Manchester United against Liverpool at Anfield; the highlight of many a United fan’s season, especially last term, when two victories home and away gave smug fans from Salford to South Korea the opportunity to remind dejected Liverpool fans of the 23 year epoch since their last title triumph.
Yesterday, travelling United fans reminded their opponents of that same fact at the end of the final whistle; but the chant was about as loud as the embarrassingly mute home support at The Emirates. A bitter, defiant attempt to mask the obvious deficiencies in United’s frankly weak midfield. This is the final day of the transfer window and the time is now for David Moyes to land reinforcements to ensure United can maintain their hegemony at home, whilst also mounting an assault in The Champions League. On yesterday’s performance, two things are abundantly clear:
1. Ashley Young has been an £18m flop who is no longer capable of pretending to be a United calibre player.
2. Another toothless Tom Cleverly display demonstrates that he is not the next Paul Scholes; he's not even the next Paul Calf...
Ashley Young has had two seasons to settle at United and grow into the dangerously effective and consistent winger that some thought he would be; after an awful 2012-13 season, where he failed to score and provided a meagre 3 assists, it’s time to move him on. Aspirational sides such as West Brom and Swansea, who are both looking to cement their status in the top half, would be the type of clubs who may take a punt on him. Though if anyone offered around £10m and I was David Moyes, I’d be willing to take a hit on what is, essentially, a transfer failure. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’ll happen this transfer window, but unless there’s a remarkable upsurge in his form, Young should be moved on at the first available opportunity.
But who to replace him?
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Angel Di Maria, unwanted and very much available after Gareth Bale’s record-breaking arrival at Real Madrid, would seem an excellent solution. In fact, I’m surprised that Manchester United aren’t rivalling Arsenal’s interest for the rat-faced Argentine, who has been a consistent performer for Madrid ever since his transfer in 2010, providing 17 assists last season. Despite Moyes (apparently) agreeing a £25m deal for his former player Marouane Fellaini, I would argue that a double swoop for Di Maria and his illustrious German teammate Mesut Ozil would be a much better bet. Ozil, who is being increasingly edged out of the Bernabeu, has the guile and vision that both Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverly have thus far failed to offer. A combined bid of £60m, perhaps even £65m, would test the resolve of Madrid president Florentino Perez as he seeks to balance the books after another summer of astronomical spending. Furthermore, it would strike an immense psychological blow to Arsene Wenger as he looks to secure an identical deal for both players. And plunging Arsenal's lack of transfer activity into further turmoil would certainly provide United fans with a much needed shot in the arm after yesterday’s decidedly crap performance.
Like Ashley Young, another United player who has been regularly criticised is Nani; the mercurial Portuguese has the ability to score a 30 yard scorcher one week and appear like he’s sleepwalking for 90 minutes the next. Although many fans see him as surplus to requirements (perhaps in hindsight the £24m offered by Zenit St. Petersburg a year ago seems splendid business), I would argue the case for keeping him at Old Trafford. Although the sight of a Nani backflip after a wonder-goal sends shivers down my spine, this is not a nostalgic choice; with a new manager in charge, the winger deserves a chance to demonstrate that he can play at a high level over the course of an entire season, like in 2010-11.
However, if United are unable to secure the services of Ozil, Di Maria, or even Fellaini, fans shouldn’t despair. Be disappointed, yes, but we have two young players who excelled on our preseason tour that should be given a chance to shine if the established midfield continues to struggle. Wilfried Zaha has the pace and technical ability to breakthrough in the Premier League; like Ryan Giggs and David Beckham before him, this could be the year for the young Englishman to establish himself in a wide midfield role, especially considering the ineffectiveness of Ashley Young and inconsistency of Nani. Likewise for the gifted Belgian teenager Adnan Januzaj, who at 18 is two years younger than Zaha, but arguably even more illustrious. Capable of playing on the wing and as a playmaker, Moyes, if he’s unable to secure any deadline day transfers, should take a leaf out of his predecessor’s book and promote youth to the fore, such as when Fergie persisted with Scholes, Butt, Giggs, Beckham, Neville et al despite a shaky start to the 1995-96 season. Zaha and Januzaj have the ability to break through now. Alan Hansen once infamously said ‘you don’t win anything with kids’; but he was proven wrong once and, if United don’t bring in anyone today, David Moyes may have no other choice but to take a chance and try and do it again.
Manchester United Transfers
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