A new deal at this time could also be costly, as a healthy Bruun would likely cost a pretty penny in a permanent transfer.

On the pitch, Bruun is exactly what United need. She is a very intelligent striker, and has a nose for goal. She scored eight goals for Lyon in Division 1 Féminine this season, and two more in Champions League play. At 25, she is in the prime of her playing career. She is strong and physical in front of goal, much like Russo. Could a second stint in United red be in her near future?

What will Man United do?

There are plenty of other players who could fit the bill for United as well. Kadidiatou Diani, PSG and France star who is out of contract this summer. Belgian international Tine de Caigny, also out of contract with Hoffenheim. Ellie Mason, a rising star who recently left Championship side Lewes.

United have a big decision here. One does not simply replace a player of Alessia Russo’s calibre. She is an all-around talent, at the height of her career. Any player that is comparable is going to command a very high transfer fee.

United proved last season that they are certainly one of the WSL’s elite teams, and they can offer Champions League to interested players. Expect them to make a big splash with a big name to come in for their frontline.

MORE from Her Football Hub: