Blog by: Anubhav
Manchester City, Chelsea and now Tottenham Hotspur have strengthened their squads over the summer. Even Liverpool have gone on to sign as many as five players and have, more or less, convinced Luis Suarez to stay put.
But with Arsenal having not spent a penny yet, Liverpool far from posing a serious title threat and Spurs needing time to gel, it leaves only Chelsea and City as the teams capable of wrestling the Premier League trophy from Manchester United.
United, unlike their rivals, have not spent too much this summer; failing to add much-needed steel in the middle of the park. With pressure running high, it is high time the man who made the move from blue half of Merseyside to the Red half of Manchester – David Moyes – adds to his threadbare squad.
Having had a combined bid of £28m rejected for the Everton duo of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines, United are reportedly planning an improved £35m. But with Patrice Evra the undisputed number one at left-back, do United really need someone like Baines? And is Fellaini the answer to their midfield problems?
Six years ago United invested in Michael Carrick and what a signing he has been. A year later they got their fingers burnt with Owen Hargreaves. Six Alex Ferguson would have basked in baking-hot praise if his successor could bring physicality and a goal threat to United’s midfield; especially after Fellaini bested Tom Cleverley in the opening game of last season to snatch three points for Everton.
A year on, there are still riveting stories of the Belgian joining United in what would be a reunion with former coach. Fellaini has been a stellar performer and has remained the fulcrum of Moyes’s Everton side. From a much deeper defensive role to an unorthodox number ten, Fellaini has adapted well.
Fellaini, 25, is the same age as Anderson and two years older to Cleverley. The Belgian would beat either of them to a place in the eleven alongside Carrick and is better than the current crop of midfielders at United.
United have enough flair going forward. They need someone to break play up, intercept balls and complement Carrick, while providing support in the attack, occasionally. Fellaini averaged 2.6 tackles per game in contrast to Carrick’s 2.4, Ryan Giggs’s 2 and Cleverley’s 1.7 last season.
However, what goes against the Belgian are his marks in the foul column averaging 2.6 a game. And while the likes of Carrick 88.3%, Cleverley 90.2%, Anderson 86.4%, Giggs 82.5% and Shinji Kagawa 88.8% managed high numbers, the Belgian was clearly inferior 79.3% pass percentage.
But the Belgian recorded an 89% pass accuracy in Everton’s draw with Norwich, completing 77 passes for the Toffees, while United completed just 83% of their passes in total in their opening game of the season.
With Manchester United in dire need of a quality signing, the Belgian fits the bill. A move to United would be a real test, but with Moyes at helm and having dealt with Fellaini for long, the ball may fall in the greener court.
United have long admired Baines but their failed pursuit led them to Alexander Buttner. The 24-year-old Dutchman could be allowed to leave on loan if the Englishman were to arrive. There is no doubting Frenchman Evra’s attacking flair; however, his defensive abilities have been under the scrutiny.
Baines, alongside Ashley Cole, has been one of the best left-backs in recent times and the Everton full-back only betters his countryman courtesy his attacking prowess. Baines is also much more adapt in keeping possession and is equally sound in tracking back.
Baines didn’t commit even a single foul in the 2-2 draw against Norwich as opposed to Evra putting United under unnecessary pressure with two free-kicks against the Swans. He also made 51 passes at a success rate of 86%, while his French adversary only made 24 successful passes with an accuracy of just 75%.
Baines is also a dead-ball specialist and one of the best crossers of the football. Given United are still trying to figure out their best wide player on the left, Baines will give the winger more freedom to express himself on that flank.
While Baines is just what United want, Fellaini is more about the demand-supply theory, fitting into the current economics of a deprived midfield.
With new Everton boss Roberto Martinez having claimed the pursuit of Fellaini and Baines as a mere dream, it makes for an interesting last lap of the transfer window.F