Following Radamel Falcao’s surprise exclusion from Manchester United’s match-day squad last Sunday, agent Jorge Mendes, whose other clients include Cristiano Ronaldo, David De Gea and Angel Di Maria to name a few, has sought to heap pressure on manager Louis van Gaal in regards to future selections, as reported by The Daily Mail.
Likely in a bid to ensure the Colombian international’s Sunday absence doesn’t become the norm at Old Trafford, Mendes, who rarely steps into the public limelight to discuss his clientele, is quoted as saying “I don’t know (if he will stay). He is a fantastic player and I think it’s very difficult for Manchester United fans — they have an absolutely brilliant player, one of the very best in the world, who would without any doubt play 90 minutes, every time, with any other club.
“The truth is, now, we don’t know what will happen. What we do know is that he will play for one of the very best clubs in the world next season, whether that is Manchester United or not. I am 100 per cent sure of that. But you know how football works — we’ll see what happens.”
Read between the lines and the subliminal message to van Gaal is a clear and simple one – use Falcao now, or lose him come the summer.
Perhaps that’s what van Gaal wants. After all, although Falcao was seen as the jewel in the crown of United’s summer acquisitions, the signing that truly caught the imagination of the fan base and painted a very ambitious picture of the campaign to come, the 28 year-old’s Premier League career, thus far, is incomparable with his prolific spells in Argentina, Portugal and Spain.
He’s managed just one goal every 201 minutes in the English top flight, totalling three, and is yet to create a meaningful partnership with the Red Devils’ joint-leading goalscorer, Robin van Persie. So far, United have forked out £1.77million per goal in wages – that doesn’t come anywhere close to justifying the £47million they’d need to pay to secure Falcao’s services permanently from Monaco.
Although one could point to the superficial correlation between the shock defeat to Southampton, in which United failed to record a single shot on target, and the Colombian hitman’s absence, nothing from his prior Premier League outings suggests the Red Devils would have fared any differently with him in the side. Creating opportunities was as much a struggle for United as taking them on Sunday and of all the problems they’ve faced under van Gaal this term, efficiency in front of goal hasn’t been one of them – in fact, it’s served far more commonly as their saving grace.
In many ways however, even if van Gaal does see Falcao’s future at Old Trafford spanning past the summer, that’s beside the point. The manager of a club as monolithic as Manchester United should not be buckling to the demands of agents on their client’s behalf – be it Radamal Falcao, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi or a time-travelling Pele.
It’s time for LVG to take a leaf out of Sir Alex Ferguson’s book – a manager who never let player power come even within the distant peripheries of his own. The obvious example is Roy Keane, who was released from his contract after over a decade at United, serving as captain for eight years, after overstepping the boundary between player and manager during that infamously hyperbolic critique with MUTV. He’s hardly alone in the clan of players that felt Fergie’s wrath however; David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Paul Ince are just a few who were moved on for, amongst other reasons, not fitting in with the obedient mentality of the Old Trafford squad.
Whether such monolithic influence is plausible in the modern day remains open to debate; the Scot was amongst a dying breed that appeared to hold full autonomy over every area of their clubs, whilst the sheer scale of his success at Old Trafford propelled Fergie towards near-mythical status – nobody, especially agents, would dare question his decision-making.
Yet the principle behind it, in regards to Falcao and Mendez, does not change. Falcao may well be regarded as one of the finest strikers in world football, boasting a career return of 234 goals in 369 appearances at club and international level, but he’s done little to prove the legitimacy of that reputation at United. Likewise, he clearly isn’t a natural suitor to van Gaal’s philosophy and although that may seem wasteful of a world-class talent, the team must come before individuals.
What would Ferguson do in this situation? In my opinion, make an example of Falcao, as he did with Keane, Beckham et al. Leave him on the bench, or even out of the squad altogether, as a message to current and future playing personnel – the manager, and only the manager, picks the team.