Frozen out at Chelsea, Frank Lampard in a Manchester United shirt is a feasible prospect, but how suitable is he for the Red Devils?
Can you envisage Frank Lampard in a Manchester United shirt? It’s difficult, isn’t it? A true blue from his badge-kissing allegiances at Chelsea to his support of the Tories (as well as his public school education), he’s not the ideal acquisition for socialists on the Stretford End to idolise.
Irrespective of his off-field image, as a footballer he is past his peak. An excellent and ever-present player for Chelsea – especially under José Mourinho – he is now 33 and his effectiveness has dwindled since another goalless World Cup in South Africa.
Even when regarded as one of European football’s most potent attacking midfielders, his limitations were patent. A pot-shot player who has an extraordinary knack for scoring, he nevertheless doesn’t possess the vision that Paul Scholes did or the dynamism of Steven Gerrard, his English midfield peers.
And finally at international level, an England coach has had the gall to drop him. Belated it was of Fabio Capello to demote Lampard, it was also warranted considering how he has struggled to replicate his club form for the Three Lions since as far back as the 2006 World Cup.
Many dislike Lampard for a variety of reasons. Be it his weight, articulacy, devotion to the Blues, international form or his aversion to criticism, he irks supporters without being a loathsome footballer.
Firmly in the admirers camp though is Sir Alex Ferguson. In an interview with The Sunday Times’ Hugh McIlvanney nearly three years ago at the end of the 2008/09 season, he extolled Lampard to an unparalleled degree. Championing an ‘exceptional player’, he had the following to say.
‘He is a huge asset to his team. Every time he plays he goes from box to box and he hardly misses a game. You pay attention to players who can get goals from midfield and he’s been averaging 20 a season. You don’t see him getting into stupid tackles or making a habit of becoming involved in silly rows. As I say, Frank Lampard is exceptional.’
What bromance, despite the political allegiances. Ferguson considered signing Lampard over ten years ago when West Ham United made him available for transfer but United instead signed Juan Sebastian Verón – the superior footballer if perhaps the wrong choice in retrospect.
A short-term fix with a short expiry date, Lampard is not the cure to the Old Trafford club’s midfield ills.
The Scot’s assertion at his press conference on Friday, that ‘there's no foundation in that (rumours linking Lampard)’, is of course, a lie. Usually when Ferguson denies something, it is true, but he has (legally) sought confirmation that a move north would interest Lampard, who’s disenchanted by André Villas-Boas’s dropping him.
Lampard’s brittle ego has taken a battering at the hands of his Portuguese coach, and thus it is logical that playing under a manager who is a pubic admirer appeals to his pampered nature. He would be an automatic starter at United, would alleviate the burden on the whinging Wayne Rooney and is actually a midfielder.
Yet it advertises how far the Reds have fallen. Poaching this rival’s player is not a coup, and it advertises the club’s inability to attract and/or afford a marquee signing(s). Some Chelsea supporters suggested that Lampard should trek to football’s retirement home, the MLS, after his disastrous role in Aston Villa’s clincher last week. But why head across the Atlantic when there’s one in Manchester?
Already reliant on a 38-year-old converted playmaker, Ferguson also welcomed another over-the-hill international two-and-a-half-years ago in Michael Owen. Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar retired during or after last season at a combined age of 111, in what many viewed as the manager initiating the phasing out of the old guard. But then Owen was inexplicably offered an extension and Ferguson is now courting a midfielder who will be 34 in June, whilst Giggs also looks likely to stay on another year.
No wonder Lampard is keen. Villas-Boas has no room for sentiment as he seeks to freshen up an ageing Chelsea squad whereas Ferguson is valuing experience, because he has no money. If United did sell Rooney, they’d probably replace him with Pippo Inzaghi.
Although the aforementioned three would be united in their eagerness to conclude a deal, many ‘if’s linger. The Glazers will naturally baulk at the £100,000-a-week plus wages Lampard commands while Roman Abramovich too would be resistant to selling one of his dressing room confidants to a Premier League competitor.
Undoubtedly a short-term fix with a short expiry date, Lampard is not the cure to the Old Trafford club’s midfield ills but would also be a surreal stimulant for a weak spine. And besides, he isn’t Michael Owen, is he? Tedious, gutless and a Scouser, he also attempted to amputate Ronny Johnsen’s leg.
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