Old Trafford has an abundance of midfield creativity and doesn’t need addition of San Siro playmaker.
It is a transfer rumour that has been as long and as enduring as the speculation linking Cesc Fabregas back to Barcelona. Ever since Paul Scholes announced his retirement from football at the end of last season, Wesley Sneijder has been tipped as his successor, and the future of Manchester United’s midfield.
By the time United had lifted yet another trophy in last weeks Community Shield victory over arch nemesis Manchester City, their average squad age was an astonishing 22.
Of Chris Smalling, Johnny Evans, David De Gea and Phil Jones, none shone brighter than young centre midfielder Tom Cleverley. At the age of twenty one, he was set to make his International debut against the Netherlands on Wednesday, before the prestige friendly fell foul to the English Riots that have plagued the capital.
Wesley Sneijder was set to star for Holland and give potential suitors Manchester United a glimpse of his talents.
At the age of 27 however, is he really the “future” of the Red Devils squad?
His experience, talent, passing of the ball and ‘been there and won that’ reputation is of course undisputable – winning titles in Holland, Spain and Italy. He would walk into any midfield throughout Europe, with Man City keeping a close eye on developments also.
His talents are such that Former Manchester United forward Eric Cantona commented earlier this year:
“He is what Manchester United needs. There’s no-one like him right now.
“He’s strong. Sometimes he reminds me of myself.”
The Dutchman began his career at the renowned Ajax Youth Academy – responsible for producing such talents as Johan Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp. He made his debut for Ajax in 2002 and spent five seasons there.
He has played alongside some of the best players in the game – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Robinho and former United favourite Ruud van Nistelrooy.
He has also featured in a World Cup Final and scored five goals in the tournament in South Africa, making him one of the highest goal scorers in the competition.
But with only four years of his services at the top level remaining, is he really worth the £30million being touted about in the media?
Sneijder is the marquee signing that most fans at Old Trafford doubted would be affordable in recent seasons given the debts at Old Trafford. The last time United spent more than £30 million on a single player was in 2008 when Dimitar Berbatov made the move from London to Manchester.
Sneijder is by no means a prolific goal scorer though, managing only eleven in fifty two appearances during his spell at Real Madrid where he spent most of his time on the bench and a pretty average sixteen league goals in three seasons for Inter Milan to date.
His most prolific goal scoring period was back in the 2006/2007 season when he managed eighteen goals for Ajax. There is also no guarantee he can make the successful transition from the slower paced Serie A league to the much more intense Premier League.
Furthermore, at 27, Sneijder fits outside the club policy of spending exuberant amounts of money on players over the age of 26. His re-sale value would depreciate dramatically over the course of a long term contract which isn’t an attractive option for United.
Tom Cleverley might be a less expensive bet at replacing the brilliant Paul Scholes instead – Especially when Sneijder would reportedly cost the reds in excess of £250,000 a week in wages, on par with their current highest earner, Wayne Rooney.
Cleverley has ten more years ahead of him, more than enough time to stamp his mark on United’s midfield and really make a go out of replacing Scholes. This is a sentiment shared by Wigan boss Roberto Martinez, who managed the youngster during his loan spell last season. he commented in the Metro Online recently:
“‘I’ve got no doubt he’s going to be consistent for a top club like Manchester United due to his personality and character.’
He has benefitted from successful loan spells in the past, most notably at Watford and then the aforementioned Wigan last season, scoring eleven and four goals for each respectively.
He also scored twice for Leicester City in the 2008/9 season – Seventeen goals out of seventy three appearances isn’t a bad return for a twenty one year old.
Then you have to consider the future emergence of Paul Pogba (17) and Revel Morrison (18), two more exciting midfielders just biding their time before making the step up from the reserves into the first team.
Some may remember that Morrison scored the opening goal versus Chelsea in United’s 4-0 win in the semi-final of the FA Youth Cup earlier this year. He went on to score two more goals in the final versus Sheffield United – which United won.
Pogba is perhaps known by most as the player at the centre of the poaching storm in August 2009, in which former club Le Havre claimed United illegally poached him from them.
Born in France, he has been tipped as “the next Patrick Vierira”. He has captained his country at under seventeen level and if you want to see what he is capable of, search “Paul Pogba wonderful goal vs WBA U18” on YouTube.
For the meantime, United it would seem already have ready made replacements for Scholes.
Anderson is finally emerging as an exciting prospect in the centre of midfield at Old Trafford, Darren Fletcher is always reliable in the big games and Michael Carrick has improved in recent seasons.
Ryan Giggs has been played through the middle in recent seasons too.
On the wings, United have an embarrassment of options. Ji Sung Park, Nani, Luis Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are all top quality.
The truth is United’s midfield certainly hasn’t been decimated by the departure of Scholes as many critics have suggested.
Alex Ferguson never lets the grass grow under his feet. Many a gifted midfielder has left United in the past – Roy Keane, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, more recently. Yet United have never suffered in their absence for long.
Scholes might be difficult to replace, but the future at Manchester United is bright, whether they open their cheque book before August 31st or not.