Something had been bugging me ever since Robin Van Persie’s move to Manchester United was finalized last week. And then it finally hit me – it’s the first time since the inception of the Premier League that one of the top two scorers in the previous season joined the other for the following campaign. Hard to believe it has never happened before, although the closest such transfer was in 1994 when Chris Sutton, who was joint third top, joined Alan Shearer at Blackburn Rovers. I’m still getting used to Van Persie in a United shirt (it felt strange looking at the picture above for the first time), and there is no doubt that this is as much a statement signing as a strategic move to address squad weakness, but the addition is a coup nonetheless, and makes the attack unquestionably better. Many will lament the continued absence of a major presence in the midfield, but it’s hard to see who is available that can come in to the United team there and immediately improve it. Luka Modric is the obvious one, but Tottenham refused to sell him to a league rival, so he’s out; Yann M’Vila is often touted, but I don’t see how he will make the team better. Daniele de Rossi is over 30 years old and I doubt United will go for another player without resale value; Sami Khedira, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano all play for arguably the only two clubs with more glamour factor and are highly unlikely to move. The alternatives, both at home and abroad, aren’t likely to replace Carrick, Anderson, Scholes and Cleverley at once. The first two are often maligned, but Carrick does a very effective job as the calm efficient passer who oils many of United’s better moves. Anderson has, it’s true, more often than not flattered to deceive, but is still 24 and has time on his side. Injuries more than anything else have stalled his progress (this is his sixth season at United, yet he has failed to appear in more than 20 games in his last four campaigns), but when his game was on, particularly in his debut season, Anderson looked like he could go on to dominate the league. Cleverley, meanwhile, is the real deal: United’s main central midfielder for the next decade, and together with Jack Wilshere could form a formidable pair for England in the years to come.
So I tend to believe Fergie when he says that there’s little value in the market (at least as far as midfielders go) and trust him when he remains uncommitted to bringing in ‘the New Roy Keane’. We will see as the season progresses, but I do not believe United will fall too short in the middle of the pitch.