Manchester United Transfers: Would Julian Draxler Be a Good Fit at Old Trafford?
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And that's just the German players!
Lewis Holtby has recently moved to Spurs, so that is one player United won't be getting.
So why Julian Draxler? What is special about him? Why would United buy another midfielder? And why him?
Why are Manchester United linked with so many midfielders?
There are many reasons, but here are three for starters.
First, by many people's estimations, United have needed at least one new midfield star ever since Roy Keane retired, let alone pending the retirement of Paul Scholes.
Poor Michael Carrick came in for no end of stick as Sir Alex went season after season without beefing up the engine room. However, even though he has now confounded his critics, that doesn't mean there isn't room for at least one class signing to play alongside him.
Some fans would have that to be a defensive, or "box-to-box" type, player like Kevin Strootman or Victor Wanyama. Others would rather see a more creative player like Gotze, Luka Modric or Joao Moutinho.
So it is not surprising that any half-decent midfielder is linked to United.
Second, the Old Trafford club is one of the richest in the world. With the pending new Sky deal, the better share price and the burgeoning commercial sponsorships, United are seen as rich enough to sign most players in the world, whether or not they have to offload first.
Finally, Sir Alex Ferguson's scouting network is as large, comprehensive and global as most in world football. When a United scout, or the great man himself, is spotted at a match, journalists will inevitably try to second-guess who he might be watching.
You can't blame reporters for putting two and two together and making five, nor can you blame players' agents for talking up their charges to get a better move or a better contract.
Nor could you blame Sir Alex for letting rumours run. United have to pay top dollar anyhow to get a player. Even if he has no interest, not denying a rumour could hike the price that one of his competitors has to pay.
What are United's midfield needs?
Now this is a very good question.
At the moment they are running away with the Premier League, relying on Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and an occasional Ryan Giggs in midfield. No real problems there, then.
Or are there?
Irrespective of the appalling referee's decision, they have crashed out of the Champions League early yet again, having been in the final only two years ago.
While Carrick and Cleverley seem to make the preferred partnership, Anderson is so unconvincing that he may go this summer; Giggs is 40 this year and shouldn't be playing there; and there is no cover in depth for injuries.
While supporters may pine for another youth-led renaissance, Ryan Tunnicliffe doesn't look anywhere near the class of a Strootman, for example, and hugely talented Adnan Januzaj may need at least another year to bulk up and get top-level playing experience.
So that leaves Nick Powell. And frankly he is showing signs of potentially being as good as Draxler.
But the Schalke player has already racked up 91 appearances at 19, including 68 in the Bundesliga and four international caps for Germany.
This begs the question: Why on earth is it that, with the notable exception of players like Wayne Rooney, neither United nor many of the top Premier League teams seem to give the same sort of chances to young players that Bundesliga sides do?
Whether from within their own ranks or outside, however, at present it would seem that United need either expensive experienced players, or a couple of strong, rangy, skilled younger players: one holding or box-to-box and one creative.
Why those attributes?
Because United attack from the back and defend from the front, they need height in midfield to augment both attack and defence; and they need at least one player who can run through a packed defence.
This latter is an important point, because if you watch the YouTube videos of all these talented young midfielders running through and scoring goals, in most cases the defence they are up against would make Stoke City look world class.
Whereas in the Premier League and at the higher levels of the Champions League, midfield players in particular are going to come up against organised, drilled defences where the whole team harries and covers.
That is why Sir Alex puts a premium on players like Shinji Kagawa and Wilfired Zaha, who can cut through a defence and dynamically interchange with all the other attacking players.
Nevertheless, from what you can see for Draxler playing for Schalke or Germany, he has all the required attributes.
But so does Nick Powell; and Sir Alex is adding holding and defensive qualities to his game as well.
What choices are available to Sir Alex?
Nobody in English football is better at developing top talent than Manchester United. They have a successful track record spanning at least 50 years.
But it gets harder, as Sir Alex has found last season and this.
He has to balance the imperative of trying to win everything, especially the Premier and Champions Leagues, with bringing through the stars of the future.
He won't always get it right. Some might say he got it wrong with Paul Pogba, who left to get much faster advancement elsewhere.
At the end of the day, Sir Alex has to rely on one quality as being preeminent and that is loyalty: to the club and to the team. And who can say he's got it wrong when teamwork is clearly what makes a difference this season?
He also has outstanding role models in Giggs, Scholes and even Rooney and Ferdinand who have spent nine or 10 years at the same club. Giggs and Scholes could surely have earned far more at the likes of Real Madrid or Milan.
It is clear that if you have the talent and stay with United, the rewards will eventually follow you. It's a bit like the old choice between going to university and studying a profession, as opposed to leaving school at 16 and earning money.
So the manager can recruit from outside the club or within. In practice, he mixes both. And even from outside the club, he mixes experience and youth.
That is the choice he has here, except that in the midfield, apart from the established players, he only has youth to choose from inside the club.
At the moment only Powell, Januzaj and possibly Ryan Tunnicliffe, Davide Petrucci or Freddie Veseli seem likely to make a case in the next year or two. Mats Daehli looks a great prospect on the wing, but Andreas Pereira and Ben Pearson are further down the line.
Outside, he could go for Luka Modric, for example, or Julian Draxler. Modric is of course the finished article. As his cameo in the second leg against Real Madrid showed, he could step straight in and make an immediate impact.
Gotze at Dortmund looks like the finished article at only 20, but Draxler is not far behind. If you're going for the younger end, Christian Eriksen is a fine prospect at 21. But then what about Strootman, who is barely 23?
In the end, it might just come down to the fee. Gotze might be prohibitively expensive; Modric might not be available.
Draxler, Eriksen and Strootman would probably all be in the £15 to £20 million range. When you consider what Phil Jones cost, a price in that range might satisfy Sir Alex's wish for "value" in the market.
If we assume that Scholes and possibly Darren Fletcher will retire, and Anderson is deemed surplus to requirements, then there is room for two more midfielders.
The smart solution must therefore surely be one from inside and one from outside.
If two are brought in from outside, this could severely inhibit Powell's progress. Imagine if he went out on loan next season and watched Draxler and Strootman establish themselves in the team.
On the other hand, Carrick is 32 this year and his succession must be planned.
How Julian Draxler fits
Sir Alex is very keen on the holding midfield role that Carrick occupies. Anderson has never looked convincing in that role, which is why he should go, because he doesn't do enough in attack either.
Tunnicliffe is a long way behind even Powell, let alone Draxler. He will surely need at least two or three years to take on what was Fletcher's role. Veseli's best chance is also that way and he seems to have moved past young Ryan in the last couple of months alone.
Davide Petrucci isn't in the same class as Draxler or even Powell for that matter.
So if, as seems likely, Powell is being developed to succeed Carrick, there would be room for a talented player like Draxler. He could immediately alternate with Cleverley, such that Sir Alex could play him and Carrick as a pair or Cleverley and Powell as time goes on.
There is no doubt that Draxler is a player of some talent. United have never signed a German player straight into the first team. This lad is already a full German international, despite the depth of competition from his young compatriots.
Nevertheless, as soon as he came to Old Trafford he would go into their development programme. The coaches would work on his defensive skills and, whether in the Under 21s or the first team occasionally, he would be given experience of playing a holding role to bolster his natural range of attacking skills.
In conclusion, for years the media and fans have asked when Sir Alex is going to sign more midfielders. He has bought well in the young Powell and the outrageously talented but raw young winger, Zaha.
This summer the manager could be spoilt for choice in the market place as financial fair play begins to bite here and on the continent.
If he could get a player like Draxler or Bender for as little as £15 million he must surely see that as good business and value in the transfer market.
What do you think? Would you sign Julian Draxler?
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