Bobby Hare – @BobbyHare – assesses the state of United’s squad and concludes that, contrary to common opinion, there isn’t a great deal wrong with it…
With the Euros nearly finished, we can begin to focus all our attention on what really matters during the close season – transfers. It’s been a familiar tournament summer for United, with England crashing out and the club’s star turn getting it in the neck for the failure. United have already been active in adding to their squad, but transfer hungry muppets are already twitching like crack fiends, desperate for their ‘marquee’ hit.
Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell
While Eden Hazard, now of Chelsea, was busy whoring himself to the highest bidder on Twitter at the beginning of the transfer window, United were stealthily putting the finishing touches to deals securing the more understated stylings of Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell. The Japanese playmaker fulfils the ‘exciting foreign name’ requirement and is subsequently already half way to being recognised as a ‘big player’. Unfortunately, the Crewe Alexandra graduate will never overcome the impediments that his unfortunate English name creates; forever destined to be underrated.
Powell is a long term project; a talented forward who plays off both feet and has an eye for goal. Having made his breakthrough at League Two level, it would be unreasonable to expect the 18 year old to make a sizeable imprint on United’s 2012/13 campaign. It is worth noting that Powell balances his ‘boring English name’ disability with the endearing ‘turned down Liverpool’ feature.
Kagawa – Park’s replacement for the philistines amongst the country’s football following – is a player to get the pulses racing. That he only cost an initial £12m should leave United’s fans feeling very smug indeed. He can operate in the hole and from the left flank, adding variety to United’s attack with his incisive passing and elusive movement. He brings to Manchester not just a sultry girlfriend, but a near one in two strike rate and a penchant for laying goals on a plate for teammates. He will also be integral to United’s transition to a more mobile, energetic style, having been central to a Dortmund side whose recent successes have been built as much on perspiration as inspiration.
Clearly, central midfield is the biggest area of concern for United. Many fans, myself included, have grown exasperated at Sir Alex’s reluctance to dip into the market and strengthen the hub of the team, which has long since gone into decay.
While United have depth in this position, there are too many players with question marks next to their name. Giggs and Scholes, for all their enduring brilliance, can’t be relied upon to be pivotal figures in the biggest games. Cleverley’s and Anderson’s fitness records are patchy, and Fletcher’s illness has dropped us in the shit. Only Carrick, rejuvenated last season and the apple of my eye, will give United a full season at the required level.
Where the squad really falls short is the lack of a suitable alternative/compliment to Carrick. Whatever your views on United’s metronome, there’s no disputing that the team is more secure with the sanguine Geordie’s intelligent screening of the back four. As things stand, an injury to Michael Carrick will take us back to ‘Jones in midfield territory’, complete with marauding forward runs and negligent positional play.
Fergie has already – pleasingly – asserted that United won’t play with pure defensive midfielders, meaning that the ability to be constructive on the ball is a prerequisite. This policy will also preclude the club from ever having an abomination of a player like Scott Parker wearing the hallowed red check shirt.
With two forwards capable of playing between the forward and midfield lines already signed this summer, along with Young, Nani, Valencia, Welbeck, Hernandez and Rooney already present, it’s fair to suggest that United have enough fire power to launch an assault at home and abroad next season. Moves for various wingers and strikers have been mooted, but it’s hard to see how such transfers are necessary.
From a defensive point of view the club is in terrific nick, with Nemanja Vidic returning to bolster a back line brimming with ability and enthusiasm, we should post miserly defensive statistics next term. It will also be pleasing to witness a return to opposition strikers meekly making their way off the pitch following 90 minutes of brutality at the hands of the captain.
That said, the left back position is one that – rightly – creates heated debate amongst United fans. Patrice Evra’s form has fluctuated between horrendous and very good in the past two seasons, having previously been lauded as one of the planet’s finest. Whether you subscribe to the view that he’s past it or just overworked, it’s clear that there’s an opening in the squad.
Fabio is set to spend a season on loan in search of the sort of experience that has been so beneficial for the likes of Welbeck, Cleverley and Evans, meaning that there’s an opening. If United go through another season of playing Paddy through rain, shine and racism, we’re likely to see him in an increasingly bedraggled state.
Er, that’s it
So there you have it. There’s barely anything wrong with United (on the pitch). Don’t listen to the doom merchants who witter on that this is a team on the precipice. They finished level on points with the eventual champions, and came within three minutes of lifting a twentieth league title last season. There’s nothing that a couple of clever signings and some organic growth won’t fix.
Next time, I’ll be forecasting who United will bring in to strengthen the team further and analysing what qualities they’d bring to the club. I’ll also run the rule over anyone that signs between now and then. Steady on though, as this is highly unlikely. Until next time…