Following the news that Manchester United had bid for Everton’s Leighton Baines, the future of the champion’s current left-backs shifted significantly.
Suddenly the rumours linking Patrice Evra with a return to Monaco seemed likely, while Alexander Buttner would have realised it was about to get even harder to cement a first-team place and Fabio probably just wept.
The simple fact is, if Baines arrives he will be United’s left-back of choice for the duration of his contract.
No longer could Buttner and Fabio hold on to the hope that they were competing with an ageing rival. The England international’s signing would leave them with little more than League Cup starts and Champions League dead-rubbers.
But that isn’t necessarily the case; at least not where Buttner is concerned. I have written in the past that Fabio could do a good job on the left wing if given the chance. But it is actually the Dutchman who has all the attributes to be an outstanding alternative to Ashley Young.
Defensively he remains naïve, lacking positional awareness. Of course anyone who remembers Evra’s debut against Manchester City will tell you weaknesses can be rectified over time. And yet Buttner doesn’t give the impression of being an attacking full-back so much as an attacker asked to play in defence.
When he charges forward he does so without fear but with plenty of skill. And his ability to beat a man with sheer pace, hugging the touchline rather than cutting inside as Young so often does, gives Buttner the advantage when it comes to out-and-out wing-play.
It is somewhat surprising that despite his attacking ability and penchant for goal-scoring, Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t see fit to give him a chance further up the field. And yet with the arrival of David Moyes, there is every chance Baines and Buttner could play together rather than instead of one another, forming an effective partnership down the left.
Should Antonio Valencia rediscover his form and continue to develop his relationship with Rafael on the opposite flank, United could have balance, creativity and defensive nous on both sides of the pitch.
With a new manager comes new opportunities, and it will be interesting to see if the Dutchman gets the chance to be not just a bit-part player but a vital piece of a new-look United.
Anyone unsure of Buttner’s ability further up the field need only look at the compilation below.
image: © eirikref