For the majority of Manchester United fans, the 2007-08 season was probably the high point since the treble. Inspired by Ronaldo and co, the Reds were quite simply unplayable that season, culminating in the clubs third European Cup triumph.
Ever since, talk of reaching and surpassing the heights of that has been high on the agenda and while post-Moscow United have reached two finals, one can’t help but feel disappointed that the elation of 2008 was never built on.
Goal scoring has never really been a problem in the post-Ronaldo era. For me, issues stem from a little deeper.
An outsider may point to the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo as a major factor in United’s inability to win a fourth European cup but I’d disagree. While he provided a focal point to the 2008 team and characterized the mid-2000’s United revival, Wayne Rooney initially filled the void rather well (34 goals that season testifies that). Goal scoring has never really been a problem in the post-Ronaldo era. For me, issues stem from a little deeper.
Few could argue that United’s midfield is adequate for a realistic tilt at the Champions League and perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson’s inability to source a replacement for the ageing Paul Scholes has been fundamental in that. It’s not just a Scholes type that United lack though, moreover, because the depth is not present and neither is a dynamic box-to-box sort which has gone amiss since Darren Fletcher’s troubles with illness.
Plainly, reinforcements have never been needed more than this summer and I can think of few players better suited than Thiago Alcantara. He seems to be the perfect fit for United.
Who better than a man talked of in Catalonia as the heir to Xavi’s throne?
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While it is true that Thiago doesn’t possess the ability to dictate the ebb and flow of the game like Xavi, he still has a fantastic passing range and often seeks to move the ball forward with pinpoint accuracy.
And as Michael Carrick is perfectly adequate at dictating the pace of the game from a withdrawn position, it would afford Thiago more freedom to affect the game further forward.
Retaining the ball is of the highest importance in European competition, something which the Barcelona man can only help to achieve.
The 22-year-old is lethal in the box too as shown by his hat-trick against Italy in this summer’s European U21 Championship. He’s got good feet too and perhaps an accurate description in terms of playing style is a concoction of the mesmeric duo of Xavi and Iniesta.
The prospect of the Spaniard lining up alongside Carrick in the ‘double pivot’ is dreamy. Retaining the ball is of the highest importance in European competition, something which the Barcelona man can only help to achieve.
After the monotonous, sub-par showings and injury strife incurred by Tom Cleverley and Anderson, it would be nice to have a genuine world-class player accompanying Carrick in midfield and at £18 million, he’s a bargain too. A bargain who appears genuinely enthusiastic to join the club after a tough season at Barcelona.
Aside from midfield, the squad is surprisingly underrated displaying both the depth and quality to build on a 20th League title triumph with a concerted push in the Champions League.
The midfield has been for so long the achilles heel of the current side and the acquisition of Thiago would solve a problem which, if left untreated, threatens to become terminal. After ignoring the problem for so long, this could be the transfer window where the long-standing issues are finally addressed.
And if Thiago proves a hit like he is expected to, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that United could reach and even eclipse the lofty heights of 2008.