Tottenham’s Gareth Bale has been linked with a move to Manchester United this summer but how and where exactly would he fit in?
The Welshman has been in blistering form this season – his best yet - and has firmly fixed his place as one of the Premier League’s best talents.
Currently, the interest from United is just a rumour but should it materialize into fact, the prospect of moving to Old Trafford would likely prove too a temptation - especially if Spurs blow their chances of finishing in the top four.
Given the poor relations between the two clubs and their recent transfer dealings, Levy refusing to negotiate with them over Luka Modric, and the Zeki Fryers saga - it is unlikely, but never say never. It's worth considering how United would accommodate Bale if such a mega-move were to take place.
Bale broke into the Spurs first-team as a left back under Harry Redknapp after transferring as a teenager from Southampton. His exceptionally quality soon became apparent and Redknapp converted him into a winger where his speed, skill and flair flourished.
Now, under Andre Villas-Boas Bale sometimes operates in a central attacking midfield role just behind the striker – even on the left flank he is at his most dangerous when he drifts in-field.
At United, Ashley Young is the first-choice left-winger. The 27-year-old Englishman arrived at Old Trafford in 2011 from Aston Villa and quickly made his mark on the team.
However, since his arrival his form and fitness have been inconsistent and he is no longer considered one of the best wingers in the country.
If Bale were to be employed as an attacking midfielder what would that mean for Wayne Rooney? Rooney has adapted into more of a trequartista, sitting just behind the first-choice front man Robin van Persie.
Meanwhile, on the opposite flank Nani still hasn’t resolved his ongoing contract saga with United and, subsequently, will more than likely be sold in the summer as the Red Devils will be reluctant to lose him on a free transfer next season.
Antonio Valencia could perhaps replicate the balance in the team that Aaron Lennon provides Tottenham on the right flank opposite Bale. And let’s not forget Wilfried Zaha who arrival is imminent having signed for United from Crystal Palace in January. He too can play as a right-sided winger and would offer a similar kind of balance to Lennon.
I would imagine that if Bale did move to Old Trafford it wouldn’t be very long before Young departed – there is simply no way he could content with Bale for his place in the team.
Much like Aaron Lennon provides balance on the right flank with his pace and energy at Spurs, Valencia and Zaha could do the same. Bale would effectively replace Cristiano Ronaldo for United – his partnership with Rooney would likely resemble the former United duo that wreaked havoc on defences across the land.
The only major issue would be deciding who should take free-kicks between Van Persie, Bale and Rooney. They might have to set up a rotation system. Perhaps Bale could take Sundays and Mondays, Rooney could take Saturdays and the Dutchman could take Tuesday’s and Wednesdays.
Bale would also replace Ryan Giggs’ former presence on that left wing – the days when he could glide up the flank and skip past defenders are fewer and farther between now. He has tended to take up a more central role where he can control the tempo of the game and he’ll likely retire in the next year or so anyway.
If Bale moved to United they would be simply unstoppable – they already are this season but I wonder whether for the money it would take to lure him to Old Trafford, there is sufficient requirement for him.
Sir Alex Ferguson would likely have to offload one or two players, not only to finance the transfer, but also to make it worth his while in the squad. United have yet to replace Ronaldo sufficiently.
That was what Nani was intended to do and he has had some fantastic periods of form in his 6-year spell there but both him and Ashley Young have lacked form and fitness in recent seasons and Ferguson may foresee a need to re-invest in his wide areas.
If he wanted a winger, he couldn’t ask for a better fit for United than Gareth Bale.
image: © andybrannan