Sir Alex Ferguson is no stranger to pulling the odd surprise from up his sleeve when it comes to signing strikers. Not even the bookies have seen the United’s managers shock signings coming over the past twenty years. Eric Cantona, Andy, sorry Andrew, Cole, Henirk Larrsson and Michael Owen have left both United’s opponents and even fans dumfounded as nearly everyone was oblivious to their prospective arrival.
The United manager’s latest acquisition has left everyone reaching for the nearest search engine to find out just who on earth Tiago Manuel Dias Correia.
While I won’t waste anyone’s time regurgitating the biography I’m sure anyone who’s remotely interested in Bebe has already read, I will simply state that this signing while not likely to be the final piece of the jigsaw for European domination does raise a few questions that have yet to be addressed.
For starters are United really skint? According to reports, Bebe cost around 7.4 million quid, now while that is hardly in the stratosphere and less than what Stoke City have just forked out for Kenwyn Jones, it’s still a fairly large amount of money. It’s not loads but it ain’t peanuts. If United are penniless then spending over £7 million on a player who’ll be lucky if he makes the bench for the Carling Cup this season is foolish to say the least. Say what you may about Sir Alex, as many often do, but foolish is not something you’d associate with him – unlike angry or moody. Both David Gill and Fergie himself have claimed that despite the protests of many and the debt the club are in, there is still money available for transfers. While most people have been sceptical of this to say the least, I’ve often though there may be some truth to it, simply because if there wasn’t I can’t imagine Fergie lying on behalf of the Glazers. Yes they pay his wages but that doesn’t mean he has to be their puppet- unlike Gill who I trust slightly less- and if he were to state there is no money, could they sack him? No one is bigger than the club but Fergie is pretty much untouchable, if the Glazers think they’ve got problems with the green and gold campaign getting rid of the manager would start a Mancunian Armageddon.
Secondly if money is not the Mesut Ozil issue then what is? The young playmaker has been the most spoke about German since the Queen got married to that Greek fella. It seems there isn’t a club in world football that hasn’t been linked with the scary eye-browed one of late. Money has been mentioned as an obstacle to him joining the ranks at Old Trafford however with the asking price thought to have been anything from £13 to £20 million, if United can afford over £7 mill for a sixth choice striker, then surely they club could have spent a few more on one of the brightest young stars in the game. The reason for Ozil not signing- unless he does as part of a conspiracy to leave me with egg on my face – must be either a choice by the player himself or Fergie. Whether Ozil has let the powers that be know he has no intention of playing for United is unknown but also highly unlikely as no formal bid has been made. The likelihood is that Fergie has decided not to pursue him, the question is why? Well if it’s not money that leaves for me two likely reasons- faith in the current squad including Darron Gibson and Tom Cleverly or an unwillingness to remove a potential squad member at Ozil’s expense.
With Premier League clubs having to submit a 25-man squad to the FA by the end of August, and with only players under 21 years old being exempt, every squad place is precious. If United’s squad consisted of- VDS, Kuszczak, Neville, Brown, O’Shea, Vidic, Rio, Evra, Evans, Scholes, Park, Giggs Carrick Obertan ,De Laet , Fletcher, Gibson, Nani, Anderson, Valencia, Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez and Owen then that would leave one space. Owen Hargreaves is –yet again- currently recovering with no real return date- yet again- in sight. If Fergie did buy Ozil then the door would surely be shut on Hargreaves making the squad. Although it still seems unlikely the Canadian-born England midfielder will make the squad at least he does have a slight chance. Hargreaves has retained his squad number the question is will we be seeing at Old Trafford again anytime soon.
Another question is should Fergie trust the judgement of Carlos Queiroz? The former United number two has been instrumental in convincing Fergie to buy a player yet to play a competitive match in the Portuguese top flight. Normally such a gamble would never have been entertained, after all even Chris Smalling had played several Premier League games before United signed him .Yet the word ‘untested’ would be something of a compliment to Bebe who has only played 26 games in the Portuguese third –tier. I’m not about to get on the lad’s case before he’s even kicked a ball in a United shirt and he may well be the real deal, it just seems a little strange, with all the striking options at Old Trafford- including five under the age of 25, Fergie saw fit to add another. Quieroz may have overseen one of United’s most successful periods but his judgement has been called into question on occasion and I just hope Fergie’s faith isn’t misplaced.
The final question I’ve been left to ponder is whether we’re seeing a drastic shift in United transfer policy? The signing of Chris Smalling after only a handful of games for Fulham last season was a surprise to many United fans as it’s not something that happens very often at Old Trafford. Most players that arrive via a transfer are usually already established, it is very rare for a relative unknown to be bought- or at least it was. While United have bought young players in the past, Da Silva twins for example, it now seems to becoming a little bit more commonplace and the prices the club are willing to spend on somewhat unproven players is increasing. Admittedly in the case of Hernandez, sorry I mean Chicharito, it was a move that already looks like paying off, but with an outlay of over £24 million for three players who are- or at least were- fairly unproven, is this a drastic change in transfer policy for United? Spending large amounts on unknown players has never been the norm at Old Trafford but with clubs like Real Madrid, Chelsea not to mention some ‘noisy neighbours’ able to outbid United, the club may feel the way forward is to take a bit of a gamble on promising stars. Fergie has lamented the over-inflated prices of the transfer market and he may feel this is the only way around it.
Read more of Justin Mottershead’s work on his blog ‘Name On The Trophy’