With the transfer window now closed there are plenty of new faces around the United squad, and some very expensive ones at that. With the arrivals of Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, Louis Van Gaal has added arguably two of the best players on the planet to his team with last seasons Champions League Final man of the match in Di Maria and possibly the best out and out number 9 around at the moment in Falcao.
Signing players of this ilk is obviously fantastic and I feel first of all I have an apology to make to a certain Ed Woodward. After his interview during pre-season stating he was tired of seeing all the best players going to Madrid and Barcelona, and that we had plenty of money to spend, I was sceptical about his ability to pull deals off, especially with the Arturo Vidal saga rumbling on and on. However his “watch this space” comment really was credible (even though we had to wait until 1:30am on Transfer Deadline Day to see Falcao) as he brought in two superb signings. So Ed, this is to you… I’m sorry (Although you did overpay for Di Maria and let “dat guy” Danny Welbeck go to Arsenal!!)
However, and this is where the issue lies, have United simply tried to paint over the cracks by bringing in these to marquee signings, as in all seriousness the main problems, i.e. defence haven’t been addressed fully. This is where, in my mind, the title for this post comes from. Have United become the new Real Madrid / Galacticos in that we have an embarrassment of riches up top with the likes of Falcao, Mata, RVP, Di Maria, Rooney and Januzaj but are still lacking a leader who can marshall the defence and terrify opposition stikers, much like Vidic used to do in his pomp, and the answer to that is no.
There are two Real Madrid sides which spring to mind here, the current squad and the team from the early 2000’s; the first Galactico side. The latter of the two sides contained the attacking prowess of Ronaldo (original!), Raul, Figo, Zidane, Beckham and Guti who at the time were some of the best players around with Zidane being the worlds most expensive player when he signed from Juventus for £50m. However as good as they were going forward the weakness was at the back with players including Ivan Helguera, Jonathan Woodgate, Raul Bravo, Francisco Pavon and Roberto Carlos. Carlos? I hear you say, however from a defensive point of view he really wasn’t that good!
During a period of 6 years from 2000 – 2006 this team, with all its attacking talent only managed to win two major trophies; the Champions League (THAT Zidane goal) and La Liga. In a period where Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia were the top sides in Spain, 1 league title in 6 years simply wasn’t good enough. In 4 of these seasons Los Blancos unsurprisingly outscored their rivals but at the other end were leaking goals and conceded almost as many as they scored; on one occasion conceding 27 more goals than eventual champions Valencia.
Moving on to the current crop of Galacticos and yes I know they won la Decima in swashbuckling fashion last season, but their league form was poor, finishing third behind Barca and city rivals Atletico. My issue with the current team is more looking forward than back and Saturdays 4-2 defeat to Real Sociedad showed some alarming issues at the back for Real and some that could continue throughout the season. Being 2-0 ahead many would have been forgiven for switching channels at the inevitability of another Real Madrid win, especially as Sociedad had lost their opening fixture against Liga new boys and minnows Eibar however this wasn’t the case. A back four of Marcelo, Pepe, Ramos and Carvajal shows alarming similarities to that of the team perviously mentioned. Marcelo was hopeless during the World Cup and has been on the decline for several seasons, Pepe… well it’s Pepe does anyone rate this guy!? Carvajal is good but not great and is prone to a lapse in concentration as well as being especially fond of a forward run. Ramos, for me, is the only real defender in this back line who can actually defend and as we all know he is partial to the odd red card here and there.
So how does this tie back to United? At the end of the day this is a United website and not a Real Madrid one! Firstly when comparing all three of these sides we see a huge amount of talent going forward and to add to the list already mentioned we can add Gareth Bale, Cristiano, James, Benzema, Modric, Jese, Chicharito and Toni Kroos. Going forward, United should cause any defence issues but when under the cosh themselves I fear we may have issues. Smalling hasn’t looked assured in the back three at all this season and Tyler Blackett is still learning his trade and although has been impressive so far will still need time to bed in. Phil Jones has stepped up and has been arguably United’s best player at the back so far. Argentine Marcos Rojo is to come into the side should he ever get a work permit and will hopefully bring some grit and tough tackles. Out wide Luke Shaw has already shown his prowess as a left full back and has the ability to get forward. On the right there are still issues as unless Rafael can curb his Sergio Ramos esq desire to see red United will be forced to play Valencia, who does have experience there, but really isn’t a full back. The arrival of Daley Blind in central defensive midfield should also help provide some much needed cover in front of the back three as well as giving Ander Herrera some more creative freedom but is it enough?
All in all, what I am trying to say to United fans is let’s be prepared for some mesmerising play going forward (once they all gel!) as I expect Falcao to score bags of goals with Di Maria, Mata and Rooney providing assists however when under pressure ourselves, we could ship a few in return. I for one hope I am wrong and LVG can galvanise them into a water tight unit and the new look Galacticos of Manchester can put United back in their rightful place; top of the league.