It’s only the first game of the season, so it’s too early to judge how a season will go and to say a team is in ‘crisis’ – Manchester United aren’t but I’m sure I’ve seen the word knocked around this weekend. However, you could see a weakness or two in the United side against Everton, which makes you wonder if they strengthened efficiently.
You can’t doubt the quality they bought, Robin van Persie and Shiniji Kagawa are two great players. But, did they need them?
Kagawa, yes. They’ve lacked a creative/flair player, in my opinion. They have two players who can distribute and retain the ball well in Carrick and Cleverley, but I don’ think they’re not creative/attacking enough to be the player who acts as the play-maker creating the chances. They’re the registas, not ‘Number 10s’. Then of course, you have Paul Scholes, you can pick out the passes in the final third, but is playing more of a quarter-back role, which I agree with. He has the passing, but not the flair, in my opinion. He excels in the ‘quarter-back’ role, with 95 passes vs Everton, with a 97% completion. Then last season he had a pass accuracy of 93%.
However, they lacked the creativity from Kagawa and even in his first game, in which Everton defended extremely well, he completed 2 dribbles and created 4 chances. He definitely should be a great player at Manchester United, he’s intelligent and can pick out most passes. In the game against Everton, I liked it when he passed it back to Cleverley giving him, basically, an open goal. He didn’t have a lot of time, but unlike most players in the same situation he didn’t snatch at it and just hit it goalwards, he was composed and clever. Laying it back to Cleverley giving him a golden chance, but Everton were possessed and you could tell nothing was going to beat them.
So, Kagawa was a good, needed, buy and good value for money, but what about van Persie?
He is a quality player, no one can doubt that. His record speaks for itself. He did have injury problems at Arsenal which lead to limited time, but I don’t agree when people say it took him seven years to ‘come good’. When he first got there, he was temperamental, but after a season, you saw his class every time he played. He didn’t score as many because he said he valued a goal the same as an assist, but then he changed that mentality, which lead to all his goals. Last season he scored 30 goals and got 9 assists, a great contribution. But is he needed at Manchester United?
In my opinion, no. Berbatov is rumoured to be on the way out, but I will include him. They have four strikers, four good strikers. Rooney had good season last season with 27 goals, then you have the two younger strikers in Welbeck and Hernandez. I’m not Welbecks biggest fan, but he offered a decent return last season for Manchester United, supporting Rooney with the goals. Then, Hernandez is a great little poacher, who may not have played much last season, but still managed to get 10 goals and a chance conversion of 26%, showing his quality. Finally, Berbatov. He is often criticized for being lazy (etc.) but he does give a return, last season he scored 7 goals in 15 shots, a 47% chance conversion, the 8th best in the Premier League (though everyone above him had 2 shots or less) and he also had the best ‘Minutes per goal’ ratio in the Premier League as well, with 73 minutes between every goal.
It’s a bold statement, but I don’t think he’ll (van Persie) do great (20+ goals this year) at Manchester United, as at Arsenal he was the main-man everything was centralized around him, whereas it won’t be at Manchester United, like it wasn’t at Holland in the EUROs. I think the Arsenal style suits him more, but I’m sure I’ll be wrong!
With all that quality, could the £24M have been spent better elsewhere? I’d say yes.
They don’t have enough cover in defence, which has been exposed before and we were shown it again against Everton.
They didn’t have proper cover for right-back or centre-back, which lead to Valencia being played right-back, where he isn’t that bad, but a natural right back would be a lot better. Then, centre-back is a tough one, as on paper they have Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Smalling and Evans, however, I don’t the last two are good enough for Manchester United, Jones still has a lot to learn and Vidic and Ferdinand do tend to get their fair-share of injuries.
I don’t want to take anything away from Everton and Fellaini, because they were great. Fellaini is a menace in the air, no doubt about it. But, you have to feel, if he was up against a real centre-back and not Carrick, he might not have done as well, or caused as many problems for Manchester United.
I think, first priority should be a right-back. Rafael is the only natural right-back they have, and he’s still young and learning. He’ good, but is a bit dodgy, so wouldn’t you prefer a more experienced, solid right back? I certainly would. When you hear someone like Debuchy could be going for under £10M, an experienced international right-back, you do wonder why they’re not going in. Unless they have of course.
Then, centre-backs like Yanga-MBiwa and Diego Godin are meant to be available for under £10M as well, who would be good squad players,and the latter would offer more experience if the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand are out.
It seems stupid saying this, as Manchester United has the 2nd best defence last season, but they do seem to concede silly goals, when they don’t have real defenders to pick from, or inexperienced defenders.
What do you (especially United fans) think? Because I’d much rather have Debuchy and Yanga-MBiwa/Godin than van Persie. Goals aren’t the problem, with the attacking midfielders, plus Kagawa, and the four strikers, I don’t think goals would ever be a problem this year. Unless you come up against a side so resolute and determined as Everton. I would much rather tighten up at the back, as then there’d be lots of cover and quality for every position, leading to a better squad on the whole. So, would you prefer one quality striker or two good defenders, to improve the overall quality of the club? In this situation, would choose the latter.
I’m not writing anything off after the first game, that’d be silly, it’s something I’ve been thinking a while, but became certain on after seeing them start two midfielders in defence, despite buying another forward for £24M, even though they have 4 quality ones as well as the young Keane coming through. I don’t think they have strengthened efficiently, in answer to my question, I think they’ve bought want they want, but not what they need.
All Stats from EPL Index.