Manchester United's Summer Transfers: An Overview
Even as Manchester United captain Nemanja Vidic was in the process of lifting a record 19th Barclays Premier League title in May, their fans were quickly bombarding forums for a much improved midfield in three months’ time to defend the title. Their pleas were legitimate as Barcelona, Manchester United’s conquerors in Europe for the second time in three years, simply waltzed past them with their carousel passing a week later in the Champions League final. It was a bit like Manchester United winning a lotto competition to enter a disco for the first time only to come up against the team who owns the disco.
It was all doomsday and apocalypse as glory hunters – the knee-jerking as well as the prawn-sandwich ones – moved the goalposts from “Glory Glory Manchester United” to “Gory Gory Manchester United” and “Manchester United, the club which sucks”.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United’s gaffer for the last 25 years and a bit, though, would have none of it, and rightly so.
This is the same Manchester United which has reached three Champions League finals in the last four years (winning one of them), overhauled eternal rivals Liverpool to sit at the top of the perch and still keeps buying quality players on the cheap (Javier Hernandez), quality English potential (Phil Jones) and has the “money”, “conviction” and/or “ambition” to retain world-class players (Wayne Rooney). While other top-dog clubs in the same division have managed to do at least one of the three above-mentioned criteria, none of the above clubs have managed to work the entire package (While Arsenal have a working team, at least two of their back four are significantly inferior to Manchester United’s).
United have gone ahead and splurged, nay, that’s a word you use for their neighbours these days, spent some decent dough on a goalkeeper (David De Gea), quality first-team player (Ashley Young). Out went a mixture of deadwoods or/and fan favourites or/and cult favourites.
But that elusive midfield playmaker continues to escape United’s hands. Wesley Sneijder or Samir Nasri looked odds-on favourite to either fly in from Italy or go up from North London to join the champions of the Barclays Premier League. They have been accused of being “workmanlike” rather than “fantasy”. Playing the devils advocate – literally – I don’t think I have any problems there. Arsenal have often been accused of living in “fantasy” rather than being “workmanlike”. And I don’t need to say to you that workmanlike trumped fantasy last time out.
I actually found the suggestions laughable. They had arguably, let’s make that undisputed, the best midfield playmaker to have come from the Union Jack in the last 20-30 years, and yet they wanted somebody else. All that’s in the past, as Paul Scholes has retired. But do they really need “THAT” player? “That” someone who is capable of playing the cute, cheeky one-twos, the long, Hollywood diagonals and the defence-splitting passes?
Granted they appear a little weak of flair players in midfield, but they do more than make up for that absence with style as well as substance down the flanks.
While Gareth Bale might have walked with the PFA Player of the year award for last season, Luis Nani, someone who is capable of going down both flanks, was the best player down the wings. In Ashley Young, United have not only brought someone who has experience at this level, but also someone who gets his fair share of goals and assists.
In future if engines become obsolete, someone can just attach Park Ji Sung and carry on driving. Very robust, still very energetic and playing the big games better than most big name players, he is a unique player. An engine down the flanks. A Dirk Kuyt if you will. But while Kuyt is more complete as a winger – one who gets more than enough goals per season – Park is more complete in the role he does.
Ferguson had previously earmarked Phil Jones to be playing for the Manchester club in the future. However, because of Liverpool’s and Arsenal’s interest, he had to move quickly to get his man; even though it might have been labelled under “expensive” in the transfer cabinet. The lad has enough talent, will be learning under some of the best coaches in Europe but more importantly knows he will have to “work hard” to first, cement his place, before, retaining his place in the first-team squad. Expect his fledgling career to take-off.
The Spanish ‘keeper, De Gea, is an interesting buy. He had a sensational break through season before somewhat going off the boil. It’s a risk for two things:-
Unlike Jones, who has no pressure to replace somebody “straight away”, De Gea will have to replace one of the best goal-keepers the Premier League has seen right away. Not that small an ask.
From the little that I have seen, he is a good keeper. But is “good”, good enough for Manchester United?
Here is where Ferguson has been shrewd. He does have a fall back option in the Dane, Anders Lindegaard. Who, apart from being an able back-up, could also provide De Gea that added incentive to work harder.
All in all a pretty straight-forward transfer window. While the likes of Luka Modric and Samir Nasri have proved to be just dreams and paper talk, Manchester United have a settled squad with some very important players, who along with the influx of youth, would well be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
- Swaroop Swaminathan
Swaroop Swaminathan, pessimist gooner, and a closet manc, is back with his next installment of manc appeasing views. This post originally appeared at Inside Manchester United