With the BBC reporting that Pedro is heading for Chelsea, many commentators are suggesting that Manchester United are in desperate need of at least two more signings, but are they?
For the past few weeks, Pedro’s arrival at Old Trafford had seemed like a foregone conclusion. Today however, news broke that the World Cup winner is on his way to Chelsea. For many, the belief is now that Old Trafford officials are at panic stations trying to figure out a plan B… They shouldn’t be.
The general opinion regurgitated with almost mind numbing frequency is that United need a new centre forward and a ‘world class’ centre back. The Red Devils are for all and sundry, the unfinished article. The only problem is that in the footballing world, no team ever is.
In January of last year, many were suggesting that Luis Enrique was on his way out at Barcelona, that the squad wasn’t behind him and that their defence just wasn’t up to scratch. Less than five months later, they had won the treble.
For United, the arguments suggesting that they need strengthening in the areas already mentioned are easily dismantled.
In defence, many continue to scoff at Louis Van Gaal’s options and throw their eyes up at the recent deployment of Daley Blind as a centre half. These dismissals are founded on ill-conceived presumptions. Daley Blind has been exceptional in the opening two games of the season and his partner Chris Smalling even more so.
For the record, Blind won the man of the match award against Aston Villa at the weekend while his English partner received the same accolade in the opening game of the season against Swansea. Hardly the gongs of a troubled duo.
In Matteo Darmian, United seem to have finally acquired a right back in the ilk of club legend Gary Neville. Composed on the ball, flawless in his positional awareness and precise in the tackle, Darmian looks set to marshal the right flank for many years to come at Old Trafford.
And then there’s Luke Shaw. Signed for a ludicrously high sum as an 18 year old, the left back had a troubled opening season at United. Frequently injured and rarely picked when fit, it was hard to really understand what exactly United had paid for.
However, as the season drew to a close, the young Southampton arrival became increasingly involved and, after an awesome display in United’s 1-0 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, United fans began to understand why such an astronomical sum had been splurged on the youngster.
In the opening two fixtures, Shaw has continued to impress and his manager has already stated that he feels this will be his year at Old Trafford.
Yesterday, an image began to circulate on social media highlighting the best defences in the league as of last November. Manchester United were top of the pile.
Bearing in mind the fact that the above was achieved with Antonio Valencia at right back and Luke Shaw rarely involved, why exactly do so many think that Manchester United are in desperate need of a new centre back?
At the moment, United have Marcus Rojo, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, Paddy McNair and Daley Blind as potential options at centre back. With the best defensive stats in the league behind those very names, I find it hard to see how any argument can be made that The Red Devils need reinforcement at the back.
Then there’s the striker conundrum. Wayne Rooney has been sluggish in United’s opening fixtures and against Aston Villa he was borderline dreadful. However, can anyone name a single season where Rooney hasn’t gone through at least one spell like this?
Rooney has always been the type of striker that operates in bursts and that feeds on confidence. How many times have we seen Rooney go three or four games without scoring only to then score eight in eight?
Last season, Louis Van Gaal was ridiculed for not regularly deploying Rooney as United’s striker. Two games in, and the Iron Tulip has quite correctly pointed out the schizophrenic nature of the media. After two poor performances, he’s not good enough. His legs are gone. Bench him and sign… whoever.
Rooney has indeed been poor over the past two weeks but to dismiss him and demand United sign a replacement is so far beyond knee jerk that it is simply laughable.
Looking at United’s squad as a whole, it is fair to say that they now have more than adequate cover across the park. See two selections below:
The above 11’s are overly simplified in that many of the players listed are capable of playing in a variety of positions. Valencia, for example, is now the second choice at right back rather than on the wing and in Van Gaal’s system, Fellaini is as likely to be deployed as a number 10 as he is a holding midfielder. However, what the above does clearly illustrate is that Manchester United now have more than two players for each position.
The Red Devils have the best performing defence in the league. They don’t need a new centre back.
They have one of the most consistently performing strikers in world football with a back up striker that was adequate for Real Madrid last season. They don’t need a new centre forward.
Manchester United’s Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward is currently getting slated on social media for apparently allowing the Pedro deal to fall apart. It is more than likely that Woodward is indeed responsible, but is it entirely inconceivable that Louis Van Gaal simply decided he didn’t need Pedro after that Depay performance last night?
Would a new signing harm Manchester United? Of course not. Do they really need one? Not at all. Once the mentality is right, once Van Gaal has got the players already at his disposal to click, there’s no reason that this Manchester United squad should not be competing for the league right into May.
John Murphy, Pundit Arena