The Red Devils were thought to be hot on the trail of the Netherlands international at the outset of the summer, but were beaten to the punch by the Stadio Olimpico outfit in a deal worth a total of £17 million.
Soon after making the switch to the Italian capital the former PSV Eindhovan man admitted he never expected to command such a fee and felt pressure in connection to his price-tag, but has proven one of the most astute purchases in Europe thus far in the campaign.
His success has made United to feel more pain as turmoil has been rampant at Old Trafford and Marouane Fellaini has abjectly failed to justify his big money deadline day switch.
Reports in recent weeks suggested that the Premier League champions would seek to rectify having let Strootman, who has recalled that he was drawn in by Roma’s desire to see him in Giallorosso and the influence of boss Rudi Garcia, slip through their fingers by coming in with a sensational £30 million bid just months after his move to Italy.
Yet the 23-year-old’s agent, Chiel Dekker, told Sky Sports just last week that his client remains keen to have a lengthy spell with his current employers in defiance of Dick Advocaat’s previous suggestion that he would soon depart.
And Strootman only added to the Mancunians’ remorse on Monday, in concert with Italian transfer guru Gianluca Di Marzio’s contention that United target Fredy Guarin will leave Inter to play for Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in January.
Roma drew 2-2 with AC Milan at San Siro to maintain their unbeaten record in Serie A with Strootman at the centre of proceedings in midfield.
It was his square ball from the left side of the penalty area that assisted Mattia Destro for the Giallorossi’s opener inside the opening quarter-hour, whilst he struck a clinical effort from the penalty spot early in the second half to give his side a lead that would only be compromised late on by former Portsmouth man Sulley Muntari.
But beyond his involvement with both of his side’s goals, the young Dutchman was everywhere. He had the most touches of any player on either team with 85, as it was particularly important he get on the ball with Miralem Pjanic suspended on the day, and didn’t disappoint in distribution in completing 54 of 64 passes (85%).
His impetus to both drive forward and track back, matching with his technical skills, has been the key to his success at the heart of Garcia’s Roma project, whilst consistency belying his 23 years indicates that his future is brighter than imaginable.
Exactly this type of individual is what Manchester United lack in midfield, where Fellaini hasn’t proved mobile enough, Ryan Giggs has shown his age and others such as Tom Cleverley haven’t shown the quality that characterises a top club.
Strootman isn’t going anywhere for the time being and United will need to look elsewhere to solve their woes as he continues to show the Red Devils what they missed out on.
Down the road the 23-year-old may indeed move on as Advocaat predicted, but for the time being David Moyes and company will be left to rue not stumping up the £17 million Roma were initially questioned for paying out for his services, with the Old Trafford outfit left to scour the landscape for a Strootman of their own.
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