Written by John Kent
When Jose Mourinho walked into the Old Trafford corridors for the first time, there was a drastic need for change identified straight away; Manchester United did not have the ‘spine’ of a championship winning side.
Whether it be Inter Milan, Real Madrid, or most famously, his first Chelsea side, they had ‘winners’ all through the centre of the field, and more importantly players who would never shirk away from a challenge. This is no more evident than in that Chelsea side, where Cech played 35 PL games, Terry 36 games, Lampard 38 games and Gudjonsen 30 games in the 2004-2005 season. Drogba would later take this mantle over in the attacker position, and they were the mainstays of that Chelsea side right up to when they won the Champions League on that eventful night in Munich.
Compare those stats to that of the Manchester United side he has inherited. In De Gea, he knows he has a world class goalkeeper, but beyond that it is an improving Chris Smalling, a handful of top-half quality midfielders, and a group of strikers either developing, or slowly sliding down thel hill.
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Enter first then Zlatan, a man whose quality became truly evident to the English audience on that night against the Three Lions, and has hardly left the back pages since. Whilst on the wrong side of 30, he is a player who relies more on technical ability then speed, and if rumours are to believed, broke all power records during his medical at Old Trafford. This is a player who has had a tendency to disappoint on the biggest of European nights throughout this career, but Mourinho will not mind if he can become the flat track bully that scores the goals against the lower league sides we used to struggle against under Van Gaal – Jose has his Drogba figure.
Next came a figure largely unknown to the British public, Eric Bailly, arriving from Villarreal with a substantial fee hovering over his head. Whilst my own viewing of him has been limited, he certainly looked a force to be reckoned with up against a good Liverpool side in the Europa League last term. All reports say he stood up very well against Real Madrid & Barcelona, with neither Ronaldo nor Messi able to score against him, and was the mainstay of a side who qualified for the Champions League largely on the back of their defensive form. Fans should be careful of expecting too much though, he is young and raw, but with Mourinho mentioning him in the same breath as Varane, we have a player we should be excited about. It is also worth looking at the way Mourinho has developed the previously mentioned Varane, as well as his compatriot Zouma, and it becomes clear to see his admiration for the physical defender.
This of course brings us to midfield, and the name dominating papers worldwide is Paul Pogba, and the £100m move. The Pogba/Raiola/Adidas marketing campaign has reached fever pitch since the press announced a deal is imminent, and whilst this is not yet confirmed, all suggestions are that we are days away from an official announcement, and there is plenty to be excited about. Pogba is unique in the world of football now, and anyone attempting to compare him to past players is fighting a losing battle. He offers the physicality and speed of a Yaya Toure, but can offer a level of technicality closer to a player such as Zidane; a simple look at his stats over the past 3 seasons at Juventus gives us an idea of the type of player who could define this team for the next 5 years plus, with 10 goals and 12 assists demonstrating just two of the feathers he has to his hat. The elephant in the room is obviously the price tag, and whether any player truly could be worth seven figures? In the case of Manchester United and Pogba, yes, the money does make sense. United are in a unique position that Ed Woodward has created, in as far as they can basically afford any player in the world, and stay in line with Financial Fair Play rules. Furthermore, a bid of that size was necessary to avoid a bidding war, as I think we would be naïve to think he would’ve turned down Real Madrid had the choice ultimately been there; ironically, Perez was probably right to ignore Zidane’s calls, as he would’ve been a waste of money for the current Champions League champions, as they have a midfield of Kroos and Modric already – compare that to Herrera, Carrick et al.
credit Nazionale Calcio
The player is what Jose Mourinho knows we need – someone who can stand tall against the best, and offer a new found level of physicality to the team. The desire of Mourinho to capture the player is a major factor when comparing to the previous big buy of Di Maria – he was never Van Gaal’s choice, and was thus destined to fail. Pogba will be given the keys of Old Trafford to take Manchester United back to the pinnacle of English and European football, and if he is indeed the final signing of the ‘fantastic 4’, United fans have every right to dream of what could lie ahead.
One thing is for certain, when players in the tunnel at Old Trafford look across, the fear factor will be back, and the presence and size of these four players alone, will play a major part in that.
Have Manchester United added enough quality to be title contenders? Who has been the best signing so far? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image by Nazionale Calcio