Manchester United: Nicolas Gaitan Could Be the Future of United's Midfield

Kyle DillerContributor IIIFebruary 16, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United challenges Nicolas Gaitan of SL Benfica during the UEFA Champions League Group C match between Manchester United and SL Benfica at Old Trafford on November 22, 2011 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Nicolás Gaitán was linked earlier this week with a move to Manchester United. Some reports have even gone as far as to suggest there is a gentleman's agreement between United and Benfica for Gaitán to move to Old Trafford in the summer transfer window.

With all of this speculation surrounding Gaitán and United, it should be asked whether Gaitán is the correct option to be United's long-term solution in midfield.

Ryan Giggs signed a new one-year deal this week, while Sir Alex Ferguson spoke on Wednesday that Paul Scholes could play on for another year. However, all good things come to an end, and United must be prepared for the day when the veteran duo call it quits.

Gaitán would provide an intriguing replacement for United's longtime midfield servants, and a player of such ability would be welcomed at Old Trafford.

He certainly fits in with the hot new trend of the Premier League—small, left-footed, technically-gifted left-wingers-cum-central-midfielders. Manchester City have David Silva, Chelsea have Juan Mata and United could have Gaitán.

Although there does seem to be a tactical shift toward such a player, that is not reason enough to sign Gaitán. He is a fantastically gifted player. A very quick player with an excellent touch and good balance, he possesses the creativity and flair United are calling out for.

As if all that wasn't enough, he's also a terrific passer, creating many chances for Benfica. He already has 10 assists in all competitions this season and currently leads the Champions League in assists. Gaitán is quite simply a superb example of a playmaker.

United saw the Argentine's brilliance first-hand in the Champions League this season. Gaitán had an assist in the first encounter between the two clubs and then provided the threatening cross which Phil Jones turned in for an own goal in the second match.

If Gaitán were to sign for United, it would most likely be to address the need for a central midfielder, but he would also provide versatility. Gaitán was a left winger who has recently been moved into more of a free role for Benfica, playing in a more central position.

There are some concerns about using an attacking midfielder, however. Sir Alex is very loyal to the 4-4-2 formation, and rightly so when you have four high-quality strikers like Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov. Using the increasingly popular 4-2-3-1, which suits an attacking midfielder like Gaitán, means leaving some of your best players on the bench.

The big question must be if Gaitán can adapt to play as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2. Much of Gaitán's performances for Benfica suggest that he can. The Argentine tracks back well, and although he is by no means a defensive specialist, he works hard to put pressure on opposition to win possession back.

Alongside a deep-lying midfielder like Michael Carrick, Gaitán could be quite successful in a two-man midfield. It would be absolutely necessary that he be played alongside a player that allowed him the freedom to get forward in attack, but United do have players capable of doing so.

Gaitán will certainly not come cheap, many sources quoting a £30 million transfer fee, but he possesses all the attributes to be a successful player for United. Players like Giggs and Scholes are priceless, and replacing them was always going to be costly.

Although he is a very good player, £30 million for Gaitán would probably be overspending, but in this inflated transfer market, such a fee would be unsurprising. He has become one of Europe's most coveted players, and that means any club that signs him will have to pay a premium.

Gaitán is certainly a player that would improve what is already an impressive squad, and even if he is a bit expensive, this is one bit of speculation that supporters should hope becomes reality.