Hargreaves: over and out

June 3, 2009 Tags: Reads 7 comments

It is fair to say that the protracted acquisition of Owen Hargreaves at great expense from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2007 has been an unmitigated disaster. A disaster that just got worst with the news that the Canadian-English international will not now play again for United until January 2010. With the latest setback to Hargreaves’ United career questions must now be raised about whether he will ever play for the club again. It poses a serious dilemma for Sir Alex Ferguson, who needs to rebuild confidence in a midfield that was so badly exposed by Barcelona in the Champions League final. Should Sir Alex cut and run by offloading Hargreaves when he’s finally fit and bringing in new blood, or stick it out and hope that when the player finally returns he will be as good as ever?

With the departure of Roy Keane, United have lacked a true tough-tackling defensive midfielder. This much is true even with the rise in performance this season of Michael Carrick, whose positional sense and effective passing has been instrumental to United’s success. But for the sake of balance Ferguson pursued Hargreaves for two summers, until Munich finally gave in and United’s board handed over the best part of £20 million. Despite some criticism that Hargreaves plays in the same position as Carrick, the move was broadly right. Hargreaves adds something different to United’s squad. Indeed, if the midfielder had been fit, his energy and ability to break up play may have made some difference in the Champions League final.

Now Ferguson must decide whether, for the same reasons of squad balance, he needs to spend big this summer on a tough-tackling defensive midfielder to compliment the abilities of Darren Fletcher, Anderson and the aforementioned Carrick. But this task wont be easy or cheap. Top-class defensive midfielders can be counted on the fingers of one hand and the price to United would surely be in excess of £20 million – the fee that Real Madrid paid for Portsmouth’s former Chelsea and Arsenal reserve Lassana Diarra.

Of course the same criticisms apply to any new acquisition as they did to that of Hargreaves in the first place. Fletcher, Anderson and Carrick have all occupied deep lying midfield slots in the past season. Is there value to the squad in having yet another player in that position? This argument is even more pointed when we think about the experience against Barcelona in Rome, where Barcelona’s ability to keep the ball was so fundamentally destructive to United’s hopes. While Carrick and Paul Scholes, when he plays, rarely give away the ball, the same cannot be said of Fletcher, Anderson and to some extent Giggs. Perhaps Ferguson would be better spending £20-£30 million on a creative midfielder who might stand-up to the class of Andreas Iniesta or Xavi Hernandez, who so embarrassed United in the Champions League final?


Sherwin - June 3, 2009 Reply

They already have a midfielder of the class of Andreas Iniesta or Xavi Hernandez, his name is Paul Scholes

Marco - June 5, 2009 Reply

Scholes is in the twilight of his career, as is Giggs. And while Carrick and Anderson both have a good passing range as well as a great reading of the game, they’re not in the class of Xavi or Iniesta.
We need a defensive midfielder, a playmaker and a rightback. Neville is past it, and Rafael needs more time to grow into the role.
The goalie spot is also worrying. Van Der Sar isn’t going to be around for long, Foster is too injury prone to be considered a future #1 and Kuzcak is at best, a reserve goalie.

RED - June 4, 2009 Reply

Who by the way has 1 season left in him, at best 2.

Ichiro - June 6, 2009 Reply

Agree completely with the article.

None of the touted replacements for Scholesy have stepped up and he himself has had a poor season and is 34/35 anyway.

I honestly can’t think of anyone out there that could replace Scholesy, for most of his career he has been way better than Iniesta, Xavi, Lampard and the players around today. Probably only Zidane was better.

Ben - June 22, 2009 Reply

i would love to see him in the red shirt again, he is as humble as gifted.
the morbid joke about the whole thing is that when ferguson signed owen, he had already become injury prone.
the year after munich had pulled out of the deal, he could only manage a handful of games, despite this his value had doubled because munich realized that unlike in germany his style was appreciated in england.
the result was him staying one season longer at bayern and fergie paying over the odds for a player who can’t last a season.

VARUN - June 23, 2009 Reply

wesley sneijder!

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