Moyes moves on midfield trio – just in time

Ander Herrera

It was, in truth, not the cleanest of goals. Juventus’ number six spun onto his left foot to strike home the Old Lady’s first in a 4-0 Supercopa victory over Lazio a fortnight ago. Paul Pogba’s opener, struck low past Federico Marchetti, was the latest stepping stone in a career that has reached a new level since a £250,000 move from Manchester United a little over 12 months ago.

United lost a potential world star and the Reds continue to search Europe for a high-quality midfielder to augment David Moyes’ squad.

Indeed, Pogba’s rise is such that is comes as no surprise that Real Madrid enquired about the Lagny-sur-Marne-born midfielder this summer. Juventus director general Giuseppe Marotta rebuffed any talk of Pogba moving on, although the gossip pages put a mooted fee in the £40 million region. The rise from United reserve team to the world stage is almost complete.

Still, if United’s spectacular mishandling of Pogba’s career – the lack of first team appearances and a low-balled contract offer – during three years in Manchester is now an expensive failure, then the club is making a belated move to fill the hole. Indeed, the summer long United has chased the signature of a top class midfielder – to embarrassingly little success.

While an attempt to bring in Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcántara was hugely unrealistic, United has moved on to more obtainable targets in recent days, with the transfer window now closing in hours rather than weeks.

Yet it was with some surprise that the club finally made good on a long-standing interest in Atletic Bilbao’s midfielder Ander Herrera on Friday – the Reds’ failed bid reportedly amounting to €30 million. United will likely have to activate the player’s €36 million contract release clause to bring Herrara to Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old Basque is tidy in possession, and keen in the tackle, marking the former Real Zaragoza player as a hybrid of those already sought by David Moyes this window. Herrera is neither classic playmaker in Alcántara’s mould, nor goalscoring creator à la Fabregas, nor indeed does he possess the physical presence of Mouranne Fellaini.

It is little wonder that United fans cannot discern a transfer strategy amid the myriad bids rejected this summer, with no two players seemingly alike. It is a scatterngun policy that may only bear fruit in the final moments of the window.

Herrera is yet to make his full international debut, making the deal overpriced but a key turning point in the player’s career. Champions League football and a high profile transfer may help Herrera ease his way into a Spain squad that boasts midfield riches including Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Santi Cazorla, Isco, and Fàbregas.

Yet, while United continues to blunder around the market Ed Woodward and Moyes may have struck lucky with Herrera, who will not be sold for less than his release clause, but is available nonetheless. United must either increase the bid for the former Spanish under-21 international or pull out defeated by the market once again.

“Our club is different, in that it is based on feeling,” said Bilbao president Josu Urrutia on Friday.

“Our objective is not to make money. We received the offer last night, and we communicated that we do not negotiate for our players. If a player is to leave, first he has to inform us that he wants to go and then his release clause has to be met.”

Those of a more curious bent may ponder the club’s failure pursue a similar strategy of activating Fellaini’s release clause before it expired in mid-July, with the Reds now set to pay more than the £23.5 million stipulated in the Belgian’s contract. While Everton has thus far been intransigent – rejecting joint bids of £28 and £36 million for Fellaini and left-back Leighton Baines – most observers expect a deal for the Belgian to go through before Monday.

Meanwhile, United’s late attempt to capture three central midfielders before the 2 September deadline reportedly includes Roma’s experienced Italian international Daniele Di Rossi, once the subject of significant interest from Manchester City.

Roma might have considered an offer this summer except for being light on numbers following the departures of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo, and Bojan Krkic, together with Simone Perrotta’s retirement.

However, the 30-year-old was always unlikely to sanction move, having publicly committed both to club and his family in Rome – a fact that supporters with an internet connection and Google translate presumably knew well ahead of Woodward and company. Plus ça change this summer it seems.

More unlikely still is a move for Real Madrid’s Kaká, despite paper talk over the weekend. The Brazilian is finally ready to leave Los Merengues in search of more football in a World Cup year. Former club Milan remain interested in the 31-year-old, although the player’s €10 million per season wages and Madrid’s desire to see a return on the €56 million transfer fee is a significant roadblock. The same is very much true of a mooted, but far-fetched, move to Manchester.

None of the deals are yet sealed of course, leaving Moyes to fall back on Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Anderson for United’s trip to Anfield on Sunday. Not that Brendon Rodgers can boast any greater depth of resources in central midfield.

Moyes may look on developments at White Hart Lane with greater envy though. Friday’s £11 million deal for Danish playmaker Christian Eriksen followed the £8 million acquisition of Étienne Capoue and £17 million Brazilian Paulinho. Add Mousa Dembélé, Gylfi Sigurðsson and Lewis Holtby into the mix and Spurs’ boss Andre Villas-Boas boasts six full international central midfielders at his disposal.

Which leaves fans all the more frustrated that the club was unable to tie Pogba down to a new contract 12 months ago. The Frenchman blamed Sir Alex Ferguson’s refusal to grant the teenager more time in the first team; the Scot attributed cause to Pogba’s agent. Both stories contain an element of truth.

In the meantime Moyes has until 11pm om Monday to fill the void.

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  • chris coyle

    “Indeed, the summer long United has chased the signature of a top class midfielder – to embarrassingly little success.”

    Actually, thus far it is total and abject failure in this endeavour; not so much as a quantum of success. Whilst we are about it, Ferguson was the man responsible for playing Giggs in the position Pogba should have been given during the “Glazer puppet years of his tenure”
    Still, his name is on the stand and he has his £2m a year board position as recompense

  • https://www.facebook.com/robert.bald.5 Robert Bald

    Great post

  • Tom

    Ander Herrera does seem like a highly rated midfielder, but the price is so high. I don’t think we have much choice now but to pay the high transfer fee, but it is a strange situation. We where sent on a merry go round by Fabregas and wasted so much time there.

    I can’t understand how Everton turned down £38 million for Baines and Fellaini. If you break it down it would be £15 million for Baines and £23 million for Fellaini. The release clause in Fellaini contract was 23 million, so we made a fair offer and should just move on now.

    I can understand Everton do not want to lose these two players, but both want to leave and sample Champions League football. I think we have always been fair with Everton in the past, and sold them good players like Phil Neville, Tim Howard, Louis Saha and Darron Gibson. We sold those players at reasonable prices as well.

    Everton want to fall out over this then fine. I think long-term they will lose out more because we will not sell or loan any players to Everton anymore. The fact that Moyes is our manager would have given Everton an advantage, but not anymore.

    I want us to make signings, but I want the right players and at a respectable price. If we cannot achieve it then we need to accept that no new signings will be made. We have to focus on Adnan Januzaj, Nick Powell and Jesse Lindgard and their development.

    We need to plan better in the future, but not make panic signings because we have a good team already.

  • Kenny yemi

    As far back as three years, united have been short of quality midfielders. Fletcher is an injury player, clerverly is not improving, kagawa is not having much play time, anderson is not reckoned with although he ‘s not improving, carrick, the main power house although not skiful. Pls and pls im a futbal analyst and i had had opportunities of predicting correctly based on xperience, so if i may suggest a squad for united; defenders: rafael2, evra3, ferdinand5, vidic6, valencia/nani7, buttner11, kagawa10, carrick4, rvp9 and rooney8. Try that and see wot we achieved at the end of the season, trophy is not all about spending but about unity, so united we stand.

  • twat

    Spurs also have Sandro.
    It’s been an extraordinary window, seemingly full of incompetance from our board. Guillem Balague now reports that there is no more communication between the clubs regarding Herrera and we refuse to go to €36m from €30m despite the fact that everyone knows that’s his release clause. Having said that, there are still a couple of days left of the window to right some serious wrongs.

  • Neil

    Losing Pogba was a disaster, he seemed to have a lot of potential. Hope the same doesn’t happen with Januzaj, who is a different type of player but has almost as much potential talent.

    The transfer market these days is surreal and totally illogical, if Paulinho’s value was £17 million then I can’t fathom why Fellaini could be worth more than £17 million, while Herrera might be valued around £20 million at the most. But then I’m not trying to be like Arsene Wenger, in total denial that football has moved on and that most transfer fees these days are vastly inflated.

    What I understand less than this is that it has taken Woodward and Moyes approximately 9 weeks to reach this point, that is a significant amount of time in a transfer window even if they are a new duo. Even a casual Premiership fan would have known that United’s biggest area for strengthening was central midfield and yet nothing seems even close to being resolved. There’s nothing worse than rushing transfer business; Chelsea forked out £50 million on Torres, in a rush, and didn’t do enough due diligence to realise his injuries had completely changed him, consequently it was a poor signing.

    We can only hope that United don’t do any panic buying, I would rather just sign Herrera rather than try to buy 3 midfielders, it will then be better to put any additional funds towards future deals rather than buying people for the sake of it.

    Another hope is that this baptism of fire in the transfer market helps the 2 newbies in charge figure out what they’re supposed to be doing at this level. It’s no coincidence that individuals who are supposedly good at handling transfers, such as Levy at Spurs, have been doing it for a long time (12 years in Levy’s case). We need to keep the faith because they can’t surely be as shambolic as this from January 2014 onwards.

  • Denton Davey

    “The cow in someone else’s field………”

  • ForeverRed

    Ed – As I think you infer, we should face the facts as they are – Fergie is the reason we’re in this predicament. His stubborn refusal to invest in the MF has turned a drama into a crisis in the making. He should never have left his successor with such a problem, but instead over the last 5 years he chose to splash out 120M+ on the likes of Anderson, Hargreaves, Nani, Berbatov, Tosic, Bebe, Smalling, Kagawa, Young and Jones (not bad players, but wastefully, none of them are first team regulars) – in fact, we’ve failed to get anything like a Scholes or Keane replacement – while letting the closest thing to it go in Paul Pogba. What on earth was the club’s thinking here, when we’re now supposedly looking at numerous 30-40M midfielders??? Fergie is single handedly to blame for the perennial deterioration of our MF with absolutely zero strategic plan for its rejuvenation. Our David Gill replacement has turned out to be amateur, but I’m not yet willing to attach too much blame to Moyes for this embarrassing state of affairs. This has been in the making for several years under Fergie’s watch. Harsh maybe, but fair.

  • Murphy

    Seriously David…just give Kagawa a change…he wont disappoint…

  • http://facebook kimbugwe Geofrey

    we rather go for Iker Muniain than Ander Herrera b’se he is speedy skillful and can easily suit in our team but Herrera is just like kagawa and it will take along time for him to suit in united,but what i think we are going to get Modric from Madrid.

  • Rich P

    We shouldn’t spend money just for the sake of it, i think Utd could have gotten a few players but have handled everything very badly but we do have very good youth and reserve players like Ben Pearson and Nick Powell maybe its time to give youth a chance rather than pay over the odds now.

    • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

      Neither Pearson nor Powell are anywhere near ready to start for United in central midfield.

      • cyrildo

        I honestly don’t get the too young for first team. Beckham scholes and co were all the same age when they got into the team and we all know what happened there

        • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk Ed

          cyrildo – who said too young? Not ready is different….

  • Denton Davey

    ForeverRed @ 12:56: “Fergie is single handedly to blame for the perennial deterioration of our MF with absolutely zero strategic plan for its rejuvenation.”

    That’s a bit harsh – there was a plan but it hasn’t worked. YoungTom just hasn’t improved (too much of the sideways/backwards passing) while FatBoyAndo has had his problems and Pogba is a thoroughly-modern mercenary. All three had big up-sides but now there’s basically diddly-squat in value from their contributions.

    Allowing for SAF’s bare-cupboard in midfield, the solution was obvious – spend and import some mercenaries of our own. What’s been so galling this summer has been the way in which the shopping has been conducted – trying out low-ball offers for Fabregas rather than going in with a take-it-or-leave-it final offer of, say, 45 million for a guy who would immediately raise the quality of the midfield. Similarly, fiddling-while-Rome-burns with the second target – Ander Herrera – rather than paying his buy-out clause in full as soon as the Fabregas-option didn’t work out. AND, if it is considered that Baines/Fellaini are viable targets who could upgrade UTD’s squad (and maybe even the first-team) then why quibble over five or ten million quid when TheLads would have benefitted from a summer of “bedding in” with these new guys.

    Dropping five points from the first three matches is surely NOT worth the interest on the five or ten million that was “saved” by waiting until the deadline to pay Everton what they knew they could get by waiting-out the silly season and playing their cards close to their chest.

    • Damian Garside

      “Dropping five points from the first three matches is surely NOT worth the interest on the five or ten million that was “saved” by waiting until the deadline to pay Everton what they knew they could get by waiting-out the silly season and playing their cards close to their chest.”

      I have to agree with you. But, and here’s the horrible rub, Ed Woodward probably wouldn’t.

  • SKW

    Pathetic.

    It looks like bought no one and let Ozil slip through our fingers for the second time.

    I am disgusted.

  • Damian Garside

    Just checking the outcome of your poll: 32% of those who responded were sure Utd were going to “spend, spend, spend”.

    As for the rest — self included– “O ye of little credulity!”

  • Ray

    After the way August and July panned out in the transfer market for Ed and David should we really be surprised that September was any different. It’s been a farce from start to finish. We haven’t solved the midfield problem with the signing of Fellaini, we still have no left winger and Shinji seems no closer the first team than he was at the start of the season. Fellaini provides height and elbows, and is most effective at No.10. Which mean lumping it up to him, pushing real talents like Kagawa even further down the order. We are still screwed if Carrick gets injured. United is going to be tough watching this season.

  • SammyG

    Denton, what is baffling is that he did not do anything about the problem as he must have realized by the end of 2011/12 that neither Ando or Clevs was the solution and reinforcements were needed. Carrick is also not a spring chicken. It does seem that some attempt was made with Sneijedr though we will never know the facts. He shuffled all manner of combinations in an attempt to fix the problem, including utilizing Scholes and Giggs, well past their prime and an acknowledgement that there was a problem. And even with a new manager there is only a partial fix, we have the fiasco that just took place. It is truly puzzling considering the quality elsewhere in the squad, with the exception of your favorite whipping boy.

    I would not be so harsh on Pogba. It does not seem as if he left for the money but for the chance to play regularly. Remember it is a carreer and in this modern era where the current crop of owners are businessman, not football fans, footballers are also entitled to take decisions that they feel are best for their carreers. The pie is now very large and owners, footballers, agents are all after the biggest chunk they can get. Idealism and love of the game is largely left with us the fans.