Being a Manchester United fan both in utero and growing up in a pub (my Dad owns them, he doesn’t have a problem), I have seen many players, some good and some bad come through the doors at Old Trafford. Some of them, very bad. Djemba-Djemba…Bellion…Prunier…yeah, me neither.
A subject of hot debate at the minute with Manchester United making some seemingly early moves in the transfer stakes, is the question that people have been asking for the last 5 years, yet one with no definitive answer…
How will they fare after Giggs and Scholes (eventually…) retire?
This is a worrying thought for most Manchester United fans, as not just the partisan support recognise that these two stalwarts are legends of the game in their own right. You can type in Giggs on Youtube and find any number of classic goals, the same with Scholes. United fans won’t quickly forget the commentary of Martin Tyler;
‘That’s a weary one from Viera…Giggs…gets past Viera…past Dixon who…err… comes back at him…it’s a wonderful run from Giggs!’
That goal against Arsenal in 1999 didn’t just cement Giggs’ place in legend, it virtually engraved it on the wall of the Theatre of Dreams itself.
Memorable commentary alone isn’t what cements Scholes’ place in United folklore either; the 1999 goal against Milan to win the game in the dying minutes, the goal against Barcelona in 2008 en route to the Champions League victory, or maybe even the last-minute winner in the Manchester Derby in 2010…or just a combination of all three alongside many, many more are what made him a legend in Manchester.
Coming to this season, we see that at the ages of 37 and 38 the two of them aren’t going to be around forever, and so the real question is, what kind of pairing is going to replace the two ‘old dogs’ of English football? Are the strongly linked pair of Eden Hazard and Nicholas Gaitan really going to cut it if they were, hypothetically, to play together? What group would you put them in if they were together in the centre of the park?
Gaitan, from what I have seen of him is an attacking midfielder, plain and simple. Sir Alex, it seems, wants to mould someone into the next Cristiano Ronaldo, someone with the skill and immediacy to change a game in seconds. To me however, he looks to have more of a look of Beckham about him. Lots of long, pinpoint passes, and not exactly an aerial threat (at 5’7”), he could be leading the Premiership assists table if he were to make the switch.
Hazard looks, from what I have watched in Lille games…and this may shock some people…to be very very lazy. I am not denying the potential is there, because that is clear for all to see, but he just looks so unmotivated at times it shocks me. He has had people labelling him the next Lionel Messi, but it seems like he is playing in a similar vein to Adel Taraabt. So much promised, but without the work ethic…God only knows what will come of it. 80% of success is application…and it looks like he hasn’t even filled in the application form at times. A fantastic, unbelievably talented footballer…and I hope he makes it to a massive club and does well…but just some motivation and heart needs to be drilled into him.
What do United need in those key positions though? A passer and a tackler? Two specialist playmakers a la Barcelona? Two defensive anchor-men? Well, maybe
not the latter…we aren’t Juventus circa 1997.
Personally, I always think there will be a place in the modern game for a defensively minded midfielder…the safety net…the back-up plan…the man who will be there when it all goes wrong, and the defence are floundering like a school of salmon on terra firma.
The best man I, and many others have ever seen in the position during the Premiership years was, of course, Claude Makélélé. The position is synonymous with his name. When anybody is playing within ten yards of a centre back these days they are described as playing the ‘Makélélé role’, the ideal anchor man.
Short of discovering Bernard’s Watch (sorry, child of the 90s), or the DeLorean from ‘Back to the Future’ (acknowledges the 80s), who could fill that role in the present day for United? I have felt for many years now that the one player to play the gargantuan ‘hard-man’ chasm left by Roy Keane is Daniele De Rossi.
He has shown outstanding skill in both defensive and offensive play, equally adept in both playmaking for the rest of the forwards, and roughhousing an often weary looking defence into action. His leadership of the younger players at the time such as Criscito and Bonucci again only served to his advantage. When he first came on the radar as a strong 22 year old…Sir Alex could have paid £9-13 million…but now, at 28, any offer below £25 million would be laughed out of Roma’s boardroom immediately.
But one fan can only dream…and hindsight is a terrible mistress.
What do you guys think? Who is the right pairing to take over the colossal boots of Giggs and Scholes?
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