As soon as David Moyes was appointed as Sir Alex’s successor, Leighton Baines was immediately touted as his first port of call in the summer transfer market. Chosen in the PFA Team of the Year for the last two years in a row, the 28-year-old left back has established himself as one of the League’s finest footballers and worthy of a move to a Top Four club.
Even though United already have Patrice Evra and Alexander Buttner in their squad, presuming Fabio reverts to right back next season, there is a sense that neither can guarantee top-level performances next season. The former is on a downward trajectory and the latter is defensively inept. As such, it is no surprise a big money move is only 15/4 with bwinbetting.com to arrive at Old Trafford in the next few months.
Once again, Leighton Baines showed his quality this season by coupling hi excellent defensive work with a clinical finish in front of goal. Scoring 5 goals and creating 5 assists, he is consistently one of the most dangerous creators in the country and was the only player in Europe’s big five leagues to create over 100 chances this season (@OptaJoe). Utilising his fitness to get up and down without hesitation, Baines has a beautiful left foot which he uses to whip in dangerous crosses. By doing so, he offers an excellent outlet for the midfield and would offer an improvement on Evra’s generally limited crossing repertoire.
Historically, critics pointed out that his tackling was inferior to Ashley Cole’s but recent improvement has seen him recently oust the Chelsea man from his throne. As such, he is almost the finished product whose main weakness, like Evra, stems from his aerial disadvantage.
Consistently praised by players and managers alike, Baines is only likely to play better in a better side. Feeding the likes of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, as opposed to Nikica Jelavic, his productivity is only likely to increase, even though his ability at penalty kicks would probably be ignored. In a generally more attacking side, his opportunity to create chances would be increased and he’d provide a nice balance to Rafael on the right hand side.
Although Baines performances individually are unlikely to improve past his 28th birthday, he could improve the fluency of the team. Whereas Evra has struggled to build a rapport with the right footed Ashley Young, Baines has built an intuitive partnership to the right footed Steven Pienaar. Considering the money already invested in Ashley Young, the Glazer’s may feel buying Baines is one of the best ways to maximise their investment.
Although the likes of Fabio da Silva and Alexander Buttner are able to play in a variety of positions, both Patrice Evra and Leighton Baines excel in their primary position. If David Moyes did bring him in, there would be little to no point in shifting him to the left wing or defensive midfield.
As mentioned, both Evra and Baines only play at LB. In keeping with that theme, Baines was the only outfield player to play every minute of every Premier League game for his side last season. He is at an age where he is at his best on the pitch. Whereas Evra has shown signs of fatigue on a number of occasions, it seems unlikely that Baines would necessarily benefit from rotation. Therefore, Moyes must decide whether is prepared to drop an important character from the current squad in place of a statistically superior newbie.
Despite a recent resurgence, it is well known that Manchester United have been looking for a replacement for Patrice Evra over recent years and, although he was much improved this season, the arrival of David Moyes has only intensified the chatter (EG, ‘Moyes is looking to make Baines his first signing‘). Even though Manchester United are in urgent need of a midfielder and a winger, the acquisition of a top class left back will be a long term target for David Moyes in the coming years.
Even though Baines is no spring chicken, few would be surprised if the 28 year old followed to Old Trafford this summer. Whether Moyes will have the £15 to £20 million pounds available to sign him, will depend on whether or not he decides other positions are in more urgent need of reform.