Manchester United target Marko Arnautovic as cover for Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United target Marko Arnautovic as cover for Cristiano Ronaldo

Manchester United intend to sign Marko Arnautovic as cover for Cristiano Ronaldo rather than as a replacement for the wantaway centre-forward.

United are pursuing a deal with Bologna for the 33-year-old Arnautovic to bolster manager Erik ten Hag’s options in attack, viewing him as a useful squad player and a short-term option.

Arnautovic started out on his senior career under the guidance of Steve McClaren while at FC Twente, while Ten Hag was working as McClaren’s assistant, before turning out for Internazionale, Stoke and West Ham.

Ten Hag is in need of attacking reinforcements following Ronaldo’s as yet unsuccessful attempts to force a move away from Old Trafford this summer and a hamstring injury to Anthony Martial.

A lack of fit and available alternatives up front saw Christian Eriksen debut as a false nine in United’s first competitive game under Ten Hag, which ended in a 2-1 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Arnautovic is viewed as a different profile of centre-forward compared to others in the United squad and one who can make an impact from the substitutes bench.

The Austria international scored 14 goals in 33 league appearances for Bologna in Serie A last season, having joined from Chinese Super League side Shanghai Port.

United’s interest in Arnautovic has met resistance from some supporters on account of allegations of racism made against him during his career.

Arnautovic received a one-game ban from Uefa last year for “insulting another player” after scoring against North Macedonia at the European Championship.

North Macedonia condemned Arnautovic’s “nationalistic outburst” but while the 33-year-old apologised for his celebration of the goal, he denied using racist language.

Arnautovic was also accused of using racist language by Willem II defender Ibrahim Kargbo while playing under McClaren at Twente.

United retain an interest in Benjamin Sesko but that is viewed as a difficult deal to do this summer, with RB Salzburg pushing to keep the highly-rated young striker for at least another season.