United's midfield was overrun by Manchester City on Sunday. But that may not have been the case had David Moyes been more successful with his summer shopping.
Manchester United may already be looking ahead to their next match, but the fallout from their derby defeat will continue for some time yet.
While David Moyes’ side were outplayed in every area of the pitch, it was in midfield that they were completely overrun during the frenetic – and vital – early stages.
Marouane Fellaini gave it his best shot. But with Yaya Toure in majestic form, the Belgian could do little more than admire a man at the top of his game.
But it might not have been this way.
When Moyes first arrived at Old Trafford he quickly identified the need for midfield reinforcements – with reports of potential new arrivals ranging from the realistic to the frankly absurd (Bastian Schweinsteiger anyone?).
Here we take a look at five reported summer targets who could have made a big difference on Sunday.
Say what you will about United’s pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder, but he would have been the sprinkle of midfield stardust Old Trafford has not seen for many a season. While the champions’ pursuit was ultimately fruitless, their very public attempts at bringing him back to England suggested they had received the nod from somewhere, even if that nod was swiftly retracted once the Spanish giants made it clear Fabregas was integral to their plans.
Since the start of the season, the former Arsenal midfielder has started five of Barcelona’s six matches, scoring once and providing five assists.
Another former London-based player linked with United this summer, Modric is now proving at Real Madrid exactly what all the fuss was about. He took time to settle at the Bernabeu, but the criticism directed at him following his move from Tottenham was unjustified and too swiftly meted out.
Like Fabregas, the Croatian has started five of Real’s six games so far this season (appearing from the bench in the other), and with a pass percentage of 92.2%, he has been successful with more passes than any United player up to this point.
Long-linked with a switch to City, the 30-year-old Italian was reportedly the subject of a £10million bid from United in the final days of the transfer window. Stories later emerged that the Roma player would have been open to a move earlier in the summer, but true or not, United proved averse to getting anything done early.
What is certain is that the experienced Italy international would not have allowed the likes of Yaya Toure to dominate centrally. Strong when it comes to ball interception and blocking, he is the savvy strength United were clearly lacking against their fierce rivals.
United’s first transfer saga of the summer ended when Thiago moved from Barcelona to Bayern Munich. And while there are contrasting reports as to why United did not make their move, both parties may now be wondering if the correct decision was made.
The Spanish playmaker suffered an ankle injury on his first start for the Bundesliga champions, which ruled him out for the next seven weeks. And while that was a cruel twist of fate for a young man expected to reach global superstardom, United’s lack of creative spark was clearer than ever as they toiled to break down an outstanding City backline.
Given that United have Wayne Rooney and appear unable to find a place for Shinji Kagawa, the signing of Mesut Ozil may have been deemed an unnecessary extravagance. But the simple fact is, had Sir Alex Ferguson still been in charge at United, he would surely have attempted to sign the mercurial German ahead of Arsenal.
Contrasting reports this summer claimed Moyes was either offered the German only to refuse, or that he made a late attempt to hijack Ozil’s switch to the Emirates. But the former Real Madrid man has shown in just two Premier League games for the Gunners that he is an assist waiting to happen. How United could have done with his creativity at the Etihad….and for the matches to come.
Who from the above list do you wish United had signed? And who do you hope they move for in the future?
image: © Ines11thiago