Manchester United have been missing a special player in the centre of the park for sometime. Gennaro Gattuso, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack and Mesut Özil are amongst some of the top class players we’ve missed out whilst our midfield has gradually deteriorated.
Gone are the days when we could afford to have players of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes’ quality in the team, then still splash £28m on someone like Juan Sebastián Verón. Michael Carrick had a solid first three years but hasn’t been consistently useful for a while, Darren Fletcher has been our engine on plenty of occasions, despite diminishing impact over the past couple of season, Ryan Giggs has done a job in plenty of big games and Paul Scholes could still play a pass like no one else, even if he struggled to keep a top performance for 90 minutes. Yet there isn’t the magic required to be the all-dominating force we would like to be.
In the Champions League final in 2009 our midfield didn’t stand a chance against Barcelona’s. Some excuses could be made, thanks to Carrick’s broken toe and Fletch’s unjust suspension, so we just bumbled along.
We missed out on a record breaking fourth title by a point last season and then this season won the league by 9 points and reached the Champions League final. Whilst the fans patience had all but run out, on paper the team looked to be in a great position.
Four titles in five years, three Champions League finals in that time, another couple of League Cups. Are we entitled to whinge?
Well, in a word, yes. We’re fully entitled. Whilst clubs around us are splashing the cash, United haven’t bought to improve the midfield since Anderson and Hargreaves in 2007. Chelsea spent £20m on Ramires and City have bought Yaya Toure for £24m, David Silva for £24m and Nigel de Jong for £18m.
We’ve finally admitted defeat where Hargreaves is concerned, Scholes has retired, Darron Gibson will likely be sold, so it’s time to get our arses in to the gear.
Tottenham Hotspurs’ Luka Modric appears to be the missing piece of the jigsaw. We’re strong in all other areas of the pitch, so bringing a player of his quality in to the mix would all but guarantee us a few more league titles. Wesley Sneijder has been linked and keeps changing his mind over whether his “love” for Inter will be enough to keep him at the club or not. Modric is the man though.
When Chelsea put a derisory offer of £22m, I was just waiting for United to up it. It would be nice to get Modric for £30m but I believed £35m would be a more likely price. The player’s head had been turned and now it was just a matter of getting a bid accepted.
Then, late last night, The Daily Mail published an interview with the player and it looked as though things were in motion.
“I want to leave Tottenham as friends. I have enjoyed my time there, but now it is right for me to look at another club,” he said. “I have an arrangement with the chairman. When I signed my new contract, he said that, if another club came to sign me, they would consider the offer.”
Great stuff. But then…
“Chelsea are a big club with an ambitious owner. They have great players and they have ambitions to fight for the title and win the Champions League. I want to stay in London. I am very happy here and so are my family. I like the city.”
Nightmare. Now, I am trying to console myself with the fact Chelsea are the only club who have put a bid in, so it makes sense that they are the only club he talks about. He went on to mention his desire to join a bigger club and play in the Champions League, something United obviously can offer. The most important thing here is that he wants out. Players come out with all sorts when looking for a move away from the club. Lest we forget that a month before signing for City, David Silva was talking about what an honour it would be to play for a United. A fortnight before signing for City, he spoke of his desire to play for Chelsea.
So, we need to move for him now. Before the seed planted by Chelsea starts to develop too much, United need to show their intent. We need to give him a choice to make, rather than just leaving him with no choice but to sing the praises of Chelsea. However, following the reaction of Spurs’ chairman, Daniel Levy, to Chelsea’s bid, we might end up being happy that our club has bided its time.
“We made our stance on this issue abundantly clear in writing to Chelsea. They chose to ignore it and then subsequently made the offer public.”
The rent boys have pissed them off now, so if it comes to a point where they have to sell to us or them, they might view us more favourably, having not insulted them by offering to pay a price comparable to the amount Liverpool have just spent on Jordan Henderson.
However, Levy’s statement is very stern, and you’re wrong if you think he took the same tone with Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane before selling them. Despite not wanting to sell Berba and Keane, he was almost resigned to the fact it was going to happen. Where Modric is concerned, Levy makes out that the possibility isn’t even on the cards.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, let me reiterate that we shall not enter into any negotiations whatsoever, with any Club, regarding Luka. We now consider this matter closed.”
What happens next then? Well, I guess we will have to sit tight. Chelsea made their bid public, maybe United will try and talk to the club on the quiet. Whilst Levy’s statement could be entirely genuine, it could also be for the purpose of bumping up the transfer fee.
Modric has claimed he will not put in a transfer request and that may well be the case. However, as the deadline day approaches and his desperation increases, who knows what will happen. Will Levy be prepared to entertain offers after Modric stamps his feet? We’ll see. Thanks to Chelsea’s conduct, we may well be in a favourable position should the opportunity to sign the player this summer arise.
Or Chelsea may bid £10m more than we’re prepared to spend and Modric really is certain that he wants to stay in London. Hmm.
Let’s hope my optimistic/desperate version of events is the more accurate one. Watch this space.