If not for a miracle comeback on the last day of the season by Manchester City, Manchester United would have added yet another EPL title to its stuffed trophy case. The Red Devils had a solid season, but anything short of a title is considered to be a failure. The acquisition of defender Leighton Baines will ensure that a second-place finish doesn't happen again next year.
According to Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star, Man U is closing in on a £16 million transfer deal for Everton's impressive left-back. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson hopes to have everything squared away by the end of the week, and if it is then the transfer period can be considered a success for the Red Devils.
The 27-year-old Baines can do a little bit of everything and would a fantastic addition to Man U's aging back line. Baines is very solid defensively and has been a big help to Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard in recent years. Baines also has some offensive ability, though, as evidenced by his 12 goals over the last two seasons.
It isn't easy to find a versatile defender like Baines in his prime, but that is precisely what Manchester United will be getting. Even if the Red Devils didn't make a single move this offseason they would have been top contenders for the EPL crown, but I believe that swiping Baines is plenty to put them past the Citizens.
Man U was prone to defensive breakdowns last season and got involved in a few more shootouts than Ferguson probably would have liked. The Red Devils can score with the best of them, but winning teams often excel from the goalkeeper out. Baines is the type of defender that is willing to put his body on the line in order to stop the opposition from scoring, and that will benefit Manchester United greatly.
Perhaps Manchester United hasn't made any flashy signings thus far, but the Red Devils are already set offensively. The under-the-radar signings are often the ones that pay off most, and Baines would qualify as such. He has the potential to be one of the best defenders in the world and may very well develop into one with Man U, so perhaps this transfer will be viewed as a bargain in the long run.
It will be very interesting to see what Baines can do on the big stage. He has been solid for Everton and has performed well against the top teams, but playing for the Toffees and playing for Man U are two entirely different things. Baines has a lot of experience in the EPL, however, and knows what to expect, so I anticipate his transition being a seamless one.
The score sheet is going to tell the whole story when it comes to Baines' contributions next season, but close followers of the team will appreciate the little things he does to lend to a winning effort. Last season Man U suffered from players failing to make those integral, unnoticed plays at times, but acquiring Baines figures to change that.
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