Louis van Gaal teased the baying public with his admission that a new signing is on his way to join the ranks at Old Trafford. What was more teasing was the fact the player had not been linked to the Red Devils in the media so far this summer. How intriguing… Who could it be? A ‘Guess Who?’-esque game has ensued. Fans and experts have pondered, and the excitement emanating out of United’s pre-season camp has truly ramped up.
Well, multiple reports have identified Juventus striker Fernando Llorente as Van Gaal’s mystery man. How anti-climactic. The 6ft. 5″ World Cup winner has a decent CV, granted, but he is not really the type of player to fire Manchester United back into the big time.
Since leaving Athletic Bilbao, the Spanish striker has struggled in a freakishly dominant Juventus team. 27 goals in 90 games for the Turin side is not exactly staggering when playing for a team who have won the title four years in a row. Even when in Bilbao he toiled behind first choice striker Aritz Aduriz.
But, perhaps LVG does not need to sign a huge name as a striker, now that he has confirmed captain Wayne Rooney will be deployed in his natural position up front. This is great news, as Llorente is not a good fit for the side. His aerial ability is his strongest point, but in Maroune Felliani and Rooney himself, the Dutchman boasts some incredible headers of the ball.
For a man of his size, the Spain international does not hold the ball up particularly well. A single assist in 40 appearances last year does not show the mark of a man you can build an attacking hub around. With the likes of Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera fluidly flowing behind Rooney as a central striker, Llorente seems like a square peg in a very round hole.
Any move for the Juve front man is likely to show Van Gaal’s hand when it comes to a ‘plan B’. Should his side need a goal going into the last 20 minutes or so, it could be tempting to bring a towering World Cup winning striker on to act as a target man. That much is true, but it really does not fit the style implemented by the Dutchman down the years – albeit he did go ‘long ball’ at times in 2014/15.
As mentioned, United finally have a fluid look about them in their engine room. Mata, Memphis and Herrera can float behind Rooney, with Depay likely to be another attacking outlet when he cuts inside from the left. Further back, new signings Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger are excellent passers of the ball – not the sort of midfields who look likely to hoof it up to a target man.
Should Llorente be brought in, the balance of the side would have to change. Even lumping the ball to a big man up top in the dying embers of the game could expose the Manchester side. Presumably, either Mata, Depay, Ashely Young or potentially Angel Di Maria would be shunted out to the wings to provide crosses. Any potential counter attack from the opposition could then expose the United full backs – who are not known for their defensive expertise.
If Manchester United are simply after a back-up to Wayne Rooney, they should look no further than a man currently in their squad. Perennial super sub Javier Hernandez is a poacher of the highest calibre, and would certainly suit their ethos. The Mexican striker is far more mobile and could flourish latching on to a Mata through ball or a tap in following a Memphis Depay strike.
In this game of guess who, United had the answer all along.