Published on October 10th, 2012 | by soccersweep0
Can this man provide missing magic at Man U?
Manchester United fans will be happier than at any point of this young season after the excellent performance at Wonga Park at the weekend. With Rooney in a deeper role at the top of a diamond, a younger looking midfield was compact, energetic and creative – all elements lacking from previous showings – particularly against Tottenham last week.
Even on their own feared patch, the much improved Toon had no response to a Manchester United side that looks to be finding shape and its traditional attacking edge. Manchester United’s ball retention was much better than hitherto and the passing crisp and precise – coincidentally or not, United’s recent wastefulness and Luis Nani were both absent.
With Valencia coming back from injury, Kagawa really finding his feet and van Persie banging in the goals for fun, the portents are good for this Manchester United side. Whether they continue to play with a narrower midfield or reinstate their wingers when Valencia and Young are back to full fitness remains to be seen – one imagines that both styles will be employed as the season progresses but, with an abundance of attacking talent and a dearth of creative midfielders, it would be no surprise to see Rooney deployed behind two strikers more regularly – especially in the big games. He plays the link man brilliantly and loves the level of engagement that this position affords him. Are we looking at the next Paul Scholes – another who started out as a striker before his talents were deployed further back, in the heart of the team? soccersweep has thought so for some time.
Many question the resources available to Sir Alex in defence. He certainly has enough quality here when everyone is fit but that’s the problem. He can’t get any number of them on the training ground at the same time. Dortmund’s Mats Hummels has been linked.
But we at soccersweep believe that the defence will recover. Evra had a superb game at the weekend and Jonny Evans finally seems to be ironing the silly errors out of his game. He probably wouldn’t be the first choice of most but, in the long term, he will hopefully offer similar value to the squad as a Wes Brown or John O’Shea.
We actually think that, on the whole, this United squad is better equipped to challenge than at any time over the last few years. If there is a weakness, we just wonder if Manchester United are unusually short in the department that some label ‘magic’.
With Ronaldo and Berbatov gone, Nani was the great hope for the sort of mercurial, ingenius invention that could turn the tightest of games in an instant. Wayne Rooney is of course a world class player. Shinji Kagawa has a speed of thought, turn of pace and sleight of foot that will flummox some of the best. And Antonio Valencia is pure pace and power – a wicked weapon for any opposition to have to deal with. But none of these players is unconventional in a way that Lucas Moura could be, Moussa Dembele is and Cristiano Ronaldo was during his glittering United career. These players win tight games because they can produce the unexpected on a regular basis. They are extremely hard to find but they can be the difference between goodness and greatness in the lifecycle of a team.
Nani seems to have fallen out favour after some truly awful performances early season. He’s wasted the ball in every area of the pitch, failed to offer a decent final ball and struggled to beat his man with any regularity. But he is, at his best, one of these rare aforementioned talents who, with more consistency, could easily find his way to the ‘magic’ department. If only his football intelligence was even approaching the level of raw talent he has then Manchester United might have another Ronaldo on their hands. For all the myriad talents of this Manchester Untied squad, they don’t have another player like Nani.
As the season progresses and the matches get tougher, Manchester United may lack that little bit of magic that is sometimes required to win a Champions League, for example. Hazard might provide it for Chelsea. Real can look to Ronaldo. And Messi trumps the lot at Barca. But if United can’t look to Nani for magic then they must invest again soon.
Follow us on Twitter @soccersweep10