Don’t waste time, Moyes: Sign Thiago as midfielder now!
It is July and David Moyes is now officially Manchester United’s new manager. The new era has begun. After going on a much-needed summer break ahead of a difficult job, Moyes is back and acquainted with his new players for the first time. Having started work at his new club, the 50-year-old must get into the nitty-gritty of the transfer business before the Premier League season starts next month.
The only transfer made so far under the new boss has been Uruguayan right-back Guillermo Varela. The Scottish manager has made an attempt to raid his former club Everton but a £12m bid was rejected for left-back Leighton Baines.
Full-backs, however, are not the priority at the moment. United’s midfield has been crying out for reinforcements with few signings in this department over the last few years. The acquisition of Shinji Kagawa last season added a new dimension to the centre of the pitch.
Nevertheless, the need for an anchorman is required. The days of the box-to-box midfielders like Bryan Robson and Roy Keane are over. The closest equivalent to that type in the modern era is Yaya Toure of Manchester City. The fact that Manchester United won the Premier League last season despite a weak midfield is attributed to two factors: the genius of Sir Alex Ferguson and an injury-free season for Michael Carrick. While Carrick is the successor to Roy Keane with regards to the number 16 shirt the latter wore in his United days, the two are as contrasting as it gets. While Keane was aggressive and all-action, Carrick is calm and unassuming with remarkable composure on the ball.
The former West Ham player mirrors the status of the current United midfield; a midfield that can paper over the cracks with sensible play, composure and a bit of creativity but, like Carrick, can be outclassed by a superior opposition midfield on any given day such as when facing Manchester City. Kagawa got better in the latter part of the last campaign and is likely to settle better into the English game in his second season but the lack of depth apart from the two mentioned players is alarming.
Anderson’s career with the club is all but over after half a dozen years of injuries and average form. Tom Cleverley is almost 24 but remains a work-in-progress that can play the ball around neatly without influencing a game. Ryan Giggs will be four decades old this year and has already started focusing on a future career in coaching after being given a new role of player-coach. Darren Fletcher’s future remains unclear after recurrent health problems, while the retirement of Paul Scholes means that the English champions will have to replace a real gem in the middle of the park.
Thiago Alcantara of Barcelona is rumoured to be close to signing for United. If the deal is completed, it will be a major coup for Moyes. Thiago is in the mould of his senior teammates Xavi and Iniesta at the Nou Camp with the ability to pull the strings in midfield with clever and patient passing through balls along with linking up with the forwards.
If Moyes is able to add Thiago to the midfield before August, his new team will be in much better shape to defend their Premier League title. The 22-year-old can be the ideal replacement for Scholes and a Thiago-Carrick partnership in central midfield can perhaps equal or even better the Scholes-Keane pairing of the past.
Ideally, Moyes would have wanted a major new signing like Thiago to be wrapped up quickly but he and his players have departed for United’s pre-season tour this week with almost all of the same faces that bid an emotional goodbye to Ferguson in May.
However, coming to a new country with a different pace of football and without a winter break, Thiago will need time to adjust. Moyes must snap up the talented midfielder by the end of this month so that he has an ample amount of time to bond with his new teammates. The Italian-born player’s release clause will go up from €18m to €90m by the start of the next month and Moyes will be wise to complete the deal before that.
For the last five years or so signing midfielders had not been a priority at Old Trafford and it was because of Sir Alex Ferguson’s ability to get the best out of his players that the team managed to continue winning trophies. With the Glaswegian having finally retired, United cannot afford to let their midfield remain depleted. A significant purchase in this area will ease some nerves about the smoothness of the transition to a new manager.
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