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Januzaj is United’s new star – but they risk losing him

Manchester United fans have a new hero after 18-year-old winger Adnan Januzaj bagged a quickfire brace against Sunderland on Saturday to ensure victory in his first Premier League start.

Red Devils manager David Moyes has suggested that the teenage sensation is good enough to live up to the hype and could be the next Wayne Rooney in the making. However, the current Premier League champions are walking on a tightrope over Januzaj’s future, as he is out of contract at the end of the season. As such, Januzaj will be free to sign for a new club come January, with a pre-contract agreement with a domestic or European rival a real possibility. If it is not already, one of United’s main priorities must be to tie the prodigious talent down to a new, long-term contract. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid are said to be interested in the young Belgian and could land a windfall similar to those available on pocket fruity if they can turn Januzaj’s head.

Adnan Januzaj

United have been in a similar position before. Paul Pogba, who made waves in the Manchester club’s famous youth academy, was earmarked as the long-term successor to Paul Scholes. The young French star’s blend of physical and technical abilities, along with his creativity, meant that the Le Harve prodigy looked ideal to replace the outgoing English midfielder.

However, with Pogba in a similar situation to the one that Januzaj finds himself in, the player opted to spurn a new contract from United to move to Juventus at the end of the 2011-12 season.

A year later he is a France international, driving force in the Italian champions’ midfield and a player that United would love to have in their side. The players that the Red Devils looked to sign over the summer had similar abilities to the young star that they let slip through their fingers.

Januzaj is in a better position currently than Pogba was. The Frenchman found first-team opportunities tough to come by, whereas Januzaj now looks set to play a considerable role in Moyes’ plans. With other United wingers struggling for form and fitness, Januzaj can be a key man for the Old Trafford side this season. However, if United do not move quickly to resolve his contract situation he could be playing for one of their rivals this time next term.

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Will Wayne Rooney stay at Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney supposedly asked Sir Alex Ferguson about transferring away from Manchester United. When Sir Alex retired to be replaced by David Moyes, Rooney’s future away from United seemed to be gathering momentum. Last season, Robin van Persie stole Rooney’s thunder as the lead striker for United and the England man ended up bouncing around between midfield and supporting van Persie upfront. His desire to move was driven by a desire to play first team football in a new environment. However, given what happened in 2010, when Rooney requested to leave, citing the club’s lack of ambition, which of course resulted in him becoming the highest paid player in the Premier League, the suspicion of something similar is always there. Now, reports are emerging that regaining that status from Yaya Toure could be enough to keep him at Old Trafford.

He has two years left on his contract now so United need to make a decision. To avoid the kind of forced sale that saw Arsenal lose van Persie and that is causing problems for Borussia Dortmund with Robert Lewandowski next summer, they either need to extend his contract or sell him. The latter option is what he originally wanted, but the lack of realistic suitors may be driving this apparent change of heart. Before they Barcelona signed Neymar and Real Madrid identified Edinson Cavani as their main target, the Clasico sides were the main options. He was interested in moving to Bayern Munich when they won the Champions League but they are chasing Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez ahead of Rooney. This seems to leave PSG, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, with Arsenal on the verge of signing Gonzalo Higuain they would seem to be out of the running. And this is if United would even consider selling in England. Chelsea seem to be interested but selling him to Mourinho is a big risk. PSG haven’t made a strong push and it seems unlikely that he and his family would want to move overseas.

Wayne Rooney

So if he’s not being heavily pursued, he might have no choice but to stay. Or, he might have been flirting with other teams in an action replay of his last face off with the club, which netted him his new £250,000 a week contract. As long as Van Persie is there, Rooney won’t get back his number one striker status. But, his role with England is unquestioned, so unlike players like Mario Gomez or David Villa who want moves to assure their position in very competitive squads for Brazil next summer, Rooney doesn’t have that threat. It possibly means his need to move doesn’t have that same urgency.

It’s almost impossible to know what is going on with the Rooney situation but as more and more big clubs that could afford him are looking at other options, his chances to leave look increasingly unlikely. But, this is if he even wants to leave in the first place. We’ve seen this kind of brinkmanship from Rooney before and it got him a new contract. At 27, a three or four year extension would see him in to his 30s, so this could be his last big contract.

It’s hard to tell who really has the power here. If Rooney did indeed ask to leave, he went out on a limb assuming that Bayern/Real/Barcelona would come calling. He’s watched them all choose other players ahead of him. So theoretically United can say that’s he’s tried to attract attention but hasn’t. Chelsea ought to be their main title challengers next season so it seems inconceivable that they’d sell to them. He’s not the main man at United anymore and that seems to bother him. The best thing for all concerned would be for him to work hard to become that again and the problem will go away.

Man United handed tough opening to title defence

New Manchester United manager David Moyes will have mixed feelings as he reads through today’s newly released Premier League fixture list for 2013/14. On the one hand, he will be excited to get started but on the other, he will see that he faces Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City in his first five games. Although he’s not really under pressure, because United have committed so fully to him, it’s a tough start and questions will be asked if after those five games they already have a couple of losses.

Things don’t start easily, with a trip to Swansea on opening day, which will surely be selected for television. Although United would expect to win, Swansea have shown they are hard to beat at home. It’s the rest of August that could be tough for Moyes though.

David Moyes

His first game at Old Trafford sees him host Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Chelsea are looking like being United’s main title challengers this season, barring some dramatic moves from Man City, and playing them early is not ideal. Moyes will still be getting his message across, still teaching his game plans in a new dressing room for the first time in 11 years. Mourinho on the other hand, has changed dressing rooms four times during that period. He may be able to get his message across quicker. Last season Chelsea showed that they could be a match for United. The FA Cup game at Old Trafford saw them run roughshod through United in the second half as a tease of what could be possible. Of all the teams in the country to play in his first home game, Moyes would probably have picked Chelsea last.

However, he will have overwhelming crowd support and if he wins it will be a fabulous start. From Chelsea he then takes his team to Anfield for the always vociferous game with Liverpool. For Moyes, this is a double-edged rivalry. As an ex-Everton manager currently at Man United, he couldn’t get a hotter reception than he will at Anfield. Liverpool have done well at home to United over recent years and the team will be flowing with adrenaline cheered on by a boisterous crowd. Again, the result of this could go either way for Moyes. If he was to lose this on the back of a loss to Chelsea the alarm bells will be ringing. However, should he beat Jose Mourinho and then go to Anfield and win his legitimacy will be sealed. He will have shown he deserves the job.

A routine home win over Crystal Palace should follow before what has become the hardest game in the league over the last couple of years; Manchester City at the Etihad. City will also have a new manager who will be under pressure to win. Unless Moyes loses to both Chelsea and Liverpool in all likelihood Pellegrini will be under more of a spotlight. It’s a big early momentum decider for both men. A win would give them both breathing room and an advantage in the title race.

If David Moyes can get out of these five games unbeaten then he will have firmly established himself as the boss. If they lose a couple, or even all three of these tough games, the spectre of Sir Alex Ferguson will loom large. However, after this tough start the fixtures ease significantly for a considerable period.

Elsewhere on opening day the newly promoted teams have very tough starts. Hull face a trip to Chelsea for Jose Mourinho’s first game, Crystal Palace host Spurs and Cardiff travel to West Ham. Arsenal and Man City host Villa and Newcastle respectively and will be expecting to win.

Nani for sale? Why Manchester United should think again

It looks like this summer, which is already a transitional one at Manchester United, much of the old Trafford faithful may get one of their long held wishes. For a few seasons now, the majority of the Champion’s supporters seem to have been of the opinion that Portuguese winger Nani doesn’t quite cut the mustard. It now seems that the club are ready to let the player go.

The reason for the large contingent of fans that want to see the wide man moved on is that Nani can be an incredibly frustrating player. Admittedly his crossing is inconsistent, his form often patchy and his decision making below the standard of other top wingers. Despite his failings, Nani is, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s own words, a match-winner. The 26 year old has pace, trickery and can shoot with both feet. United fans seem to forget that for stages of the 2011-12 season, the former sporting man virtually carried the side. In several games when United were struggling to break down opposition, it was his individual brilliance and flair that unlocked the door. If Nani does end up leaving United this year it will also be with a few spectacular goals in his scrapbook. Frustrating-yes, a textbook confidence player-yes, but United’s worst winger, no, not by a long shot.

Nani

Granted, as an attacking wide man, Nani is a few classes below the Messi’s and Ronaldo’s and Bale’s of this day, but If the club are ready to sell wide players, they should perhaps look at some of their other options first. Antonio Valencia for example had a terrible season. He generally offers a steadier and more consistent option to his team-mate and he applies himself better in his defensive duties. Valencia though, lacks the creative spark offered by Nani. He cannot frighten the full back the way the Portuguese can and the amount of United moves which ground to a halt last season because the Ecuador man put his foot on the ball are countless. Ashley Young is another who failed to deliver last term. Young is more similar to Nani in that he is dangerous in a shooting position and can worry defenders but he has become injury prone, is a year older and failed to net a league goal last term in 17 appearances. Nani scored twice in 10 and Valencia just once in 29.

With Wilfried Zaha arriving and Shinji Kagawa also in the mix for an attacking midfield berth, competition will be fierce but even if Nani doesn’t start he can provide an injection of pace and attacking threat from the bench. New manager David Moyes will of course be forming opinions on which members of his new squad he rates highly and will have his own plans of who to bring in but he would be unwise to dismiss the winger’s effectiveness.

It would appear that Moyes and the club may have already made up their minds with Galatasaray claiming United have set an asking price of £8.5 million. That would surely represent a bargain for any side looking to add some creativity. Nani will never be a Cristiano Ronaldo, but he can be a devastating weapon. United don’t have to keep him but he certainly shouldn’t be the first to leave. His chances were very limited last term and regardless of where he is strutting his stuff come the start of the new campaign fans can expect excitement as long as he gets a chance.

Nani’s time at Manchester United up?

Nani is a player of immense talent but with the unstoppable highs in form have increasingly come the completely ineffective, often negative lows in form. With only one year left on his contract at Old Trafford, and with United seemingly having given up on him becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo, as seemed possible a couple of years ago, he is up for sale.

Galatasaray chairman Unal Aysal told Sky Sports News that; ‘We offered £6m for him. But they didn’t accept. We can’t give more than this…They want £8.5million’. Now, at first glance £8.5m for a player with the potential to be devastatingly good when in form seems like a bargain, and the low price is a clear sign that United are willing to move him on. It is quite a dramatic fall from grace for Nani, who as recently as the 2011 was one of United’s key players.

Nani’s first few years at United had been a promising but frustrating cocktail of sheer pace, direct dribbling and an ability to get involved around the penalty box, but it wasn’t until the 2010/11 season that he emerged as truly world class. Coming off the frustration of missing the World Cup due to injury he seemed like a man possessed. He ended the season with nine goals and 19 assists in the Premier League as United raced to the title. Having sold Ronaldo in 2009 United had needed to replace his output and Nani was doing his best to do so. It seemed like, by the end of 2010/11, that he was reaching that level.

Nani

However, the season proved to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. The reason for this is Nani’s playing style. Because he plays at such breakneck speed and takes risks that other players wouldn’t, he is a player that relies on getting in to a groove and hitting form. However, in 2011/12 he took a step back. Despite a solid enough output of 8 goals and 12 assists he seemed to go missing in tight games. This was compounded by United’s purchase of Ashley Young for £18m, which gave Ferguson another option and a reason to drop Nani if his production slowed down.

Much of his output came when United were handing out thrashings. In only three games in the league was he involved in the crucial goal in the game for United. His stats looked solid but they were padded with contributions in games United won at a canter, often against the smaller clubs. Big hauls against Wolves and Fulham weren’t exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson wanted. As he strived for form he got worse as he was trying to do too much, over complicating things. In early 2012 he had a run of playing in only two of ten games as Ferguson lost trust in him.

Nani went into 2012/13 with much to prove, but failed to do so regularly. He only scored one and set up just three in the league. A slow start to the season was compounded by a hamstring injury, which meant he missed 12 games. When he got back he showed the occasional flash of form but his United career was ended in two games. As harsh as the red card against Real Madrid was, he was still the scapegoat. But his showing against Chelsea in the FA Cup just weeks later was totally ineffective in attack and negligent in defence. Most United fans had had enough of his up and down form, which had mostly been the latter and he seems unlikely to fit in to David Moyes’ United.

Despite the drop off in form, he still has the potential to be a very good player, but only if he can go somewhere he will be played every week. His best form came when he was the guaranteed starter week in and week out. He’s going to have games where he does nothing but if you ride through those you can get a stretch of games where he contributes each time. He’s not going to get that at United but for £8.5m he is worth taking a wager on.

Would Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye be a hit at Manchester United?

Newcastle playmaker Yohan Cabaye was linked heavily to Manchester United at the end of the 2011/12 season after he was instrumental in Newcastle’s fifth-placed finish. He was thought to be an upgrade on Michael Carrick, who had plateaued and had been a key player for France and Lille in the role. 12 months on and this time Cabaye is having to link himself. His own form this season wasn’t bad but was by no means as good as the previous campaign and as the key playmaker and midfield fulcrum, Newcastle’s poor season reflects badly on him. Still, in an interview with Canal+ he was asked whether a move to Man United would interest him and he said ‘Yes of course, I like this club for a long time…They are always well placed amongst the big clubs, yes for sure it could be an interesting challenge but like I said for the moment, there is nothing concrete and I am still at Newcastle.’ So he is clearly interested, but are Man United, and should they be?

Cabaye’s debut season at Newcastle saw him score four and assist eight from his deep playmaking position. His metronomic passing, excellent set piece delivery and hard running, pressurising defensive game marked him out as one of the elite midfielders of his type in the Premier League. He had shown the same qualities at Lille where he led the team to the French title before Newcastle caught everyone napping to sign him. This meant that last summer, as rumours of a Man United midfield search abounded, he was right up at the top of the list. People with bored with Michael Carrick, they didn’t know what to expect of Tom Cleverley or Anderson, and weren’t sure if Phil Jones could play the role. Cabaye made great sense. But, as we know, Sir Alex Ferguson trusted his midfield and Michael Carrick ended up having the season of his career. Cabaye on the other hand, fared less well.

Yohan Cabaye

The main reason for the drop in Cabaye’s performances were his own injury issues and misdeployment by Alan Pardew. Cabaye struggled for full fitness through a lot of the season, which meant that he was a step slower, marginally less accurate than before, and couldn’t impose himself on a Newcastle team that struggled before being flooded with his countrymen in January. In this essentially new team he struggled to exert himself in an alien position. This is because Pardew played him in a far more advanced role for much of the season to little gain. Cabaye can get goals and see a pass from deep but he doesn’t have the fleet feet and inventiveness needed further forward. It’s not that he is suddenly a bad player though, considering the constant turnover of players at Newcastle his drop in form is understandable. It’s not really this that means he is perhaps ill suited to United though.

If United played a 4-2-3-1 system, Cabaye would be a good partner for Michael Carrick. They would be able to move the ball and maintain possession smoothly whilst also offering a strong defensive shield. However, if David Moyes uses his preferred 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, a midfield of Carrick and Cabaye would lack for something. Neither of them would be the ideal deep driving engine midfielder. United have also been linked to Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Marouane Fellaini, who would all make better compliments to Carrick in that system. Cabaye is solid when getting forward but if that is how he is used he wouldn’t be being bought for the right reasons. However, if Moyes does want two deep possession midfielders then Cabaye would be ideal. United could get him at a reasonable price compared to the others on this list too.

Cabaye can be a success at Old Trafford is used properly and bought for a specific purpose. If David Moyes used the correct tactical set up he could be excellent. However, if the new United manager keeps his usual preferred method then Cabaye should not be first choice ahead of the more thrusting options United could look at.

Manchester United, City and Chelsea’s hopes of landing Robert Lewandowski increased

Borussia Dortmund have this morning announced that contrary to assumption, Robert Lewandowski will not be sold to Bayern Munich this summer. Sporting Director Michael Zorc is quoted by German tabloid Kicker as saying ‘We have communicated to the player and his advisers that we will not agree to a transfer to FC Bayern this summer.’

Undoubtedly this stance was always what Dortmund wanted but will have been heightened after Bayern stole Mario Götze by activating the release clause in his contract. Lewandowski has intimated that he wants a new challenge and as he only has one year left on his contract he has forced Dortmund in to a position where they would have to sell him or face losing a £30m asset for free next summer. They would therefore surely be willing to agree to sell him to the Premier League rather than their main domestic rivals. Man United have long been linked with him, Chelsea desperately need a striker and Man City may feel it too good an opportunity to miss. So could he end up in England, and if so, where?

Robert Lewandowski

Chelsea would seem to be the most obvious landing spot for Lewandowski. Although they are thought to be deep in negotiations with Edinson Cavani of Napoli, Lewandowski is a player whose destructive capability Jose Mourinho has witnessed first hand. It was the Pole’s four goals against his Real Madrid side that elevated him in to the real upper echelon on a world stage. Cavani and Lewandowski are similar players. Both of them have wonderful technique, good pace and strength and are deadly and consistent finishers. The advantages of going for Lewandowski are the price, thought to be at most £30m rather than £52m, and the fact that he speaks fluent English and has played in a similarly physically demanding league with great success. He is used to the system and showed at Dortmund how good he can be with three attacking midfielders behind him which is exactly what Chelsea have. Chelsea also have the added bait of Romelu Lukaku who Dortmund are known to admire.

Man United is on the surface a less obvious fit but it makes a whole heap of sense. David Moyes has historically preferred a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 system and if United do allow Wayne Rooney to leave they would need a world-class option to pair with Robin van Persie. Both he and Lewandowski would be comfortable roaming around out of the box if required and having to account for both of them would give most defences fits. Lewandowski is a very hard worker, which is a quality David Moyes admires and prises, and the lure of moving to the English champions should be strong for Lewandwoski.

Man City are the outsiders but shouldn’t be counted out. New manager Manuel Pellegrini is being given the playing staff to operate his preferred 4-2-3-1 but there is still room for another attacker. If they decide not to move for Isco they may well go for Lewandowski. That would allow Sergio Aguero to drop in to the number 10 role where he played at times last year and where he could be very dangerous running from deep. Lewandowski has the technical skill to work with the three men behind and the finishing ability to make the most of the chances they would create for him.

All three of the teams could afford the price and all three could very much use Lewandowksi in their sides. He would offer qualities that none of them have and allow others to be better maximised. Dortmund will not sell Lewandowski to Bayern and rather than losing him to them next summer for free they would be better trying to sell him now. The big three Premier League clubs should have the advantage over Monaco or PSG and with Real Madrid focusing their attention on Luis Suarez, we could be set for a top three battle to sign Robert Lewandowski.

Arsenal transfer targets: Rooney yes, Fellaini no

This summer is the first for many years that Arsenal are being talked about for signing other teams’ star players rather than losing their own, and two of the most commonly discussed names are Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. Even as recently as last summer the idea of Arsenal getting either of these, never mind both, would be laughed at, but this summer is different. Next season is when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions really kick in and this is what Arsenal have been preparing for over the last five years or so. Their payment schedule on the new stadium eases considerably and as they are so reliant on generating their own money they are in a strong position to take advantage of the FFP rules. So Rooney and Fellaini are affordable, they’ve got the cash sat ready and waiting. But how realistic is it for Arsenal to get them, and what would they bring to the team?

Wayne Rooney has asked to leave Manchester United. Rooney doesn’t want to play for David Moyes, his wife wants to live in London and Rooney wants to be the star striker. Arsenal could certainly satisfy the last two. In fact, not only would he be the star striker, he’d be their star player full stop. The arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer saw Rooney drift further and further back towards, and even into, midfield. But he is openly unhappy about this. He still sees himself as a pure striker, and his goal scoring numbers back this belief in himself up. In the 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons Rooney was deployed often as a lone striker, but always as a striker. He scored 34 and 35 goals respectively, by far the best output of his career.

Arsene Wenger

The strange thing with Rooney is that his best qualities are often overlooked in favour of his additional qualities. He works hard for a striker and has a good passing range for a striker, and this means managers are tempted to use him further back. But he’s best at scoring goals. At Arsenal, that would be exactly what he is brought in to do. With Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, possibly even Steven Jovetic, in place, they have no need for him to play deep. Olivier Giroud is a decent striker but no more. If Arsenal sign Rooney and play him up front they will have themselves the 30-goal striker they had when they sold van Persie. Even with all of the other talent, he would be the star of the show, and he would revel in that.

Would Manchester United be willing to sell though? Surprisingly the fee discussed so far has only been around £30m because he has just two years left on his contract. Arsenal sound like they can easily afford that. If they can also pay him the circa £200k a week he get’s at United, which again chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said they can, then this could happen. He’d be an excellent signing and a real statement of intent.

Marouane Fellaini

Where Rooney is a clear fit for Arsenal, the same isn’t necessarily true of Fellaini. For many years Arsenal’s supposed weakness was in defensive midfield, they had no shield and thus a flimsy defence. But last season they had the second best defence in the league. This was not least down to a transformed Aaron Ramsey who, over the last three months of the season, was as good a protector as any midfielder in the league. His tenacity in the tackle and particularly his interceptions marked him out. Arsenal fans bemoan his passing and lack of inventiveness, but in his new position he can keep it simple and focus on defending. What does Fellaini offer that is different? Like Ramsey, he is not a particularly good or subtle passer of the ball. He’s an athletic and tough presence when deep in midfield and although there is no doubting he is a little better at that than Ramsey, can you justify spending £24m on a minor upgrade?

Fellaini caused devastation as an attacking midfielder at Everton when supplied aerially. Does Arsene Wenger really want to use Fellaini as a number ten? He’d certainly offer them a Plan B but again, is that enough to justify spending so much on? Unless Wenger is convinced that Fellaini is a significantly better defensive midfielder than Ramsey then he should not make the move. Fellaini after all, gets most of his praise for the carnage he can cause if supplied correctly in the other team’s half. He’s a very good player, but not worth Arsenal spending £24m on when they still need a goalkeeper.

How Martinez can lead Everton to the Champions League

He probably didn’t want it made public at his introductory press conference, but according to Everton chairman Bill Kenwright, one of the first things Roberto Martinez said to him was ‘I can get you in to the Champions League’. It’s a big statement of intent, but can it be achieved? For a club that has only finished in a Champions League spot once, albeit they failed to overcome Villarreal in the qualifying round, pushing on from their usual fifth – seventh dwelling is a big ask. However, it’s by no means an impossibility. Who would have thought this season’s cup winners would be Swansea and Wigan? Getting themselves above Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool and in o fourth would be a greater achievement even than Martinez’s relegation escapes and the FA Cup win. So, how can he do it?

Keeping Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas is going to be critical. They are the Everton players who are most desired by other teams, who most belong in the Champions League. Keeping them will not be easy, despite Kenwright’s assurances than no players are for sale. However, Fellaini has a release clause in his contract of around £24m, which makes him vulnerable. His physicality and tenacity have been key factors in giving Everton the toughness and multidimensional attacking virtues that have made them top-six mainstays. Although not always the most elegant on the ball he has shown he can play as a rugged defensive midfielder, or even as a second striker. Such versatility is a valuable asset. One of the questions about Martinez’s Wigan was that they had no Plan B. If passing didn’t work they couldn’t figure out another way to score. Although Fellaini is less technical than Martinez’s ideal, he is a key force for Everton and gives them a legitimate Plan B. It’s possible that Man United, Chelsea, or even Monaco, could open up the release clause.

Bill Kenwright and Roberto Martinez

Keeping Leighton Baines is more important but could be just as difficult. There is no more consistent player in the league than Baines and his attacking forays from left back in tandem with Steven Pienaar or Mirallas give Everton as good a flank as any team in the league. Baines is a good defender but it’s his attacking output that is staggering. He gets goals and assists as if he’s a winger. For Martinez this is vital. He plays with extreme width; his 3-4-1-2 system at Wigan was designed to space the pitch out as much as possible. Baines could be unstoppable as the left wing back if Martinez brings the system with him. He’s wanted by Moyes at United to replace a possibly Monaco-bound Patrice Evra though.

Kevin Mirallas is the final jewel in the crown but keeping him should be easier. He was arguably Everton’s best player in 2013, regularly putting in performances of devastating thrust in attack and started to score more and more goals. Everton’s attack was their weakness last year, so keeping a major livewire threat in Mirallas is key. Martinez needs pace and width in attack, which he offers in abundance.

Buying a striker is the next most important task. Nikica Jelavic and Victor Anichebe are not strikers who can propel a team in to the top four. Whatever money Everton have, they need to throw it in to getting a proper striker. If Man City are willing to let Edin Dzeko go they could push hard for him, they could get involved in the Christian Benteke bidding or even look at a move for Michu. One way or another, they need a forward who can get them 20+ goals, and be reliable. They can get one for the £15m club record the brought Fellaini to the club, but without one they won’t have a chance.

Combining solid defence with sophisticated attacking play
is the key to Martinez’s possession-based system working for Everton. The defence was good last year, rarely conceding more than once in games. That can be left alone. What does need the Martinez touch is the attack. Everton have been increasingly fluent over recent years so it’s not like he’s inheriting footballing philistines but his tactical set up evolved over his four years at Wigan so might be hard to teach straight away. Everton were excellent at Goodison Park under Moyes but never great away from home. If Martinez can get them dominating possession and playing with the creativity they need, matched with the inherent will to will and desire infused by Moyes and Phil Neville it will be a potent combination.

Lastly, they need luck. If Spurs keep Gareth Bale and Arsenal recruit strongly it’s going to be very hard to overthrow them. They need to be flawless in the transfer market themselves, hope others make errors, and allow Martinez’s brand of football time to bed in. They have the winning, tough mentality, and if they can combine that with added attacking flair the top four is in reach.

Manchester United and Chelsea should be in for Gonzalo Higuain

If you were to list the best ten strikers in the world off the top of your head, where would Gonzalo Higuain come? Probably nowhere. And yet, he has been the starting striker for Real Madrid for seven years, in which time he has managed to score 107 goals in 187 games, which makes him the club’s 11th highest scorer of all time. He has scored 20 goals in 32 games for Argentina and was their first choice at the last World Cup, arguably only losing his status as that to accommodate Lionel Messi more centrally and because he is not as glamorous as Sergio Aguero or Carlos Tevez. He’s done all of this already, and is only 25 years old. Whether it is because he doesn’t seek fame off the pitch or because he is just quietly efficient on it, he doesn’t get mentioned in the same breath as the other top strikers. Even rotated around this season he’d have been the joint seventh top scorer in the Premier League with his 15 goals coming in just 27 games. Chelsea have his ex-manager who made him captain joining them, and they badly need a striker. Manchester United are in the process of selling Wayne Rooney, and need a striker. They should be swarming all over him. We are talking about a genuinely world class forward, and he is available this summer.

On Sunday he told reporters that ‘I feel that my time here is over, I want a change…I want to go to another club, new challenges’. Higuain has never been popular in Madrid, and he wants to ‘go where they tell me they love me’. Nowhere quite does player adoration like Old Trafford but after having watched Fernando Torres for nearly three years, Chelsea fans will love him if he keeps scoring at his career rate. Real Madrid are intent on signing Luis Suarez and have not moved to say Higuain cannot leave. He could be available for as little as £20m, which is absolute theft.

Gonzalo Higuain

For Chelsea, the fit with Higuain is obvious. If Jose Mourinho isn’t ready to commit to Romelu Lukaku as his starter, then who better to fill the gap upfront than Higuain. With the chances created by Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, he could comfortably get 25 goals in the league. He is ready to go, ready to score goals right now. Even if they only had it in mind for him to be the starter for two or three years he would still be the perfect option. He and Edinson Cavani are basically the same standard but with a possible £30m price difference. If Chelsea sign Higuain, who is also a perfect tactical fit, able to hold the ball up nicely and quick enough to cause defenders problems, they could spend their budget on upgrading the central defence, which is a relative chasm compared to the rest of the team.

For Manchester United the fit is a little less obvious as it doesn’t fit an immediate need but he would still be an excellent signing. David Moyes usually played a 4-4-2 type system at Everton but with Wayne Rooney leaving and doubts over the quality of Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck, Higuain could be a perfect foil to Robin van Persie. They would both be as comfortable dropping deep as hanging around the box which would give United extra attacking fluency, and most importantly, goals. Van Persie delivered spectacularly in the league last year but they were reliant on lots of players scoring, rather than players scoring lots. This hindered them in Europe. If Moyes does sell Rooney, then a ready-made, world-class replacement such as Higuain would be ideal.

Higuain has previously spoken of his comfort with playing in England and has the body type and game to adapt easily to the Premier League. He doesn’t look like a player who will take time to acclimatise, and can be bought, put in the team and left to score goals. He wants to be loved and both crowds are known for adoring their heroes no matter what. Chelsea and Manchester United should definitely move in on the cheapest world-class striker on the market.

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