Manchester United are in “advanced” discussions with Atletico Madrid over Radamel Falcao and are the club “best positioned” to sign the Colombian striker during the summer transfer window.
So claimed Spanish outlet Marca in a Thursday article that also suggested United might also have already placed a down-payment on the player.
“United have achieved a significant advantage in the race for Falcao,” the article said.
Assuming Marca’s claims are true (something that won’t be known until the end of the season, but let’s play with the idea), it seems United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is poised to keep the summer’s most sought-after transfer target away from his most serious rivals—a shrewd move on two fronts.
First off, Robin Van Persie will turn 30 before the first ball is kicked next season, and as his recent mini-slump suggests, United could do with some reliable cover for the Dutchman. Danny Welbeck seems to save his best football for England, and even when he does shine for United it tends to be in a wide attacking role.
Wayne Rooney, meanwhile, hasn’t operated as a true centre-forward since 2010, and Javier Hernandez—who scored 20 goals in his first campaign with the Red Devils in 2010-11—just hasn’t looked the same player since.
In other words, United’s pursuit of Falcao makes sense based on footballing needs.
But there’s another reason Ferguson is kicking tires at the Vicente Calderon, and it’s something he hinted at in his press conference ahead of last Monday’s Manchester Derby.
“If Jose [Mourinho] goes back to Chelsea, as they’re talking about, you’d expect a big challenge from there,” he said, marking the Blues out as United’s most serious title rivals ahead of next season. (Daily Mail)
He also commented on Manchester City’s ambitions, saying, “City have enough money to go and buy another £200 million worth of players. They’re not going to go away, are they, with the money they’ve got?”
Probably not. And if either Chelsea or City were to get Falcao—as has been suggested—United would really have a problem on their hands.
After all, Ferguson is surely aware of how snatching a top player from a top rival can minimize their prospects while enhancing his own.
In acquiring Van Persie from Arsenal last summer, the Scot took from the Gunners a player who had scored 37 goals the season before, effectively ruining any chance the London side had of contending for Premier League honours. But even more importantly, he kept the Netherlands international away from Manchester City—a move that tipped the title scales in United’s favour from the very beginning.
City boss Roberto Mancini admitted as much in a New Year’s Eve press conference, telling reporters he had come “very close” to signing Van Persie in the summer, and conceding the striker was the “difference” between the two Manchester sides. (Guardian)
Falcao could be a similar difference-maker, no matter where he ends up. But once again it looks as though Ferguson is leading the pack in the race for a player he feels could put United over the top while striking a blow to his Premier League rivals.
Few know the two-birds-with-one-stone approach better.