Three Premier League titles, four FA Cup victories, almost 100 caps for the England national team and the highest scoring midfielder in Premier League history to boot.
Looking at Frank Lampard’s résumé, the Chelsea veteran seems a highly desirable candidate to have amongst one’s ranks, making it of little surprise that Ian Ladyman links him with a winter move to Manchester United.
Now in the final six months of his current Blues contract, Lampard has told of how there has been no approach from his club regarding an extension on the deal, despite his continued good form of late (via BBC Sport).
Regardless of his vast wealth, it would seem that Roman Abramovich isn’t looking to keep the 34-year-old Lampard at Stamford Bridge for too much longer and will allow the midfielder to leave the club as a free transfer this summer if he isn’t sold this month.
So, why should Manchester United have any more urgency in handing Lampard a deal? In short, they shouldn’t.
The most poignant of factors working against Lampard is undoubtedly his age. At 34, it’s debatable as to how much longer the stalwart has in his playing days, never mind maintaining his recently high standards.
That isn’t to say that the Red Devils have ever been afraid to place faith in their overaged players, however. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are current testaments to the ideology that there is indeed life after 30.
That being said, the fact that both Manchester United stars were raised at the club from a very early age is half of their appeal to the club, and purchasing players so close to the end of their careers has never been something Sir Alex Ferguson has bought into.
Looking at recent transfer windows, it’s clear that the Scotsman is conscious of the remaining time he may have left as manager of the United brand. Acquisitions such as Shinji Kagawa, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, David de Gea, Nick Powell and Angelo Henriquez all point toward a youthful dynasty being built at Old Trafford; a parting gift that Ferguson can leave the club as his final contribution for the years to come.
If Lampard were to come to the club, there’s no guarantee that he could be a part of that dynasty and would almost certainly not last more than two, perhaps even three more years playing at the Manchester United standard.
Even now, Giggs and Scholes, 39 and 38, respectively, feature very little for the Premier League giants and have just 12 league starts between them this season.
Should Manchester United go for Lampard in January?
The reason they still even get that, however, is because they’re ingrained in all things Manchester United, living and breathing the way that Ferguson has taught them.
Lampard doesn’t quite have that advantage, and while his Chelsea figures are encouraging, he would almost certainly take time acclimatising to the ways of another club so great, giving no guarantee he would ever reach the heights required of him.
Speaking of figures, another question one would have to ask when questioning such a transfer is just how much need the Red Devils have of a player like Lampard.
According to WhoScored.com, the Chelsea playmaker has accrued a pass completion rate of 82.3 percent in the Premier League this season. Of the entire Manchester United squad, only three outfield players—Nick Powell (77.3), Robin van Persie (80.7) and Phil Jones (81.2)—have a worse percentage.
From these numbers, we can see that it isn’t Lampard’s synchronicity with his teammates that would make him a good buy, and his ability to take penalties probably isn’t quite a good enough selling point to make bringing him in worthwhile, no matter how much United may need that right now.
Over the summer, Kagawa was brought in to fulfil the needs of the trequartista, a player who could fill the void behind the attacking line, creating chances for those in front but still posing a threat on goal himself; an asset United sorely needed.
However, with the Japanese maestro now at the club, that position that Lampard used to play so well is spoken for and doesn’t really need further reinforcements.
In these latter days of his Chelsea career, the England journeyman has subsided into a role closer to the Blues’ engine room, allowing those younger teammates around him to do most of the heavy lifting.
That being said, the position specified above is one that both Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick have been manning, and will continue to look after as long as they are allowed to do so.
Not only has Ferguson got Cleverley emerging as a considerable creative talent in the Manchester United engine room, but Powell is also coming through the ranks as a gifted talent moulded in a similar shape.
This would mean that if Lampard were acquired by the club and given the game time necessary to make his signature worth the outlay, it would assuredly hurt the growth of both United prospects, something Sir Alex would almost definitely be against given his policy on youth development.
It’s that outlay that could hurt the club also, as while Chelsea may no longer want to keep Lampard around, they almost certainly wouldn’t sell him to a club challenging for similar honours without seeing a decent sum come their way in return.
In addition to any transfer fee United would pay were they to sign Lampard this January, his wage demands, currently alleged to be £150,000 a week (via Telegraph), could easily be diverted to more youthful, and useful, players.
As we can see, the idea of signing Lampard not only goes against policies Manchester United have employed for the last 15 years and more, but in a time where clubs must be economically and financially responsible, would ultimately hurt them.
After a Golden Boot-winning campaign, some were still sceptical when Robin van Persie was brought to Old Trafford over the summer at the slightly seasoned age of 29.
So, how would those same critics feel if one of England’s best clubs were to sign a 34-year-old central midfielder unwanted by one of United’s biggest rivals?