United Watch – Transfer talk overshadows games

From a Manchester United perspective, the World Cup hasn’t really begun. Ruud van Nistelrooy is yet to play (that should change as Holland take on Serbia today) and Wayne Rooney is still on the bench and will not be able to take part till the second round. Apart from these two, the rest are expected to perform as they always do – fairly well but nothing spectacular (although Ferdinand is already shaping up to be the tournament’s best defender).

On the other hand, there were four potential transfer targets for Manchester United in action today in the Argentina v Ivory Coast match, and with United not doing any transfer business before the World Cup started the performances of every midfielder on display at the World Cup will be under scrutiny.

United Rant takes a good look at the following players:

  • Didier Zokora (Ivory Coast)
  • Javier Mascherano (Argentina)
  • Juan Riquelme (Argentina)
  • Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina)
  • Michael Carrick (England)

Of the five Carrick was an unused substitute (with Owen Hargreaves preferred to him), while the other four all played major roles in the Group of Death’s opening match. The problem here is that the type of player Manchester United are looking for – a hard-tackling, smart passing midfielder who can run the game from midfield – is not there for the taking. Let’s look at all five of them:

Riquelme’s passing is exquisite but he lacks the pace / tackling skills, leaving him to be a slower albeit more talented version of Michael Carrick. Zokora is unproven and inexperienced – throwing him in at United would be a great education so he is still a player worth going after. Still, even with Zokora or Carrick (or Riquelme) United lack a strong, tackling midfielder – and that is where Mascherano and Cambiasso come in. Both are highly valued by their own clubs plus United’s past experience with South American players is mixed (with only Heinze establishing himself). Buying two midfielders is an accepted need for United but w

Tottenham are holding out for 15 mil for Carrick – add another 5 to 10 for Zokora and for 25 mil United have a midfield for the future. The question is – is that the sort of midfield they want? The reason (IMO) that Ferguson is going after Diarra is that he gets a strong midfield engine in one player – it allows him to play an attacking midfielder alongside him without any serious worries. With Carrick, the midfield takes a defensive look because you then need someone in there to provide the tackles. You could of course go without such support, but then United would be vulnerable through the middle (albeit more creative than before).

There are very few answers for United – they need a Fabregas, Vieira, Keano or Gerrard to solve their midfield problems. Still, any of these players will be better than the current midfield pairing of John O’Shea and Ryan Giggs. Considering that United have managed second spot despite that sort of a midfield is a testament to their skill.

A word for the United players on display today – Gary Neville was his usual busy self but was busy punting balls to Crouch instead of running up and down the right flank. Ferdinand was in my view the best defender on display today, and he looks to be in better touch than he was in Korea four years ago. Heinze played a quiet game, but he is playing after a full year and will take some time to get back into his groove.

Three more United players – Edwin van der Sar, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Cristiano Ronaldo – will be in action today. Stay tuned.

2006 World Cup Stats page is now up
"Group of Death" brightens the day