With 1,705 passes attempted from 23 starts in the Spanish La Liga with Real Madrid last season, Xabi Alonso fortified his reputation as one of the more accomplished passers of the football in the modern game - a label underlined as he was accurate with 88% of them, making an average of 65.6 per appearance and creating 23 goal-scoring opportunities.
With an abundance of Premier League experience it is no surprise that the midfield continues to be linked with various clubs in search of a player of his calibre, but how does the 32-year-old compare to what the Old Trafford already has in Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley?
|2013-14 Premier League||Team||Touches / apps||Total Pass / apps||Pass accuracy||Chances created||Goal assist||Apps||Mins|
As the above data table indicates, Carrick - who is one year Alonso's senior at 33 - created more key passes (28), was just as accurate in the pass, but was responsible for more passes on a per game average. When compared to Cleverley, though, Alonso - on face value (and on the field) - is a far superior option.
Carrick competed in over 400 more minutes of top-tier league football than Alonso last season and, when statistics are considered on a per minute basis, both are responsible for a near identical pass rate - one attempted pass per 1.1 minutes, with both returning a goal-scoring opportunity for a team-mate every 86 minutes.
A purchase of Alonso represents a short-term option as, with no resale value and at 32-years-old, he is fast approaching past-prime status while there are, or at least were (Toni Kroos) elite level operators available on the market.
If Alonso were to be acquired as a stop-gap solution, a pursuit of Ilkay Gundogan - who signed a new contract with Borussia Dortmund earlier in the year and is injured until September - could resurface in the coming transfer windows, as could a move for Kevin Strootman or Arturo Vidal.
What United need to be aware of, though, is that the closer we move to deadline day, any new target could be regarded as a panic buy should acquisition materialise.