Manchester United fans couldn’t believe their eyes at the beginning of September. The week previous, United had broken the English transfer fee again to sign Angel Di Maria from European Champions Real Madrid, but the signing of Colombian Falcao meant the fans were in dreamland. A club that had missed out on Champions League football for the first time since finishing second in 1994/95 had pulled in some of the world’s finest talent and wouldn’t scrape back into Europe’s elite but juggernaut through with a bit of swagger.
Spring is upon us and although United are a in a good position and have only lost once in the nineteen games, Southampton, Arsenal and Tottenham are breathing down the necks of Louis van Gaal’s men. United’s Colombian forward has made little impact since his £6million loan move from Monaco. The lack of impact isn’t anything to do with effort nor ability, but he simply hasn’t played enough games to be able to score the goals we all have seen him bang in for FC Porto and Atletico Madrid. Can United really splash out and pay half of what Real Madrid paid for Cristiano Ronaldo back in 2009 on a 29 year old?
In terms of talent, Falcao passes the test. His goal scoring record speaks volumes over the years. 52 goals in 67 games for Atletico whilst notching up 41 goals in 48 games for Porto. But for United, his goal scoring talent hasn’t been on show. He scored his first goal against Everton back in Autumn, but was – which would of course become a common occurrence – withdrawn from proceedings due to lack of apparent fitness. The big question is this; United are now approach the home straight with the Colombian netting just four goals in 14 appearances – can Louis van Gaal really afford to make Falcao’s move permanent? Surely not at the reported £43.5milion.
Its being reported this morning that “great clubs are interested in signing Falcao“, which is of course Monaco demonstrating a sense of insecurity at the prospect of their prized asset’s worth diminishing following a disappointing season. Perhaps we expected too much? Falcao missed the 2014 World Cup Finals due to a serious knee injury and whilst James Rodriguez was banging in one of the best goals of the tournament – Falcao was forced to watch and wonder. Has he really fully recovered from the injury? Alessandro Del Piero, so often a thorn in the side of Manchester United during the mid-90s, lost a yard of pace when he suffered a serious knee injury against Udinese but of course adapted his game because of his sublime intelligence. Perhaps it was a move too soon for Falcao?
United travel to Swansea City today hoping to avenge the 2-1 defeat on the opening day of the season. Many United fans are calling for James Wilson to be handed a start to further his development and inject a bit of pace up top. Both Robin van Persie and Falcao drop deep to try and influence play and a player like Wayne Rooney needs pace in behind to be able to pick out passes from deep. Personally, I still believe Rooney should be deployed as a forward in a 4-2-3-1, just off of van Perise – with two wingers either side. van Gaal has made his feelings personally clear regarding the lack of perceived quality wingers at the club, which is adamant in the narrow formations and lack of starts for Adnan Januzaj.
Wouldn’t United fans prefer the £42.3million to be invested in quality wide players or in a centre midfielder, which would then free up Angel Di Maria to cause havoc down the flanks? Di Maria’s dribbling style is unique and we wouldn’t surely see more of what happened towards the end of the 3-1 victory over Burnley – with the defender clumsily bringing down the Argentine. Gary Neville spoke in the week that fans (including himself) should stop pining for Sir Alex Ferguson’s brand of football and look to the future. He is right that one should never ponder over the past and should always look to the future, which ironically was always Ferguson’s mantra. Can you win the title again and again and again?
Take a look at the following heat maps from the recent 1-1 draw with West Ham (don’t ask me why Falcao is down as Garcia) and the 4-2 victory in the same fixture back in the 2010/11 season:
West Ham United 1-1 Manchester United: 8th February 2015
West Ham United 2-4 Manchester United: 2nd April 2011
As mentioned earlier in the piece, Falcao drops deep as does van Persie, which limits Rooney’s passing range especially with a lack of width. Angel Di Maria’s bursts through the middle should be an outlet as the third man running on, but in theory teams play extremely deep and United aren’t quick enough with their passing tempo. Its an obvious but notable point regarding the width of the team and how United would stretch inferior teams. Rooney scored a hattrick (and was suspended for swearing at the camera) that day as United went onto win the league title.
The signing of Radamel Falcao was a dream for United fans, which is slowing turning into the cold light of day and realisation of a rainy Monday morning after a heavy weekend. Louis van Gaal suggested there were too many number 10s at the club and shifted players on to pastures new, but the signing of Falcao demonstrated United meant business following a dismal 2013/14 season. Football is a fickle game. If the Dutchman steers United to Champions League football he will be labeled a tactical genius who inspires all around him. But if United do fail to qualify for Europe’s cream of the crop, then he will be seen as a tinkerman, unsure of his best squad who played a boring brand of football. Either way, United really need to consider forking out £43.5million for Radamel Falcao.
Reaction from around the web
— John Phelan (@jphela2410) February 21, 2015
@stretford_end No, not on what we've seen. Not had the service & his confidence has suffered to the point that he shouldn't make the XI
— Chris Williamson (@cwilliamson1975) February 21, 2015
— Stannie (@__Stannie) February 21, 2015