David Moyes has confirmed that Manchester United have returned to Barcelona with an improved bid for Cesc Fabregas, clearly indicating their intentions to land a high-end midfielder and specifically the former Arsenal captain.
Though that kind of public interest wasn’t evident during the apparent “chase” for Thiago Alcantara’s signature. Were United ever actually in for him? That shouldn’t matter. What does matter is that United have made a colossal mistake in passing or missing the boat on the La Masia graduate.
Pep Guardiola was always going to bring something of his own to the table at the Allianz Arena, despite Bayern Munich being as close to perfect last season as they completed the treble. The playing style and ability of Bayern and Barcelona isn’t too dissimilar, yet the Catalan understandably wanted to create a bridge between what he achieved in Spain and what he can do in Germany. Thiago is the perfect individual, as Guardiola made it quite clear that it’s “Thiago or no one,” ahead of the midfielder’s signing.
And it didn’t take long for Bayern’s latest signing to make an instant impact on the pitch. Thiago took up the deepest position in the midfield, anchoring the side in the Telekom Cup this past weekend. Against Hamburg on Saturday he was outstanding, contributing to the second of four goals with a wonderful lofted pass onto the boot of Franck Ribery. In the second game against Borussia Monchengladbach, Thiago marked his own name on the score sheet with Bayern’s third, showing his ability to convert in an unorthodox manner as he chested a cross into the net.
But Bayern weren’t adding Thiago for the sake of it or because Guardiola felt he wanted to exercise the club’s undoubted strength in the market. The Bundesliga champions, while not totally ineffective, were noticeably without a creative presence last season when Toni Kroos dropped out of the team through injury. How does Guardiola go on to better last season? Well he ensures that maximum output isn’t lost at any stage of the season and that all his bases are covered with unbelievable quality in depth.
United, though, have missed out on everything they’ve been in need of over the past few years, and certainly what Moyes is looking for this summer.
Thiago didn’t play the pivot/anchor role for Bayern because Guardiola was experimenting, but because he can genuinely play that position to great effect. The Spanish U21 international is an asset all over the pitch, able to play out of trouble in the way Barcelona have done so often on the edge of their penalty area, and add goals at the other end. Over two finals at U21 level for Spain, Thiago scored four goals, with a hat-trick coming in this summer’s European Championship final against Italy.
This may be pre-season, but Bayern are playing against Bundesliga quality, with the Telekom Cup comprising of Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg and Gladbach this summer; hardly sides of great inferiority and little resistance. Thiago has immediately stepped out of the shadow of Xavi and Andres Iniesta and done what was needed of him in his career: establishing himself without the continued and wholly unnecessary comparisons to current or former teammates.
If the rumours are true that Moyes questioned Thiago’s ability in the Premier League, then surely the new United manager has to be questioned for even having that doubt in his mind. Though once again those rumours are hollow as we’re not entirely sure on United’s seemingly fleeting interest in the player.
If what is expected happens and Barcelona retain Fabregas this summer, it will be another blow to United’s hopes of landing a world-class talent for the centre of midfield. Yet none of the opportunities were as great as what was on offer with Thiago; a bargain fee for phenomenal upside and a player who, at 22, is already among the leading midfielders in Europe.
Will United rue the missed opportunity to sign Thiago this summer?
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