A couple of years ago there was one name that always popped up when Manchester United were dragged into the transfer column inches. That name was Steven Defour.
Defour burst onto the football scene at RC Genk as a 17-year-old in 2005. His breakout season proved him to be a magnificent talent, with an incisive passing ability and he soon caught the eye of Dutch giants Ajax - before forcing a move to Standard Liege.
In Liege he became captain at just 19, won Belgium’s player of the season and led the team to Jupiler League glory two seasons running. It was also during his time at Liege that Manchester United first registered an interest in the talents of the Mechelen born maestro. With a similar style of play to Paul Scholes, but with a far more proficient tackling ability and box-to-box mentality, he suited the Manchester United mould immediately.
The interest and keenness on getting Defour on board was perpetuated when, after a broken foot in 2009, Sir Alex Ferguson sent the Belgium international a personal letter wishing him a speedy recovery. If that doesn’t tell you the high regard and esteem thought of him at Old Trafford then not much else will…
“Dear Steven, I have just heard about your injury and, in the name of Manchester United, I would like to wish you a full and speedy recovery. I am sure at the moment you must be feeling awful and that you'll have all kinds of questions. Steven, these are natural worries but I have to tell you that modern medicine and treatments are incredible; you have to have confidence in them. Don't worry, everything will work out. You will have to work hard to come back and I am going to follow your performances. I will remain in contact with Standard."
Defour stated in response to that letter:
“It's a really nice gesture but I wouldn't want people to get the idea that I think I'm already a Manchester United player. But if they come knocking, then I would not cause problems."
It was a very nice gesture - but don’t for one minute think Fergie did it solely out the kindness of his heart. He rated Defour highly and fancied him at United.
Well now Defour is reportedly up for grabs at FC Porto and the Belgian international seems to be going backwards in his potential destination.
Anderlecht are a giant in Belgian football. But the standard of the Jupiler League has plummeted in recent years despite the rise in Belgian football’s popularity.
He is now at FC Porto and has also been linked with Fulham - but Anderlecht general manager Herman van Holsbeeck:
"Anderlecht will be a good option for him. Let's say he joins Fulham, then he will have to settle again. At Anderlecht he will be the star. If he wants to be sure of his place in the Belgian World Cup squad, then we are a perfect option. Steven is an intelligent guy. I think he knows this."
But United need a midfielder in the Defour mould. Whether he has the quality necessary to improve David Moyes’ side remains to be seen - but if Fergie was still the boss you could be sure he would be thinking about it.
And Defour would likely jump at the chance.
image: © tomjoad