Bought as a replacement for the out-bound world player of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gabriel Obertan never had it easy when he joined Manchester United. Hit with a string of injuries and being burdened with the task of replacing Ronaldo, the pressure seemed too much for the young Frenchman.
But after what looks like a summer in the gym and some regular football this season, the 21 year could yet prove to be another Ferguson master-stroke.
It’s almost been a coming of age for Obertan. At a time when United really needed their youngsters to prove themselves at the top level, the likes of Chris Smalling, Hernandez and Obertan himself have all shown that they are more than capable.
Dismissed as a spent force without Ronaldo and an in-form Wayne Rooney, United have gone about their business quietly, recruiting and coaching these young players in the hope they will turn into the next best thing. Obertan falls into that category and his progression has been an impressive rise from an unknown quantity to a first team regular.
Now comes the real test for the winger. Antonio Valencia is out for months and Nani’s groin injury could sideline him for a few weeks at least. The United manager seems to favour Obertan as a second striker, working off Berbatov, but his pace and ability to beat players could prove vital for Ferguson’s team at a time where his squad is stretched to breaking point.
The Frenchman can now use this opportunity to push himself further up the ranks at United. Primarily used as a fringe player, a run in the first team looks likely given the current injury list.
You would hardly call him a last resort, either. An impressive second half display against Wolves in the Carling Cup was rewarded with a start in the Champions League game at Bursaspor. During both games, glimpses of what Alex Ferguson must see in training everyday were beginning to show and his goal was taken with real assurance.
In the aftermath of ‘Rooney-gate,’ many may have been surprised to hear Ferguson declare United unwilling to do any sort of business in the January transfer market. Although, this was not so much of a shock when you consider the unwavering trust he has in his younger players and also in his own judgement.
How often have we heard the Scot say that Manchester United is about developing talent and turning players into the best in the world? He will argue the club is going through another transition period, with a crop of players who are on the verge of creating history.
If this is the case, Obertan could be leading the charge of yet another trophy-winning Manchester United side. He may not be a multi-million pound buy or a world icon, but in Ferguson’s eyes, he is the answer to the void left by Mr. Ronaldo. Surely he won’t win anything with kids again, will he?