There has rarely been such a buzz around a player than when Manchester United secured the services of Radamel Falcao on a season long loan this summer. The Red’s had the footballing world gripped as the 28-year-old Colombian billed as the most deadly striker in Europe made his way into Carrington. Since then the honeymoon period has somewhat ended and the striker once nicknamed ‘The Tiger’ looks rather toothless.
Falcao was excluded from Sunday’s 18-man squad which slumped to a 1-0 defeat against Southampton casting further doubt over his long term future in Manchester. Louis Van Gaal himself did little to play down reports by simply stating the Columbian did not figure in his plans for that particular game. It should be noted however that reports of then striker “storming out” were in fact false.
The decision to drop the player of course shocked many and appears rather foolish in hindsight after viewing Van Persie depart the Old Trafford pitch with a limp. Young James Wilson was named on the bench, and despite a very bright future ahead of him can you really justify naming a 19-year-old who hasn’t a single goal to his name this season ahead of a forward earning over £250,000 a week with 3 goals and 3 assists to his name?
There is a conspiracy that the “super agent” Jorge Mendes may be forcing the 28-year-old upon the club with the bargaining tool of also having this year’s player of the season so far, David De Gea, also among his clients. It may possibly be a statement of defiance by Van Gaal, Sir Alex wouldn’t have had players forced upon him so why should he? This of course is all speculation for now.
Going back to Falcao’s stats in a red shirt, 3 goals and 3 assists is far from breathtaking, but when you consider he has struggled for fitness and only started 8 games it starts to put things into a little more context.
The fact of the matter is that despite United being the fifth highest scorers in the Premier League; which is far from great in itself, the Red’s rank in the bottom-half of the table when it comes to the amount of chances created. Shockingly Louis Van Gaal’s side have also not won a single penalty all season, United are simply poor when put bluntly in the final third of the pitch.
Falcao doesn’t go from being one of the most feared strikers in Europe to a bad player overnight, 52 goal in 67 league games for Atletico Madrid and 41 goals in 48 league games for FC Porto gives substance to this argument. A workman can’t work without his tools and an out and out goalscorer can’t score without being given chances.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy was one of the best goal scorers we have seen in a red shirt in recent times. He too was an out and out goalscorer with 95 goals in 150 games under Sir Alex Ferguson but he in contrast was spoon fed chances on a game by game basis. Van Nistelrooy had the privilege of Paul Scholes and David Beckham alongside him in their golden years, Falcao has had the presence of Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini.
The manager isn’t solely to blame of course but excluding the striker from the squad on Sunday and then opting to play arguably the club’s most creative player in Angel Di Maria up-top is rather questionable. Di Maria had a poor game in all accords, left isolated for large periods and funnily enough suffered from a lack of service, funny that. Move the Argentine back and let him do what he does best, create. Maybe then Falcao will get the chances he needs to feed upon.
Confidence is also a primary factor in any strikers form. There has rarely been a forward in the game that hasn’t faced a goal drought sometime in his career. Robin Van Persie of course faced a 10-game goal drought in United’s record 20th title winning season despite being on fire for the majority of the campaign. If Falcao can net a couple of goals in succession the confidence will build, the injury after netting his first goal for the club at home against Everton quite obviously stagnated the players progress
Falcao’s well documented knee injury also cannot be forgotten about. Without it being the player’s fault of course that he suffered such a serious injury he needs to put in that little extra work in order to get back to the peak of his fitness. In the games he has played the Columbian has cut an exhausted figure at times, the 0-0 bore draw away at Spurs a prime example. In France or Spain it can arguably be easier to coast through games on occasions with a methodical tempo, the rapid end-to-end pace of the English game is not quite such a forgiving environment.
The striker has displayed elements of his game that evoke he can cut it at Old Trafford, his header away to Aston Villa portraying the player we may all have seen on Youtube. His strength as well is also a prime asset, the number nine is not afraid of a battle and on occasions has fended of no less than three players before squaring the ball to a team-mate.
Reports are yet to emerge of the extent to Van Persie’s injury sustained on Sunday, for Radamel Falcao it may well be a blessing in disguise. The decision to sell Danny Welbeck in the summer still seems a slightly strange one, in truth United could be entering this summer with a Robin Van Persie on his final legs, a Wayne Rooney more suited to the midfield area and an unproven James Wilson. Not quite the world class strike force we’re all marketed into believing.
There’s still plenty of time for the Radamel Falcao we were all so excited about signing last summer to make a real impact upon the club. Van Gaal has proven he is not afraid to give him a run of games and if the Red’s can begin to muster some chances then Falcao might just start scoring some of them. If all else fails of course the striker will head back to the sun of Monaco in the summer and United will have £45 million in their back pocket to explore pastures new.