Do United already possess the nucleus of their next great side?
For the first month of this summer’s transfer window, Thiago Alcantara was hailed as the solution to Manchester United’s midfield problems.
A bid was imminent, they said…and kept saying, over and over again. Until one day Pep Guardiola read what appeared to be an open love letter to the 22-year-old and within days he was a Bayern Munich player.
Thiago has since dismissed reports United were ever interested, despite claims to the contrary from his father.
“The truth is that in no moment did United come to us and talk to us,” the player said. “It came from the press, it was always a lie.”
The same can’t be said of United’s very public pursuit of Thiago’s former Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas.
David Moyes’ side are certainly interested in him; and yet with each passing day – and each rejected bid – the chances of securing the former Gunner grow slimmer.
Alternative names are being mooted; some even more unlikely than Fabregas – such as Ilkay Gundogan – and some very much second best – most notably Yohan Cabaye.
But there is another option, one that may not reap instant rewards and yet the one that could lead to the most successful future.
United’s pre-season tour hasn’t exactly filled their supporters with confidence prior to the new campaign. Conceding nine goals against less-than-terrifying opposition is cause for concern.
Finishing the tour as United’s top scorer with four goals, Lingard has been a revelation. And despite the need to temper that with the reassertion that United’s opponents were of a certain level, the 20-year-old has stepped up while others have been prepared to remain exactly where they are.
Similarly the highly-regarded and extremely-talented Januzaj has taken the opportunity with both hands, finishing the tour with the goal his all-round performances have deserved.
And while Zaha may be erratic, he is also the spark United have been missing since Nani’s brief elevation to consistently great player back in 2010 ended just as swiftly.
And while some may accuse me of hyperbole, Powell’s performances for Crewe speak of a player who deserves a chance to show what he can do at a higher level. And surely the impressive next generation deserve the chance ahead of the likes of Nani, Ashley Young and Anderson. Would they really do any worse?
If Moyes is ultimately successful in his pursuit of Fabregas – or if he can somehow prise Gundogan away from Borussia Dortmund – then of course they will improve the side.
But signing second-choice players may not be the best alternative. Not when younger men are showing glimpses of the players they can one day be.
United have suffered as a result of such reluctance in the past – most notably in the cases of Giuseppe Rossi, Gerard Pique and Paul Pogba.
All three players may have moved on regardless, but there is little doubt they were ready to play regular first-team football before they left Old Trafford.
So as the headlines continue linking United with this player and that, Moyes would do well to look closer to home, at those he can already call on.
Given the chance, some may fall short. But others may blossom into superstars, saving United a considerable amount of money in the process.
Which players do you think United should give an immediate chance to? And do they possess all the elements to form their next great side?
image: © Paolo Camera