|Hands up if you want to join United|
An article from Neil Custis in the Sun this morning reports that Manchester United have secured the services of Croatian magician Luka Modric from Spurs and that the deal is almost complete. Far be it for me to pour scorn on the journalistic merits of Mr Custis but the media outlet he writes for does have form in the field of general transfer tripe so most observers will take the validity of such a claim with a gigantic pinch of salt.
To be fair, it is widely known that Sir Alex Ferguson has a long standing admiration for the silky Modric who has been the heartbeat of the Spurs midfield over the last couple of years so few would doubt that there is a semblance of fact that United aspire to capturing him but it is highly doubtful that a deal could be agreed for the reported £25 million.
The point of this post is to strongly argue that if Ferguson is looking to add the supreme talent of the Croatian to the much maligned and neglected midfield at Old Trafford, while welcomed without doubt, it is missing the point of what the club truly requires to restore itself to the top table of European football.
For me, what we need is a large portion of steel to compliment the undoubted silk that we already possess. In Rooney, Nani, Valencia, Young, Cleverley and the freshly acquired Kagawa, we have an abundance of youthful attacking verve and creativity. The missing piece of the jigsaw is the ying to that wondrous yang - the holy grail of the defensive midfielder.
"Football has changed" I hear you cry and the presence of a Makelele type patrolling the centre circle is an outdated model no longer required where possession and pressing are the new buzzwords. Flying recklessly into tackles and risking the wrath of the officials (I am looking at you Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard) is something that does not have a place in the modern game. I completely concur with this ideology, which is why we should literally (© Jamie Redknapp) move heaven and earth to acquire a "presence" in the central heartland of our team. Ideally, a box to box hard man who has ability on the ball yet a defensive mindset when a particular match dictates this role. If God created a player with a mix of Robson (Bryan, not Barry), Keane (Roy, not Robbie) and Touré (Yaya, not tubby Kolo) then there would be no better way for our generous or loathsome (delete as applicable) owners to reward their loyal subjects (Messers Ferguson and Gill) not to mention the long suffering fan base.
Before the men in white coats approach, I fully realise that firstly, no such player exists and secondly if he did then we do not have the funds to purchase thanks to our friends across the sea. We therefore often have to delve into the confines of the bargain bucket when it comes to transfers. Ideally, a young maestro making his way in the game can be persuaded to move to the glittering North of England whilst ignoring the overtures of our considerably richer near neighbours. Names mentioned include Kevin Strootman, Yann M'Vila and Kwadwo Asamoah but it is hard for me to discuss their individual merits as I have not seen enough to form a sensible opinion as to their suitability. A price of around £15 million has been touted which could be possible if offset by the sale of one or two fringe players who have still have some value in the market.
Last season it was increasingly noticeable just how much over-reliance United had on Michael Carrick in the centre. Shorn of the energy and drive of Darren Fletcher due to his debilitating illness, the much maligned Englishman was a beacon of shining consistency among the injury ravaged Anderson and Cleverley and the waning influence of Giggs and Scholes. In the early stages of last season, when Carrick was out of favour and recovering from injury, his presence was much missed. This was masked somewhat by a flurry of goals and attacking fluidity but ultimately very little protection was afforded to our back four containing young players such as Jones, Smalling and Rafael learning their trade. If Modric is signed (and I would genuinely be ecstatic if true) then his only available partner would be Carrick as otherwise the centre of our midfield will be as open as Anderson's jaw waiting for his next KFC meal.
|"Get in! We are selling Gibbo and Ando"|
The addition of such a strong player would also mean that the intended switch to a more fluid 4231 formation could be implemented relatively seamlessly. This would allow a pressing game led from the front by Rooney, Kagawa et al to be the first stage in retrieving possession of the ball, something that has been lacking for years. The visit of Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League emphasised just how far behind we have fallen in terms of the elite sides. To combine such pressure to an opponent and then have the ability to release the forward thinking quality to inflict serious damage, was a joy to behold even if it was in our own backyard. I have no doubt that the purchase of Kagawa, well versed in a pressing game with Dortmund, will see us at least attempt such a strategy in the early stages of next season.
Closing out the game is also another option that the acquisition of a more defensively minded player provides which was something sadly lacking at times last season when Scholes tired after the hour mark.United's football does not have to be all "gung ho" despite the traditions of the club and some solidity would not go a miss in an attempt to secure a vital three points. At least having that option (even from the bench) would be a bonus and another string to Ferguson's bow.
One hopes that impressive performances in the Euro 2012 tournament does not leave the boss to regret not acting quicker as prices will inflate in July. Getting their transfer business completed early and quickly is always the preferred way to proceed but it is naive not to point out that it is not always as easy as that. Signing a new all purpose midfielder as mentioned above would leave the possibility of a utility full back as the only other area to consider for reinforcement. Talk of Baines arriving from Everton would mean that Evra's prospects look bleak but I personally cannot see the Frenchman being replaced just yet. A decent summer break after the travails of the last few years will surely see him return to peak form.
The sensible purchase alluded to here along with the Kagawa signing would ensure United remain competitive both at home and in Europe. Coupled with the much mooted change in formation and playing style, the club may be capable of returning to the lifelong ethos of attacking verve coupled with defensive solidity that could once more see us become a potent threat feared throughout the land.
Do you agree with what is written above or am I wide of the mark? Either way, please leave your comments below and I will respond to each one.
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