United need Reus more than Arsenal do

Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus is in high demand after an impressive start to the new season, with the German club recently admitting that the attacker has a release clause in his contract. This has shortened the football betting odds on the talented forward making a move to the Premier League.

As such, both Arsenal and Manchester United have been linked with a move for the former Borussia Monchengladbach man, with his release clause thought to be in the £30 million region.

Arsenal’s link to the prodigious attacking midfielder is understandable, as Arsene Wenger has been steadily adding players from Germany to his squad over the last 12 months.

Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Serge Gnabry, Thomas Eisfeld and Mesut Ozil are all on the books of the north London club already.

Marco Reus

However, with the Gunners in real need of an out-and-out striker to take some of the load and responsibility away from Olivier Giroud, Wenger should have other priorities in the January transfer window.

Reus’ considerable abilities mean he would be an excellent addition to any squad, but given the presence of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski and Ozil, another attacking midfielder is not necessarily what Arsenal need if they are to win silverware this term.

United on the other hand need a player of Reus’ ilk more than the Gunners do. The Premier League champions are over-reliant on Wayne Rooney to provide the craft and creativity to break teams down, while their wingers have been hit and miss over the last 12 months.

With the pursuit of a creative central midfielder falling flat, it has been up to Rooney to link United’s midfield and attack. The likes of Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young have failed to impress of late, while Shinji Kagawa has been limited in his chances to play.

Reus’ addition would be a real boost for the Premier League champions, as he would bring energy, guile and technical quality to Old Trafford. His tendency to cut inside off his wing and play intricate passes with his number ten, Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Dortmund, would be a key bonus of signing him, as he could link up with Rooney in a way that United’s current wingers do not.

Kagawa still has a lot to prove at Old Trafford, and offering him in part-exchange could well be a mistake. Alternatively, should United meet Reus’ release clause and bring him to Manchester, two former Dortmund stars on the flanks for the champions looks like a mouthwatering prospect.


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.

Rooney won’t be handing in a transfer request at Manchester United

After United’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea last night, Jose Mourinho urged Wayne Rooney to come out in public and state where he wanted to play his football this season. However, the chances of the England international handing in a transfer request are very unlikely.

Whether Rooney is unsettled at Old Trafford or not, and whether he wants to play for Chelsea or not, he will not say it in public. With a handful of days left in the transfer window, Rooney would limit his chances of first-team football.

Wayne Rooney

What would happen if he stated he wanted a move but United refused to sell? He would be shooting himself in the foot with the fans that sang his name last night and compromise his chances of playing regularly for the Premier League champions.

Mourinho is right that players transfer to and from rivals on the continent all the time – unfortunately for him it happens very rarely in England.

Baines’ delivery would have made big difference for United against Chelsea

Although Manchester United had the better of the play in their 0-0 stalemate against Chelsea last night, one of the areas that David Moyes will look to improve is the final ball delivered from widemen. Patrice Evra in particular was guilty of poor distribution and had a glorious opportunity to create chances as he found himself in space.

With Danny Welbeck starting on the wing to facilitate Wayne Rooney, the England international’s first instinct was to drift in-field to get involved in United’s attack and support Robin van Persie. With Branislav Ivanovic forced to follow Welbeck, Evra came forward into space.

Leighton Baines

The France international’s delivery was ordinary all game. With United linked to Baines, I can’t help but think that the Everton man’s crossing and constant overlapping runs could well have proved very problematic for Chelsea.

Whether or not Baines is a better overall player or not than Evra or worth the inflated price tag given he is 28 remains to be seen. However last night United could have used his pinpoint accuracy.

Tom Cleverley a key man for Manchester United this season

All the transfer talk at Old Trafford this summer has been about Manchester United’s search for a new central midfielder, and rightly so. The Premier League champions are in dire need of a new energetic midfielder to get from box-to-box, score goals and link up play between the midfield and forwards.

Although the likes of Cesc Fabregas or Thiago Alcantara would have been excellent additions to the Red Devils’ starting line-up, Tom Cleverley has had a strong start to the new campaign. Against Chelsea the England international looked tenacious and kept the ball well.

Tom Cleverley

The former Wigan loanee has failed to consistently live up to his expectations in his career to date, but with United struggling to sign any new faces it could be his chance to shine alongside Michael Carrick.

United fans, and David Moyes to boot, obviously would like a new creative midfielder. But if it doesn’t happen it will give Cleverley a chance to progress this term.

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.


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.

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.

Manchester United and Thiago Alcantara – a good match?

Reports in Spain are linking new Manchester United manager David Moyes to Barcelona midfielders Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas as he looks to add some craft and creativity to his midfield. We all know what Fabregas can do, but how about his younger team mate? Could he be a cut-price, high-quality answer to a question that even Sir Alex Ferguson could never wholly answer?

One of the reasons that 22-year-old Thiago is being linked so heavily to Manchester United this summer is that a release clause in his contract has been activated. This is by virtue of him not playing at least 30 minutes in 60 per cent of Barcelona’s games this season. All player contracts in Spain have a release clause, a result of a previous agreement between the union and the clubs. However, most of these are designed to make the player unattainable. For example, Lionel Messi’s is £205 million and Cristiano Ronaldo’s over £500 million.

Before this season, Thiago’s release clause was €90million, about £80m. Obviously no one would have paid that. Now, it is just €18million, about £14m. £14m is exactly the type of price range that clubs such as Manchester United can easily afford. It is, for example, less than they paid for Anderson.

Thiago Alcantara

For Barcelona to have allowed this to happen is pretty incredible, verging on negligent. Considering that they had the league comfortably won by March, had an easy group in the Champions League and on top of that, plenty of Copa Del Rey matches in which to field him, it is ridiculous that they couldn’t find him 30 minutes in 60 per cent of games. The amount of games that they were three or four nil up by half time, surely he could have come on? But, he is now near enough unprotected.

The question Manchester United fans could ask at this juncture is ‘if he can’t even get that amount of playing time, why would he be a good signing for us? For the answer, it is best to defer to no less a judge than his Barcelona team mate Xavi, who describes Thiago as ‘the future of Barcelona’. Xavi knows first hand about being the Emperor in waiting as he spent the early years of his career, even in to his early 20’s, as Thiago is, waiting to succeed Pep Guardiola. Xavi is now 33 and there is some feeling that if he wins another World Cup next season he might call it a career; surely Thiago can wait another year? Well, maybe not.

Thiago has the talent to start for any club in Europe; it is literally only the presence of Xavi keeping him out of the starting eleven at Barcelona. He has a wider range of passing than any Manchester United player, he is an excellent runner from deep, he is fleet footed and he covers the ground easily. He is an athlete who also boasts the technical skill you would expect of a Barcelona youth graduate.

Manchester United don’t have anything like him. He’s more dynamic and multidimensional than Michael Carrick and would make for an ideal partner for him. He has the action-packed, athletic game of a young Paul Scholes, complimented by the field awareness and deep-lying vision of an older version of Scholes.

If Manchester United are to have any chance of overhauling the big Spanish and German clubs they need someone who can grab hold of a game by the scruff of the neck and dominate possession. Thiago Alcantara is at a stage of his career where he is ready to be given the keys, and signing him at such an affordable price would immediately give United what they need to take the next step in Europe.

Is Marouane Fellaini a good fit for Manchester United?

With David Moyes assuming the Manchester United hotseat, the transfer of Everton’s best players Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford could well be on the cards. With Baines’ form and Patrice Evra in need of some top competition, the England international’s signing would make sense. But do the Premier League champions need Fellaini?

The Belgian has offered Everton a versatility that could well be useful for United. Fellaini has played most of his football this season as a brutish second striker, but has admitted that he prefers playing as an enforcer in front of his side’s defence.

United could potentially use one new signing in both of these positions. Michael Carrick has been devoid of support over the last 12 months in the centre of the park, while doubts remain over Wayne Rooney’s mindset.

Marouane Fellaini

In the attacking role, Fellaini certainly would provide an addition offensive option. His direct approach, ability in the air and endless running have made him a star in a good Everton team, and Fellaini has proved a nightmare for many a defence, including United’s, over the last 12 months.

In the centre of the midfield, Fellaini would certainly offer United more energy and a physical presence that has been missing since the retirement of Roy Keane. With Paul Scholes hanging up his boots, a creative central midfielder needs to be a priority, however Fellaini’s ability to be a stopper in the centre of the park could also be a sensible signing. Phil Jones has filled the enforcer role well in the recent past, but his preferred position is yet to be determined.

However, whether Fellaini has the ability on the ball and craft to fit into the United passing game is questionable. The Old Trafford faithful will want to avoid a scenario where the side compromise style for a direct approach, and utilising Fellaini in an attacking position could result in this.

Fellaini’s transfer fee is likely to be sizeable given Everton’s financial position, but it appears that he does not have a definite place in the United set-up. His versatility may well be asset, but the Red Devils may well end up signing a player that is good at two positions but great at neither.

Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

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