Rumour has it that Manchester United are currently eyeing deals for a number of players at the minute, with Ezequiel Garay (from Benfica, according to The Metro), Kevin Strootman (from PSV according to The Mirror) and Thiago Alcantara (from Barcelona, according to The Mail Online) among them. Most fans should be enjoying the thought of signing these players since they are young, experienced and their potential is through the roof.
But, what would these players bring if they do indeed sign? Would their arrival require a change in United’s style? Or does their arrival simply imply adaptation of a similar system with new personnel? In this article we will assess their possible impact on United.
One of the most talked about transfer rumours at the moment is that of Thiago Alcantara, referred to as Thiago, the highly-rated creative playmaking midfielder who currently still plays his football with Barcelona. The son of World Cup winner and the product of the Barcelona academy, Thiago already has an impressive CV, and his performances, especially by scoring a hattrick in the final of the U21 European Championship final, have served only to increase his reputation. He is very much one to watch.
Meanwhile Kevin Strootman, is an established international for Holland even though this summer he captained their U21 side in the European Championships. He can be described as a box-to-box ball-winning midfielder, a physical presence in the centre of the park.
The purchase of midfielders is understandable considering the seemingly continuous clamour by supporters hoping for the signature of new midfield players in each transfer window.
Conversely, a move for a central defender isn’t really as necessary, though there is an argument that buying now would solve some future problems.
Ezequiel Garay is a modern, ball-playing, South American Central Back who during the past season formed a reputable defensive pairing with Benfica’s captain Luisao in a side which edged close to a historic trophy laden season before a catastrophic end. Despite having five Centre Backs at the club, only Rio Ferdinand can be considered a ball-playing defender and it is wholly possible that the club are seeking a direct replacement for him with an eye on his retirement in the next few years.
If the rumours are to be believed, these three potential signings suggest that United will bring in new tactical and formation strategies when next season kicks off. I am inclined to believe that United will more likely deploy a diamond formation next year or otherwise a 4-2-3-1 and thus moving away from the winger-based 4-4-2 system. Thus adopting an approach, which can be considered more continental than the latter mentioned system.
With a World Cup due next summer, the potential new signings would no doubt want to ensure ample playing time in order to ensure that they are on the plane to Brazil with their respective national team next summer. The diamond and 4-2-3-1 are system could easily accommodate all three whilst also making the best use of current players.
A diamond system could potentially see Shinji Kagawa being deployed at the point of the diamond as the Advanced Midfielder, thus playing him in his most effective position. In the centre of the park, Moyes could deploy Thiago and Strootman, the former offering creativity and wizardry and the latter offering physicality and presence. Carrick would play at the base of the diamond offering the balance and safety United fans will have become accustomed to throughout last season.
Of course, there would need to be a Plan B as well, and Moyes would do well to consider the 4-2-3-1 system. In that system, Strootman could be paired with Carrick in the central midfield behind a front trio composed of Thiago, Kagawa and Rooney supplying Robin van Persie.
Both formations would require the fullbacks to offer the width required, and whilst this might alarm some as they fear or back four being easily exposed the added presence in midfield should offer the required cover. As an added advantage, both formations encourage a passing game rather than wing play, and all three of the linked players would all fit in well within a passing game.
Right now, this is all based on rumours, but even if these transfers do not materialise, I can see United moving away from the 4-4-2 we are accustomed to, especially as their new manager attempts to stamp some identity on the team.
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