United failed with a bid for the French player, after the former Olympique Lyonnais striker opted to join the Spanish giants in a 35 million deal last June.
Cole told the Manchester Evening News: "I was speaking to Sir Alex Ferguson last summer at his charity golf day and we were talking about the fact there are no No9s around these days.
"There are a lot of No10s, the playmakers who make things happen, about. But traditional goalscoring strikers are few and far between.
"Everyone has got the same dilemma. There are hardly any of them about. I look around the world, there's Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto'o in that No9 style, and then I'm struggling to name anyone else.
"Torres at Liverpool is a real old-fashioned English centre-forward. He's a throwback but you don't get many of them in England these days let alone from Europe. He is definitely a bit of a one-off.
"Karim Benzema is not identical to Torres but I think he is the nearest you might get to him. I think he is fantastic. He has great ability.
"I know Sir Alex wanted him last summer and if he can go back and try again and the lad decided he'd have more chance at Old Trafford then I think that would be really interesting.
"It's what United need."