Remember when De Gea was mocked for being a frail little cookie? When he met any long shot with the resistance of a thin sheet of swiss cheese and was more fearful of crosses than Dracula Jesus? No, neither do I, but you’d be forgiven for believing that was the case given the pasting Dave gets on Sky and in the papers. Weak, foreign, erratic. Dave was painted as the worst goalkeeper since the traffic cone at school lunch-time.
Fast forward 18 months. Having vanquished the occasional challenge of Anders Lindegaard to become the undoubted number one at Old Trafford people are finally coming round. He’s been making awesome saves, notably against Chelsea and Real Madrid. He’s been commanding on crosses and commanding of his defence He’s been undroppable.
The Daily Mail have come out all guns blazing with a story that claims we’re going to offer a shit ton of money and the gorgeous Javier Hernandez to Athletico Madrid. Quite apart from my unashamed man-crush on the little Mexican, an affection that sometimes makes me feel more than a little dirty, this deal sounds like complete madness to me.
Don’t get me wrong. Falcao is an absolutely world-class footballer. He is a 10/10. If you had a blank chequebook and were able to bring one player in his position to Old Trafford, he’d be on the short-list alongside Messi, Ibrahimovic, Aguero and Cavani. Perhaps even, dare I say it, Luis Suarez. That said, I don’t see why you’d want to bring any of these players to Old Trafford.
We have an embarrassment of riches up front. We already have two players in the absolute world-class bracket (if you extend world-class to Rooney, which is an entire other debate). We have a lively poacher who scores goals for fun in Hernandez, and a hard-working almost defensive forward in Danny Welbeck. The key is that Hernandez is the only player there that guarantees goals. Welbeck offers plenty to the team, but he’s not really getting his share of goals yet. Rooney has been known to go on lengthy droughts, and Robin van Persie is in the midst of one right now.
Any signing is a gamble. Chelsea thought they were paying £30m for guaranteed goals when they swooped for Andrei Shevchenko, but he flattered to deceive and failed to reach double figures in the league. They repeated the trick with the £50m paid for Torres. They shipped out Eidur Gudjohnsen and Hernan Crespo to make room for Shevchenko, and shipped out Danny Sturridge to make room for Torres. Reliable goalscorers replaced with expensive flops who did not adapt.
When we’ve got a player who so perfectly complements our style, who is happy and settled and without ego, who scores plenty of goals, important goals too, and isn’t a shred of trouble, why would we want to replace him with a gamble of any sort? How would we keep Rooney, Van Persie and Falcao happy at the same time? What would this mean for Welbeck or young Henriquez? I absolutely can’t see us sending Hernandez to Athletico Madrid to make room for Falcao, because that would be like trying to park a double-decker bus in a Tesco’s parking space.
If we could open up the space for Falcao, however, I’d be all ears. If we did move for the Colombian, then I wouldn’t shed a tear if we had to lose Wayne Rooney to make it happen.
Earlier this week I was a little upset by the majority reaction of the Manchester United fans to Michael Owen’s decision to join Stoke City. Admittedly his time at Old Trafford wasn’t the incredible glowing success that it could have been, but was it really the car-crash failure that some would have you believe and, just as importantly, was it Michael’s fault that it didn’t work out perfectly?
I can’t even think about Michael these days without jumping immediately to the 94th minute against City. Giggs threads the ball through, Owen takes a touch inside the box and toe-pokes it into the bottom corner. We win 4-3. I have almost never seen Old Trafford explode as violently or as joyously.
Wayne Rooney is one of the best footballers in the world. On the grand scale, reaching from Messi and Ronaldo at the pinnacle right down to the most overweight of park hackers in the gutter, Wayne Rooney is unquestionably so close to the top that he’s covered with snow all year round. Of this there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever.
The problem is that you could say the same about James Milner, or Dean Whitehead, or Marouanes Fellaini and Chamakh. We see these as average to poor Premiership players but, on the grand football scale, they’re all so close to the top of the sport that they could spit over the summit.
One of the better things to come from the end of last season was the establishment of David De Gea, not just as our first choice goalkeeper, but as one of the top goalkeepers in the Premier League, certainly from January onwards. After a nervous start when was rightly blamed for a few mistakes, he found the finger wrongly pointing towards him after almost every single goal conceded by Manchester United. Free header six yards out? The keeper should be claiming that. Unstoppable strike from the edge of the area? Edwin would have saved that.
United lost the opening game of the season 1-0. Everton were good value for their win, mainly thanks to a superhuman performance from Marouane Fellaini. The Moroccan won every header and physical battle and made the decisive contribution heading home from a corner. There were some promising performances from United players, but others that were simply not up to the expected standard.
Here we are again. New season, same lofty expectations, but with rare conviction this year. We’ve stolen the headlines off the pitch with our swoop for Robin van Persie. Now we need to make them on the pitch by starting well against Everton at Goodison Park.
We last started our campaign at Goodison 7 years ago, coming away with a 2-0 win thanks to goals from Wayne Rooney and a world-class Dutch striker. Where we previously had Ruud, we now have RvP, and if history repeats itself it will represent a very good start to the season against a side that we always seem to struggle against, although in that we are not alone.
The £24 million signing of Robin van Persie represents the most expensive bit of business we’ve done this summer. Indeed, it’s the most we’ve paid for a player since we fronted £33.5m for Dimitar Berbatov back in 2008. We don’t really do huge transfer fees, and we’ve had a few very expensive mistakes.
How to we fare overall with big money moves? Here we look back at our most expensive transfer each Premier League season. Some are all time United legends for the right reasons, and some we will never forget for the wrong.
Manchester United’s Robin van Persie. Now there is a phrase that I never, ever thought I would be hearing, or writing, or even contemplating. Better get used to it. £24m has done the trick, and the Dutch striker will be linking up with Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez next season at Old Trafford.
Of course, we also have Berbatov at the club, along with the still-young Federico Macheda, the injured Will Keane and the relatively unknown Angelo Henriquez. So, what does the signing of Robin van Persie mean for the other strikers at the club?
Last summer, we didn’t spend huge money on anyone, instead making three medium-sized transfers. The Premiership-proven Ashley Young suffered from faltering form, niggling injuries and uncertainty as to his place in the team, although it looks likely that he will play a key role in the coming season.