Has Sir Alex missed a trick with Senna deal?

In the summer of 2006, Man Utd manager Alex Ferguson had a bit of money to play with, Michael Carrick was his only significant outlay though after he arrived for £18.6m after a successful campaign with Spurs. Rumours were abound that Spain and Villarreal central midfielder Marcos Senna was due to arrive for roughly £3.4m, with a fee thought to have been agreed and only a medical left to pass, but for one reason or another the move collapsed. Oh how Utd could do with him now.

I don’t think the current Man Utd side needs a huge overhaul, they have strength in depth in several departments, but even the staunchest of Utd fans would admit that their central midfield department could do with a bit of tweaking.

Paul Scholes rolled back the years with a fine display capped off with a great header against bitter rivals Man City last weekend, but struggles to find the consistency from game to game these days. Michael Carrick remains a steadying influence in the middle of the park, but he can go seriously missing in the big games and when put under pressure and he’s underperformed hugely this term.

Ji Sung Park and Darren Fletcher have emerged from squad members that were routinely ridiculed, to become diamonds in the rough in recent months and are integral to Ferguson’s style of play. Darren Gibson is a pot shot specialist but lacks composure on the ball and energy off it, and perma-crocked Owen Hargreaves has been on the injury list so long at Old Trafford, that it does make you wonder if he’ll ever even play again and grace the pitch with his flowing locks and biting tackle once more.

Anderson remains a confusing figure, brilliant and full of boundless energy one game, the next game he can go missing and resemble a headless chicken, and for the £17m outlay paid to Porto, they have seen very little given back in terms of performances so far from the Brazilian.

They’re well stocked it has to be noted but it’s not the most balanced of midfields and has provided countless headaches for Ferguson over the last season and a half and countless combinations have come and gone.

Admittedly they’ve been extremely successful since 2006, winning three straight league titles and a Champions league trophy and reaching another final, and they’re even still in the mix for the title this campaign, so it’s hard to criticise too much, for their consistency has few, if any peers, in the whole of world football, but this season it’s the midfield’s lack of bite and control in games that has been the biggest cause of frustration for fans.

Midfield general Marcos Senna could have, and I emphasise this point heavily for nothing is certain in football, been the player to steady the Utd ship somewhat this term had he been signed back in 2006. The £3.4m that Utd looked to have sealed the move for looked a bargain at the time let alone now when using hindsight, and even if they paid it for his services now, even at the age of 33 years old, he couldn’t be considered a waste of money one little bit.

It’s not as if the club was short of money either, Hargreaves, Nani and Anderson all arrived in the summer following for sizeable fees, so the small price bandied about would have barely registered on many people’s radars, his influence on the pitch though almost certainly would have.

Utd fans this year have decried another campaign without the bite of Owen Hargreaves that has been sorely missing in certain matches against the bigger sides at both home and abroad. Senna could have been signed for a fifth of the price of Hargreaves the summer before, and as proved by his form in Spain to this day, he’s still more than capable at this level.

Senna remains a key component of the national team set up and although he has recently lost his place to Xabi Alonso in the starting eleven, he’s still expected to make the trip to South Africa. Strong in the tackle, positionally disciplined, sharp of mind and of passing range and a real threat with set pieces, Senna’s ability to leave an opponent in his wake would have been a nice tool in the armour to call upon throughout a league campaign.

Yet still Senna remains at Villarreal, his dream of a move to a bigger stage all but over now, but at the time the move represented a low risk and fairly priced deal, there would have been little harm in pursuing it, for Senna had already proved himself a technically accomplished and strong tackler in Villarreal’s run to the Champions league semi-finals the year before.

His contract was up in 2007 which explains the relative pittance behind the deal and with the move all but set to take place; Utd suddenly pulled the plug without explanation. It’s not like they didn’t want a player for that role either, as they signed Hargreaves the year afterwards. A player of Senna’s calibre would cost three times the fee they could have got him for nowadays and there are very few like him about in the modern game. I’m afraid this deal will have to go down as a missed opportunity for Ferguson.

Did Fergie miss a trick with Senna? Could Utd with him now? Post your thoughts below.

Written by James McManus