Those of you who follow my writing or my twitter will know I love the phrase “I told you so”. Many think that there is something to be said for having a bit of grace and accepting other peoples’ opinions if they are different to yours; I am not one of these people. So with that in mind, before I go on to enlighten you all with who Manchester United should and could realistically sign this summer, I will remind you why my opinion should matter to you if you care about the reds.
Antoine Griezmann, Juan Bernat, Bastian Schweinsteiger. Just over one year ago these were the names I called for. Not only that, I explained Griezmann was on course for a 20+ goal season (yep he did it), and Bernat would be signed by a major club such is his talent and would be available on the cheap (Champions League semi-finalists Bayern were happy to take him despite having David Alaba). Don’t believe me? Click the link (http://www.prideofalleurope.com/2014/04/griezmann-shaw-bernat-who-are-the-4-players-to-revive-uniteds-fortunes/).
So what do I think we need this year?
Let’s get this straight, I think Louis van Gaal has done a stellar job with the talent he has had at his disposal, essentially taking us from laughingstock of England to a place where the anti-United media have all corralled around the negative notions that United have underachieved, hyping the tragedy that would be a De Gea exit and banging on about the money we have spent. They are AFRAID, and they very well should be. That is if particular problem areas are addressed.
A lot has been made of our stagnant attack, the fact that it takes an eternity for the ball to come out of the midfield and into the forwards. I want to see that fast, high octane United style of yesteryear return as soon as possible, but the solution isn’t as straight forward as you might think. The simple view is that our midfielders and forwards are not taking enough risks to get our attacks flowing but I think the issue is a lot cuter than that. We have seen in spells that our forward six ARE capable of scintillating football, just look back to that run of games that cemented our top 4 spot this season.
Michael Carrick’s absence in the following games were certainly a blow, we have all seen the win percentage stats with and without him in the team, however another issue that has largely gone under the radar was the disruption of a well drilled and consistent back 4. For the first time Valencia, Smalling, Jones and Blind had a run of games; it is no coincidence to me that our best attacking football came in this period, and a return to our stagnant sideward passing game returned afterwards.
It is easy to say that our front 6 don’t take enough risks, but isn’t it logical that they don’t take these risks when they have to rely on the inexperience of Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett and Luke Shaw, or the ineptitude of Jonny Evans to bail them out if the risks don’t pay off? So it will be no surprise that my main focus this summer would be to solidify the defence. That said, there are improvements that could be made in too, so here is my summer transfer list:
We are Manchester United so we should always strive to have the best players in every position, and with a return to the Champions League on the cards, there is no reason for the best not to ply their trade at Old Trafford. That said, there is only one clear choice here, and no it is not Mats Hummels. Sorry to disappoint you social media hipsters, but anyone who thinks Hummels is the solution to our defensive problems hasn’t been paying attention. The last thing United need is yet another defender made of glass, and Hummels missed around 33% of games for Borussia Dortmund this season. Secondly, when he was actually fit enough to play he fully contributed to Dortmund’s horrific season. They only actually started making moves up the table when Subotic partnered Sokratis Papastathopoulos in the centre of defence. The number of times he has been turned and exposed by attackers due to his lack of pace is sincerely something United could do without.
No, the only solution here is bringing in the BEST central defender in Europe, and that is Nicolas Otamendi of Valencia. If you haven’t heard of him, you really should have. He is a typical Argentine defender in the sense that he is a tough tackler, good in the air, and reads the play excellently making on average 3.23 interceptions per game. He is fast, good on the ball and is ranked FIRST out of all defenders in the top 5 leagues in Europe for the least defensive errors that lead to goals (only ONE all season). We gave David De Gea way too much work to do last year in this regard, with United ranking as one of the worst teams in the Premier League for defensive errors leading to chances. He also provides a very consistent goal threat. He scores roughly 1 goal every 10 games he plays, and has done that for nearly every season and club he has played for since he arrived in Europe. With a possibility of United having 40-50 games next season in all competitions, that is as close to a guarantee of 5 goals as you are going to get (yes, that IS more than Falcao scored). And why would I just assume he would play in all of these games? Because HE SIMPLY DOESNT GET INJURED… EVER.
I warned of the risk of buying an overhyped and overpriced left back last year when a cheaper and more talented alternative was available. Paying a premium on English players seems to be the norm in this country, but since United are quite capable of bringing their own through the ranks, the need to buy English to comply with FA quota regulations should not play into transfer decisions. Nathanial Clyne, just as Luke Shaw is, is a GOOD English defender. However, he does NOT have the experience our defence is lacking; he has NOT played in a championship winning team; and he has NOT played Champions League football. Quite simply he is NOT the solution to our defensive struggles.
There are another couple of realistic names being thrown around in the press however which I do believe would make for good signings and do tick some of the boxes. On the experience side is Dani Alves from Barcelona; though it looks like he will be heading off to Paris St. Germain, he is an older head that would bring with him a wealth of experience, he also has a bit of bite. He is a bit of a cunt but at least he would be our cunt, and our defence most definitely needs a bit of a mean streak. Another realistic target and my personal choice would be Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal. Real have just spent the huge sum of £23 million on Danilo; you don’t spend that kind of money on a right back unless he is going to be your first choice, and that leaves Carvajal with a massive decision to make with the Euros coming up next summer. He will want to play regular football and Manchester United can certainly offer that to him. Despite only being 23 years of age (a year younger than Clyne), he has plenty of experience of title races, playing in important Champions League games and will be hungry to prove Real Madrid wrong.
I called for Bastian Schweinsteiger last year, and I am calling for him again this year. Obviously the best case scenario for this position is the return of Paul Pogba, and a box-to-box midfielder would provide the balance that Louis van Gaal has been crying out for all season. Many see a direct replacement for the vital yet injury prone Michael Carrick as a priority, but what are the actual benefits of buying a like for like replacement? We already have Daley Blind who can do the majority of Carrick does, but I also understand that the midfield as a whole becomes light-weight when that switch is made. Bringing in a player like Gundogan to replace Carrick may do a little to help us when he is injured but it does very little to solve the problem we have even when Carrick is available. Aside from that, he has missed so much of the season because of a very scary spinal injury of which nobody can be certain of how he will react long term, it is a monumental risk. Schweinsteiger however is the safe and largely beneficial option. He already knows Louis van Gaal’s system so he would be ready made to step into this team and make an instant impact; his pace and power would eliminate the drawbacks of Blind in midfield when he is deputising for Carrick; and finally, when Carrick is available, a midfield trio of Schweinsteiger, Carrick and Herrera would provide the balance of box-to-box, defensive and offensive midfielders respectively, something that Louis van Gaal so dearly craves.
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