Forget all the chat about Manchester United chasing Antoine Greizmann, what they really need to do is replace Michael Carrick.
Carrick has been a fine servant for the Red Devils and Jose Mourinho’s side have looked superior this term with him playing in the middle of the park.
But alas time isn’t on the side of the England midfielder, he’ll be turning thirty-six in July.
Much like with Paul Scholes before him, United have really struggled to bring in an able replacement.
Morgan Schneiderlin struggled to make an impact and has since left to join Everton. Bastian Schweinsteiger doesn’t look up to the rigours of full time football. Marouane Fellaini isn’t disciplined enough to make that role his own. While Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera seem better when they’ve got more license to push up a bit and have Carrick in behind them!
I thought Jose would move heaven and earth to try and capture N’Golo Kante last summer but that didn’t happen.
Recently United have been heavily linked with AS Monaco middle-man Tiemoué Bakayoko. The French U-21 international is certainly a talent and if Jose wants a strong tackler then a move for Bakayoko could make a lot of sense.
But if you’re looking for a direct replacement for Carrick then I’d suggest United move for Marco Verratti.
I was discussing this issue with football writer Andrew Gibney last week, and Verratti ticks a lot of boxes for me.
He’s a majestic deep-laying playmaker, who has wonderful vision to create a stunning pass. He’s more in the model of an Xavi or a Pirlo but those two were superb holding midfielders in their time.
I remember the first time I saw Verratti, he was playing for the Italian under-21s against Scotland’s under-21s. At that time he was still playing for Pescara in Serie B but Marco looked like a king amongst men. He would constantly look around him and see things that other players couldn’t even imagine. No one on the park could touch him and the Scottish lads just couldn’t stop him running the game.
Now while he’s a world-class architect, who like Carrick will provide ammunition from deeper positions, Verratti can also do the defensive work too. He may have Pirlo’s vision but he also has Rino Gattuso’s tenacity. He can put his foot in and make a challenge but he’s also quite adept at swarming an opposing player and tempt them into making a mistake.
Marco also boasts good close-control and composure when on the ball. Having that from a holding midfielder gives others around him confidence that they’ll not lose the ball. His average passing success rate this term this season has been 88%. It’s always the sign of a good player if they are constantly looking for the ball and happy to pick it up from his backline, Verratti is such a player.
He’s also a midfielder who likes to dictate the play and have things going at his pace.
Against FC Barcelona last night, Marco Verratti showed off his full repertoire. He would slow things down when he felt his side needed a breather, he kept his passes clean and made some vital challenges that won his side the ball back. Marco also managed to surge forward and set up Julian Draxler for his goal.
His individual performance was fantastic but it wasn’t totally unexpected. Some of us have been banging his drum for a while now.
So if I were Jose Mourinho I’d be bugging the hell out of my board to get this man to Old Trafford.
But it won’t be an easy deal to conclude.
Firstly you have to get PSG to agree to a transfer. That won’t be a formality, they know his worth to their squad and it’s not as if they are short of cash.
You also have to hope that the player himself wants to leave Paris.
Reports differ on this issue. Some have said that he wants to leave in the hope of challenging for the Champions League. Plus he’s been in the French capital for the last five years and might just fancy a change.
But then again PSG have just battered the mighty Barcelona 4-0 in the Champions League and have a coach known for his successes in European competitions. His wish to challenge for such an illustrious title could be well served by staying exactly where he is.
The Italian international recently came out and stated:
‘I’m pleased to attract interest from the big clubs, but I don’t want to change,’
You would then have to believe that he wouldn’t be short of suitors.
As a young player he was linked constantly with a move to Juventus and to eventually take Pirlo’s spot. That would’ve undoubtedly happened had it not been for the Qatari moneymen at PSG. Juve would jump at the chance to sign such an accomplished homegrown talent. As they proved with the Gonzalo Higuian last summer, the Italian champions can spend big on desired signings.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte is a huge fan of Verratti’s having worked with the player when he was the manager of Italy. He’d be extremely interested in working with him again if he could persuade Marco to swap Paris for London!
Then you have his opponents from last night. That result showed us that Barca are in need of new faces and players that can spark something better. Verratti would be seen as the natural replacement for Xavi, who quit the Catalan giants in 2015.
Now Man United certainly have the clout, the manager and the cash to go toe to toe with any potential rival for Verratti’s signature but they would still lose out if they cannot guarantee him Champion League football.
You’ve got to imagine that that’s one criteria Marco Verratti will insist upon before moving away from PSG, where he’s almost certain of Champions League exposure every season.
That one detail may hinder Manchester United a lot this summer if they can’t break into the Premier League’s top four this season or win the Europa League.
Posted on February 15th, 2017 by scott
Filed under: Article