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Bayern’s capture of Götze not only signaled to the rest of the Bundesliga the champions-elect intention of retaining the title for seasons to come but simultaneously weakened Bayern Munich’s closest rival Dortmund.
Short of Manchester United activating the exit clauses of Chelsea playmakers Juan Mata or Eden Hazard or relentlessly pursuing David Silva or Yaya Toure both of Manchester City to pull a ‘Bayern’ on their closest title rivals, Manchester United next best alternative is to buy these hidden gems of the English Premier League [EPL]. These are players that will not only cost significantly less than the superstars United have already been linked to before the summer transfer window opens but are EPL tested. This is to say that unlike the foreign players linked to United; these players have already adjusted to the physical nature of the EPL.
In this article, I identify EPL players that will at the very least, strengthen the current United Squad. These players also have the potential to make United a force to be reckoned with in Europe. By general consensus, most Manchester United fans have identified the midfield as the team’s most vulnerable position and are hoping for a player that fits the ‘midfield general/midfield destroyer’ mold. However, with United’s capture of RVP and most recently Zaha, Fergie has shown that he is unafraid to seize an opportunity should a player become available and build towards the future respectively and these are traits the new manager, David Moyes will have to replicate in order to succeed.
The next slides feature players that possess the quality to seamlessly slot into the current squad and have a direct impact on the 2013/2014 campaign or have the potential to immediately to be a squad player and a long-term investment as a future starter. Moyes’ first task as the manager is to strengthen the squad and these players fit the bill.
For the princely sum of €42million, the 23yr old Welsh winger is United’s next best option to re-signing Ronaldo. The newly crowned PFA Player of the Year and the Young Player of the Year is fast, very fast and has left many a premier league defender in his wake as he strikes in a shot on goal. If his pace and knack of scoring goals is not a convincing enough reason, Bale is versatile and can play any position up front. Andres Villa Boas has utilized this quality of Bale to devastating effect with opposing managers unsure of how to defend against him as he changes his position on the field during a game. Similar to Ronaldo, Bale revels in a free-roaming position and excels in finding pockets of spaces in the opposition’s defense to score goals which put his side ahead.
Bale’s capture will inadvertently mean Rooney’s transformation as an attacking midfielder will be complete should he stay at the club. A quartet of Bale, RVP, Rooney and Kagawa will surely plunder an obscene amount of goals. With 19 goals in 29 EPL appearances, Bale has given RVP and Suarez a run for their money in the race for the Golden boot award. Not only has Bale improved his finishing but the accusations he used to face of being a diver are no longer true. The 2012/2013 Bale dribbles past his man with consummate ease and when he does get brought down, he is more than capable of converting the resultant free-kick.
RVP and Rooney [if he stays] will benefit from his pinpoint crosses as well. United’s wingers have been largely disappointing this season and with Bale in the squad, that should no longer be a problem that costs the team a place in the FA Cup and Champions League. Bale maybe young but is showing a hunger for success. At United, he has the opportunity to not only work towards the accomplishment of the league’s greatest winger, C.Ronaldo but at United, he will be joining the EPLs greatest team and will have the opportunity to carve out a legacy that could rival Ronaldo’s.
The shaggy-haired Belgian is an answer to United’s fans request for a midfield destroyer. His former [and potential future] manager, David Moyes’ inspiration move to play him further up field as an attacking midfielder paid huge dividends and offers a glimpse as to how he can best be utilized in the United squad. With Carrick now settled in his quarterback-esque role for United, Fellaini will be the most advanced midfielder and will most likely operate very much like Yaya Toure does for cross town rivals Manchester City, carrying the ball from the middle and moving it forward. Fellaini however, possesses an arsenal that Yaya Toure lacks, his heading ability will be vital to United as the team will now poses an additional target in set-piece situations that is quite effective and deadly. He is single-handedly responsible for most of the aerial duels Everton wins and all this for €28million. The sale of Anderson, Lindegaard and Nani should cover that expenditure.
At 25years of age, he is almost approaching his prime as a footballer and his acquisition will provide United with some steel to protect the soft underbelly which is its current midfield. Victor Wanyama of Celtics and Kevin Strootman of PSV have been identified by fans the solutions to United’s midfield problem. In Fellaini, United have a tried and tested EPL player whose immediate impact will definitely help secure the title for next season and progress past the knock out stages of the Champions league. Imagine for a moment how effective Carrick will be launching United’s attacks from the back as the deep-lying midfielder knowing he has cover from his partner. Fellaini’s capture would also give Manchester United forwards more freedom to storm forward. Counter-attack is a part of the United’s way and with Fellaini brought in to plug the gaping hole that is the Manchester United midfield, the champions elect will return to the devastating fluid counter-attack days of the Tevez-Rooney-Ronaldo era.
To the casual football fan, this 22year old Belgian is a poor man’s alternative to Robert Lewandoski or Radamel Falcao. But for just €12million, this forward possesses potential in spades as demonstrated by his efforts at Aston Villa. His capture by United will be similar to when they plucked Carlos Tevez away from relegation threatened West Ham at the end of the 2005/2006 season. Similar to Tevez, Benteke’s overall contribution (so far it has been 19 goals in 32 appearances for Aston Villa) will significantly increase when surrounded by quality players such as Zaha, Kagawa, Rooney and RVP feeding him passes. His frame is deceptive as his strength on the ball is quite a sight to behold. He is comfortable holding on to the ball and playing the role of the lone target man upfront and one can imagine his hold-up play will be best utilized by Kagawa running through the channels in the middle for a shot on goal or Hernandez as he latches on a layoff pass by Benteke in the 6yard box and picks a spot in the opposition goal.
With the capture of Benteke, United will have him in addition to Welbeck and Hernandez to use as cover for RVP and Rooney. An attacking quintet that complement each other and also provided cover in terms of injury will certainly bolster United’s quest from title number 21 and European dominance. Ferguson is known for prioritizing defense in his teams. Even Ronaldo tracked back from time to time to help Evra cover his zone. In Benteke, Moyes will have a forward more than capable of defending from the front.
This is an increasingly popular strategy in Europe with Mario Mandzukic of Bayern producing a master class performance during Bayern’s home win against Juventus. Pressing as a strategy is becoming important in controlling games against elite teams such as Barcelona, PSG and Juventus as it forces them into making mistakes which the opposing team can quickly capitalize on. Given Manchester United’s panache for counter-attack, introducing a pressing strategy with a forward capable of defending will certainly make United’s counter-attacks more devastating for opposition teams.
This young Belgian could easily rival RVP and Rooney when it comes to shot accuracy from long distances and with his potential, he will surely have goals that will go on to be forever remembered in United’s folklore.
I will address the most obvious question first, why should united focus on buying a left-back? Luke Shaw has been a revelation for Southampton this season. With young center-backs such as Raphaël Varane of Real Madrid and Matija Nastasic of league rivals Manchester City earning plaudits from the media and football pundits for impressive performances that belies their age [and rightfully so!],I strongly believe 17year old Luke Shaw should not be excluded from this list. Shaw is quite the accomplished ball winner and his positional sense is eerily similar to Rio Ferdinand.
Want further proof of his talent? As of April 27th, Shaw recorded 2.1 interceptions per game; 2.1 tackles per game; 3.9 clearances per game and 0.2 blocked shots per game. Compare this to the league’s best left back, Leighton Baines who has recorded 1.4 interceptions per game; 2.3 tackles per game; 2 clearances per game and 0.2 block shot per game. Factor in the fact that Shaw is 11years Baines’ junior and you have an idea of the potential Shaw possess.
With this proposed move, United guarantees that its left-back position is covered for the next decade. Not only will Shaw provide cover for Evra but his low market evaluation of €4.5million ensures the league champions have an EPL ready left-back to provide competition for Fabio (who returns from loan at QPR next season) and the electric Büttner. Shaw is definitely a transfer with eyes very much on the future but his presence on the team will at the very least accelerate Fabio and Büttner’s development. United have been lucky that Evra has hardly faced prolonged spell on the sidelines for injuries but as the opening games of this current season showed, injuries to several defenders can nearly derail a campaign. The capture of Shaw also leaves Smalling and Jones free to continue their development as center-backs along with Evans as Shaw can also be utilized as cover for Rafael in cup competitions and in Premier league games.
Notable names not included in this list include midfielders Sandro and Dembélé both of Tottenham Hotspur, Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle and Lucas Leiva of Liverpool and Leighton Baines of Everton. Whiles these players will be quality additions to the Red Devil’s squad, their respective teams have shown no indication of wanting to part way with them. Additionally, Baines and Cabaye are much older than Manchester United’s traditional summer acquisitions.
The players discussed here represent the best value for money in the EPL that are available to United and fits the squad’s current needs. Should Moyes’ sign any of these four EPL gems this summer, remember where you read it first.
All player statistics used for this article was gotten from Whoscored.com and valid as of May 23rd, 2013.
All player transfer values were gotten from transfermarkt.com and are valid as of May 23rd, 2013.