Both Manchester United and England fans’ hearts must have sunk when they heard the news that Owen Hargreaves’ long awaited return for Manchester United had only lasted five minutes. Thankfully for Owen Hargreaves, it was only a hamstring injury, that to be totally fair could have happened to anyone on the pitch. However, how long can Manchester United hold onto the hope that Hargreaves will be the same player that won both the Premier League and Champions League in his first season at Old Trafford. When Owen Hargreaves’ contract expires he will be 30. Is it time for Manchester United to move into the transfer market and look to replace the England international.
The worry for Manchester United fans must be the interview from Sir Alex Ferguson directly after the 2-1 win against Wolves. Ferguson spoke to Manchester radio station, Key 103 and gave his thoughts on why Hargreaves broke down only five minutes into his return.
‘It is possibly because of a lack of match fitness,’ Ferguson told Manchester radio station Key103. ‘Maybe a bit of anxiety at playing his first game had a bit to do with it too.’
This is the issue that Ferguson has to contend with. Does the manager have any faith in Hargreaves’ mental state. Before his return against Sunderland last season. Ferguson again stated that it was actually Hargreaves’ own mental state that was holding him back from returning. It is very difficult to damn a player who has worked so hard to get himself into a position where he was ready to play, but if his mental state isn’t right it seems unfair on the player to keep building him up only for his confidence to be knocked every time he breaks down. Owen Hargreaves is an exceptional player, but he is no use to Manchester United on the bench. Unfortunately it is time to look at replacing the midfielder.
In January Manchester United need to enter the transfer market in search of a world class defensive midfielder, who at the same time has the passing ability and work rate of Hargreaves. United’s top target should be Lassana Diarra of Real Mardid. With Jose Mourinho purchasing Sami Khedira it seems that Diarra is not needed at the Bernabeu. Diarra is only 23 and would retain his sell on value, a factor that should interest Ferguson. Diarra has also spoken of his frustration of being on the bench at the Bernabeu and has suggested he will be looking for first team football in January.
Manchester United need a player like Diarra. A strong robust midfielder, who has grown up since his days at Arsenal and Chelsea. Diarra would offer United a greater balance to the midfield. At the moment the problems are clear. Michael Carrick can’t tackle and Darren Fletcher’s distribution is poor at times. Added to this the fact that Paul Scholes can’t play every week, United have midfield issues. Diarra would without doubt give greater stability and freedom to Manchester United’s midfield.
Manchester United have waited too long for Owen Hargreaves to return – and to return the player he once was. The fear must be that Manchester United could wait even longer, to find out that Hargreaves will never be the player he once was. Have United waited long enough for the player to prove his fitness. The reality has to be they have, and they must look at replacing the midfielder. Without doubt, there is so much admiration and respect for Hargreaves in the way he has battled to get back to a position of recovery.
However, when the problem has moved from mental to physical, can Manchester United hold on to much hope of him returning and commanding a starting place in the team. I am not saying for one minute that Manchester United should hang Hargreaves out to dry – far from it. The facts are United need Hargreaves playing week in week out. If this is not possible, and the events of the last week suggest this, its time to look at replacing the midfielder.
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