The transfer deadline day is a day unlike any other. Although the summer transfer window is open for three months, some of the most bizarre and unforeseeable transfers only happen on the last day of the window.
Sometimes an injury to a key player forces the manager’s hand and makes him go for a player on deadline day, when he otherwise wouldn’t have. While some other times it is just sheer panic that forces a club to break the bank and sign a player whom they might not even need. Whatever the case, it is fair to say that the final day of the transfer window is often the most interesting.
Speaking of transfers that no one saw coming, this summer’s deadline day too saw its fair share of it. While Hull City’s club-record transfer of striker Abel Hernandez was quite something, that transfer that took most of the footballing world by storm is the one that saw Manchester United go for Radamel Falcao and sign him on a season-long loan deal.
Yes, Manchester United’s marquee signing on deadline day wasn’t a central midfielder or a central defender, but a center forward, albeit a world class one. All summer long, the club have been crying out loud for some reinforcements at the back and in central midfield. Although the arrival of Daley Blind on deadline day rectified that somewhat, the club’s decision to sign a striker was considered somewhat strange to say the least.
While the departure of Danny Welbeck to Arsenal and Javier Hernandez to Real Madrid on loan, left the club slightly short on numbers up front, the club’s decision to spend over £15 m (wages included) on a loan signing was seen as a desperate move by some. But the truth is that Falcao is one of the finest center forwards in the wolrd right now and would immeasurably add to the club’s strength up front.
As good as Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have been, neither seems to have the pace and power to run at defenders. Although they were seen as the dream team by many once the Dutchman had signed, they have so fairly only fired in bits and pieces and haven’t shone on a consistent basis. For all that they bring to the table, both players are pretty similar in that they prefer to drop deep and create and at times get in each other’s way.
The signing of Falcao even if it is just for a year means that it is highly unlikely that Rooney and Van Persie will be playing up front too often. Falcao’s pace, power and eye for goal means that he is likely to slot right into the first team, which will pose Louis Van Gaal with a selection dilemma he would love to have. With the Colombian taking up one of the two striker roles, he has to decide whether to stick with Van Persie, who has gone off the boil of late or the club captain Wayne Rooney as his main man up front.
The simple option would be play Van Persie alongside Falcao and move Rooney back into midfield in a role that many see him playing in the future. Rooney, who turns 29 next month, doesn’t have the explosive pace that he had a few years ago and a move into midfield will mean that he will be at the center of everything that the Red Devils create. But the problem with is that the Englishman is unlikely to take that role willingly and while his cross-field passes are a delight, he doesn’t have the short passing or the first touch necessary to play in midfield.
The other option would be to bench Van Persie, who is 31 now and is looking like he is on the way down, as far as his form is concerned. While the Dutchman still has a better first touch than perhaps any of the other strikers at the club, as the game as Burnley showed, his finishing touch isn’t what it was at the start of last season. The Dutchman is unlikely to carry on after a couple of seasons particularly given his injury record, and by sticking him up front, Van Gaal is sure to anger Rooney, someone who is three years his junior.
Van Gaal certainly has a tough task at hand as he prepares his side to take on QPR next weekend. But one thing is for sure, even if he chooses Van Persie to partner Falcao in attack this season, he is better off choosing Rooney in the long run, not just because of his position as team captain but also his age. Whoever is up front against QPR, Manchester United certainly look as though they might finally be a joy to watch this season, which cannot be said of their performances in the last 15 months.