Although Radamel Falcao’s elite set of striking gifts ensure that the Atletico Madrid striker is likely to have the cream of Europe’s biggest clubs queuing up to fight for his signature this summer, you would have thought that Manchester United might be a notable absentee from such a shortlist.
With Sir Alex Ferguson already boasting arguably the most fearsome strikeforce in the Premier League in the quartet of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, while the chance to sign Falcao must be a source of real temptation for the Scot, the money that it would take to prise the Colombian away from the Vicente Calderon has generally been thought of as being better spent elsewhere.
Yet while the noise coming out of Old Trafford directly appears to be toeing the general consensus of supporters, a steady slew of reports suggesting to the contrary have reared their heads in recent days.
And in the most illuminating report yet, we’ve been led to believe that not only have United sent their chief scout Jim Lawlor to run the rule over the 27-year-old during Madrid’s recent 5-0 thumping over Granada, but that the club are ready to broker a £47million deal for the forward, with Javier Hernandez going the other way as a £20million-rated makeweight.
Ferguson was, as you would expect, sneeringly dismissive of such a prospect, simply asking reporters whether they “honestly believed” that the club were likely to swoop for the former-Porto man. Considering renowned rumour-stirrers Marca and The Daily Mail are the two publications championing the story, understandably, few are particularly convinced over the credentials of such a deal.
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Yet putting the shoe on the other foot, this isn’t the first time this season we’ve seen United linked with a swoop for another elite hitman, following reported interest in Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski and for as little credibility as the tabloid media may possess, it’s hardly as if Ferguson has enjoyed an unnervingly truthful rapport with the press over the years.
What’s made this element of transfer speculation resoundingly different from some of the other reports we’ve seen this season, however, has been the indifferent reaction Falcao’s name seems to have sat with supporters. Because although his talent is one that no fan would begrudge seeing grace the Theatre of Dreams, it would be the overlooking of a midfield that remains in desperate need of an upgrade that would particularly resonate with the wider public in the red half of Manchester.
And that applies to not just a mooted deal for Falcao, but one for Lewandowski, Burak Yilmaz or any other top European striker for that matter.
With United already looking somewhat top-heavy as a squad as it is, while players like Falcao only come along once in a while, there is surely only so many more goals that can be added to this side.
In van Persie and Rooney, Ferguson already possesses arguably the two finest goalscorers in the Premier League and considering the acquisition of the former has pushed the latter – along with the 27 league goals he scored last season – into a deeper midfield position, it’s difficult to even comprehend the acquisition of another out and out striker.
Furthermore, that’s not even taking into account the mere seven starts that Hernandez, another of the league’s most natural goalscorers, has been consigned to this campaign.
It would be naïve to try and second-guess a manager that bestows the acumen of Ferguson’s class, although if Rooney’s midfield deployment during the recent 2-0 win over Stoke City was something of a dress-rehearsal for a long term stint in the role, then perhaps reports linking United with another frontman aren’t quite as far-fetched as some may believe.
The Englishman enjoyed a superb showing from deep, albeit against futile opposition given Tony Pulis’ side’s recent woes and there has been a school of thought that a long-term midfield berth could prove just the solution that both club and player have been looking for.
Although to wheel out the aged out cliché of the best players not always necessarily making the best team, forcing Rooney deeper within this team to accommodate yet another gifted forward player feels like an incredibly awkward way of solving a midfield issue that requires a long term blueprint – not just a fantasy stop gap.
Because regardless of Rooney’s merits as a would-be midfielder, it’s his credentials as a frontman, that should lay waste to another deal for a forward at Old Trafford.
During his deployment as an out-and-out striker at United over the last three seasons before van Persie’s arrival, Rooney scored a staggering 84 goals in all competitions. That’s a record that leaves him very few peers in the European game, let alone simply in English football, but still, the 27-year-old has had to make way for the Dutchman as the preferred striker at the club.
The quality, depth and versatility that Ferguson has managed to accumulate and develop at the club has rendered Manchester United as one of the few clubs in Europe that would have little to gain by signing Radamel Falcao.
Had they not possessed such a pressing need to address other areas of the team, maybe the Colombian’s talent might well justify the upheaval of both current personnel and ebbing away of transfer funds needed to bring him to the club.
But for all his box-office glamour and unworldly striking ability, Falcao’s arrival cannot come ahead of the acquisition of another truly world-class midfielder. And given the price it will cost in order to find that man, there’s no way his potential arrival could be framed as anything less than a luxury.
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