It only took 45 minutes of delightful football from Luka Modric at Old Trafford for the newspapers to suggest a hypothetical return of the Croatian to the Premier League. According to the reports, the midfielder would like a transfer to Manchester United, and Sir Alex Ferguson would happily make some room for the man that knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League but it begs the question; is Luka Modric what Manchester United need?
First of all, we need to stop for a second and analyse the squad needs. United have a relatively solid back-four, with two established full-backs and enough choice between experience – Vidic, Ferdinand – and youth – Evans, Jones, Smalling – at the heart of the defence.
The attacking line is the envy any other team in the world. There are not many clubs with two world-class strikers like Van Persie and Rooney, guaranteeing goals, technique and experience to face big games. Welbeck provides hard work in the battle with the opponent’s centre-back and alternatives in the playing style. And, if everything goes wrong and they have one of those days when the ball just will not get in, there is a certain Mexican guy on the bench with a relative ability to be in the right place at the right time.
If we get down to the midfield, there is not much to improve at the back and front lines. Discarding Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, for obvious reasons, when planning the future of the squad, we can say United’s wings, although improvable, provide choice with Nani, Young and Valencia. The centre midfielders mainly offer muscle and tactical sense in the shape of Carrick, Jones again or even Anderson, with the hopes put in Tom Cleverley as the man to enlighten the team in times of creative darkness.
But it is hard to give a quick, convinced and doubtless answer to the question ‘Who is Manchester United playmaker’? With Scholes in the twilight of his career and Cleverley still developing, Luka Modric could be the answer to the question. He is 27, what could invite to think he is close to the peak of his career, and proved at White Hart Lane he can make a team dance to the rhythm he plays at.
Modric, however, has failed in many occasions this season to show the passing skills, long-range shooting accuracy and creativity displayed at Tottenham. Some would say he lacked of opportunities with Mourinho, but numbers can argue with that. He has featured in 23 league games this season, having played 1472 minutes. More than Kedhira, Benzema or Higuain, to give examples of players with an active contribution this season.
The Croatian, then, has lacked of consistency and first-team football. Tottenham used to play around him, and now he has to get used to start one game and see another three from the bench, playing maybe a few minutes in the second half. Mourinho gave a chance to several non-regular starters against Barcelona in La Liga (he was resting players ahead of Old Trafford’s clash) and Modric made the most of it, earning the right to be the plan B against Manchester United. The plan B was indeed needed against United and he responded as everyone know by now.
Since then, he has been gaining responsibility and the game against Mallorca last weekend left another 30-yard rocket and another fine passing display. It remains uncertain whether these performances are just a spot in the middle of a mediocre season, or the beginnings of an extraordinary player that needed time to settle.
If Luka Modric is really keen on returning to the Premier League, Manchester United should, at least, tempt Real with an offer. It could be an expensive transfer and other options in the market should be contemplated, but the Spaniards would not sell him for as much as they signed him (over £30 million) and the Balkan talent has definitely not forgotten how to play.