Should Manchester United invest the £17m elsewhere?

Benfica defender Ezequiel Garay

Manchester United seem to have tied up Argentinian centre-back Ezequiel Garay. The sum, somewhere around £17million, is however a quantity yet to be proven as a good investment or an opulent spent depending on his performance at the Premier League club.

Everyone who have followed his progression at Benfica since arriving as a Real Madrid flop do not hesitate when assuring he will do extremely well at Old Trafford. And he probably will, but the question is whether United are planning the squad wisely ahead of next season, or are they putting the cart before the horse by spending that amount of money in that position?

It feels necessary to start by pointing out the virtues Garay has as a defender. As it happens with pretty much every signing that involves a big investment and a player from a secondary league, fans want to know why their team is spending that money on a player they have not heard much of.

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With Garay, United would acquire a player with an excellent tactical positioning that gives him a great ability to foresee the opponent’s next move. Proof of this is his disciplinary record with Benfica, with only four yellow cards and no red cards in 45 league games since he joined The Eagles. He has also been a consistent performer in manager Jorge Jesus’ formation, having played the 90 minutes in 44 out of those 45 fixtures – only missing eight.

Being that good positioning is his main strength, the 26-year-old shows more than decent skills with the ball, and is somewhat of a free kick and penalties sepcialist. It would be highly unlikely to see the Argentinian taking those responsibilities at Old Trafford given the competitors – Van Persie, Rooney, among others – but he managed to be the defender with most goals in the 2006-07 La Liga season thanks to that very ability.

His frustrating time at Real Madrid should not be a factor to consider too negatively as, like many others, he lacked chances. The centre-back pair formed by Sergio Ramos and Pepe was a wall too high to climb for the then 23-year-old, and Real decided to sell him to Benfica before his progression was cut off, and that way recover part of the €10million in a player that was not needed by then.

But Madrid took an interesting decision when they sold him that could have repercussions now – when Los Blancos transferred Garay to Benfica for €5.5 million, they kept 50% of his rights, assuring themselves half of the profit Benfica could make should the player step up to a bigger club. The Portuguese club tried to purchase the other 50% at the beginning of this season, but the Bernabeu chiefs declined the offer, aware of the increasing market value of Garay. Therefore, a £17million transfer to Manchester United would have the Reds paying £8.5million straight away to Madrid.

Financially strengthening one of their European rivals could be the first one of the reasons for not completing the move. But the main argument to refute Garay’s signing responds to the actual needs within the squad. With Vidic and Rio Ferdinand still going, one would think Sir Alex Ferguson has enough back up with Evans, Jones and Smalling. Surely Garay will add to the defence but, is it not more important to cover other positions such as the central midfield first, focusing the majority of the expenditure on them, and then sign a centre-back if needed?

Perhaps Ferguson has plans to use Jones more often as a midfielder, and Smalling as a right back, but what will happen if not? Would Garay be the first choice, stopping the two Englishman’s progression? Will they have to find another club, as Garay had to do at Real Madrid? If so, United should at least keep half of their rights, as Real did with the Argentinian. You never know when you can bag a bit of unexpected cash.

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