Well, that was interesting. And, if truth be told, more than a little traumatic. For a club that, under Ferguson, traditionally did its business early on in the transfer window, Monday was an exceptionally frenetic day: Blind confirmed, Falcao (!) brought in on loan, Hernandez loaned to Real and Welbeck shuffled off to Arsenal. Factor in the offloading of Kagawa at the weekend and the (very) late loaning of Cleverley the morning after the transfer window officially closed (no, I don’t understand it either, but apparently you can bend the rules a bit if you ask the FA very very nicely) and you’ve got a ridiculous amount of transfer activity. Oh, and I forgot to mention Powell and Lawrence to Leicester, too! Craaaazy!
There has, predictably, been a lot of speculation and comment about United’s business in the transfer season, some of it considered and thoughtful and some of it downright silly. Below, I look at some of the more prominent comments and offer some thoughts of my own…
“United don’t need Falcao.”
This is a slightly more complicated statement than first appears. It implies a couple of things – firstly, that what United need more urgently is something else (a decent centre back and a box-to-box or holding midfielder, depending on who you listen to) and secondly, that United have a wealth of attacking talent at their disposal. While the first is arguably true, the second is most definitely not. Anyone who’s seen United in the league this season will readily admit that the team is lacking something up front. This seems absurd given that we’ve been playing with RVP, Rooney and Mata as our attacking spearhead but none of them, the two goals shared between them notwithstanding, have looked particularly threatening, nor have any of them displayed the ability to carve defences open and truly terrorize the opposition in the same way that, say, Diego Costa has done for Chelsea. In that sense, the loan signing of Falcao makes a great deal of sense. He likes to score does our Radamel. (And he is ours – at least for the next nine months or so.)
This doesn’t mean that all’s fine in other areas of the pitch. But the acquisitions of Blind, Rojo, Herrera and Shaw mean that we’ve got more quality and depth in defence and midfield and there are strong indications that the club will strengthen again in the January window, particularly if Strootman recovers well from his knee injury.
“United’s identity is broken”
This rather odd statement from Mike Phelan about Welbeck’s transfer to Arsenal made me smile, to be honest. The argument is that, in ditching Welbeck and embracing Falcao, United are somehow betraying a core value of the club and are dispensing with a commitment to youth which distinguishes United from other, more mercenary, clubs. To which I have only two words to say, really: Garry. Birtles.
Oh, alright, then. Here’s a more considered response…
United have never been averse to splashing considerable amounts of cash around (sometimes to dramatic and at other times to comedic effect) and it’s stupid to pretend otherwise. The notion that United have this unending conveyor belt of talent is one of those nice myths United fans used to tell themselves in the 90s when the class of ’92 was strutting its stuff on football pitches up and down the country. But, even then, United were spending – £6 million plus Keith Gillespie for Andy Cole, £12.6 million for Dwight Yorke, £3.5 million for (gulp!) Karel Poborsky to name just three. Yes, Welbeck is a Mancunian and a United fan, but the club doesn’t owe him anything and his departure to Arsenal is no more than business as usual for a club who offloads its academy graduates far more regularly than it keeps them. (Two of them were playing for Burnley on Saturday afternoon.) Some net reports speculate that Welbeck had been told that, with the addition of Falcao, he would effectively be United’s fifth choice striker behind RVP, Rooney, Falcao and promising youngster James Wilson. If that’s true, Phelan moaning that 23 year old Welbeck being replaced by 19 year old Wilson becomes, well, just a bit ironic, really.
“Where does Falcao fit?”
There’s no getting away from the fact that LVG has just bought (sorry, ‘loaned’) himself a selection headache. Rooney being captain complicates things a little. He could drop into midfield but his less than wonderful passing suggests that wouldn’t help the team, particularly when Herrera, Blind and possibly Di Maria are better options. More likely he’ll either stay up front with the new boy (and RVP will end up on the bench) or he’ll play behind the front two and Mata will make way for him. Whatever happens, there’ll be some expensive talent left simmering on the bench. (I’m assuming here that LVG will stick with his 5-3-2 formation.) That said, there are a handful of managers in the world who are quite prepared to drop a star player for the good of the team and I’d imagine LVG is one of them. Whatever happens, this season is going to be very interesting. (Chelsea, though, will still win the title.)
As I write, Argentina has just beaten world champions Germany 4-2 on their home soil. Angel Di Maria took a hand in creating three of the goals and scored the fourth. Lovely. 🙂 (Oh, and Rooney scored a penalty for England against Norway. It was a very nice penalty, too. Apparently.)