Alexander Büttner was this morning unveiled as United’s new number 28 for this season but not much is known about him. The 23-year-old left-back was bought from Dutch outfit Vitesse and I got the opportunity to ask some questions to Sjaak, a life long Vitesse fan and season ticket holder for more than 20 years.
He was there when Büttner arrived at the club as a youngster and has watched him grow into the player he is today. I asked Sjaak about what Büttner is like as a player, what his weakness is and how he thinks he will get on at Manchester United.
1. What has happened so far in Alexander Büttner’s career?
Alex started his career at V.V. Doetinchem before moving to Ajax when he was 11 years old. His father drove him every day to “de Toekomst”, the training facility of Ajax and its youth. It was a long journey of more than 100km but Ajax demanded that Alexander move closer to the ground as the daily travels were proving too much for him.
Alexander declined because he wanted to stay with his family as the Büttners are a very tight knit group. At the age of 16, he went to Vitesse Arnhem as it is a lot closer to his hometown, Doetinchem. The 2007/08 season was the first time he was in the senior squad and he made his debut on March 15 2008 coming on as a substitute, receiving a yellow card in the 69th minute.
He started as a left winger but from the season 2010/11 he started playing at left-back for Vitesse.
The 2008/09 season was when he became a first team regular for Vitesse and in the 2010/11 season he was in the initial squad for the Dutch national team for the Euros 2012 as a left-back.
2. Alexander Büttner spent five years at Ajax before he moved to Vitesse – is this reflected in his style of play?
Alex went through the Ajax youth and it is certainly reflected in his game. He plays with a lot of courage and he likes to move forward and join the attack. He has a lot of technique for a defender and is pretty quick across the grass but he does tend to take some risks defensively.
3. He has scored ten goals for Vitesse since joining them. Is going forward his best asset or is he defensively disciplined? What is his biggest weakness?
He scored ten goals in his career at Vitesse, most of them were scored from the spot or a free kick just outside the box. He has a very good technique and his shooting from outside the box can be ferocious.
If he loses the ball he likes to win it back, which is not a bad thing, but in doing so does make some dangerous tackles and he isn’t shy of a booking or two. The prolem is that he also tends to do it in the box which can cause all sorts of trouble.
Something that I think may cause a problem is that he is very close to his family and may well get homesick.
4. He was called up to the provisional Dutch squad for Euro 2012 but missed out on the final call. Would he be ready for international football?
Personally, I thought he should have gone to Euro 2012. At that moment he was doing much better, footballing wise, than Jethro Willems of PSV Eindhoven, who was chosen ahead of him.
He is a ferocious tackler and as he isn’t shy of picking up a booking. I think him being a potential liability with discipline could have been the reason why he wasn’t the final team for Euro 2012.
He hasn’t played at European or International level yet, so it is really hard for me to say if he would be ready.
5. At 23 years old, Büttner is still relatively young. How much more can he develop as a player?
He is still only 23 and he has made great progress in the Dutch Eredivisie. Vitesse isn’t a “top club” yet but Alex is certainly ready for a bigger challenge and has the potential to grow.
6. Do you think he is ready to play for Manchester United or will he struggle to adapt to the Premier League?
I don’t think he’s ready for a club like Manchester United.
Maybe this move is too big a step forward for him. I would think he would only play against the lower teams in the Premier League or go out on loan.
He is a player that can go on to be of great value for Manchester United and to be a fans favourite but then again, I don’t think he will ever be as popular as Jaap Stam.
I’m sure Sir Alex Ferguson and René Meulensteen will give him the proper guidance, which he needs. And who knows what he’s capable of, I just hope he doesn’t end the same way as Glenn Helder at Arsenal.
Thanks goes out to John de Loos for translating the article into English.