Manchester Utd: Will Moyes Take Baines and Fellaini to Old Trafford?
And so it begins.
There are six-and-a-half weeks until David Moyes officially takes over from Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, but the media is already painting a picture of the Scotsman's new squad.
Who will come? Who will go? How will they line up? Who will make the coaching staff? Will Sir Alex be whispering in his ear? Will he want two sugars in his tea?
The biggest transfer story of the day is the proposed "double swoop" for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini, two of the best players in the Premier League in their respective positions—who both also happen to play at Everton. The Sun are among those reporting a £39 million "raid" of Goodison Park.
It is believed that Everton would be under no pressure to sell their prized assets. They will be expecting an additional £20 million windfall from the bumper TV rights package, and The Guardian believe they are under no pressure to appease the bank manager.
That said, in the same article, The Guardian concede that The Toffees would be "powerless" to stop Moyes bringing his best players along for the ride. As a free agent, Moyes would be perfectly entitled to make offers for key players at his former club.
(Even if Moyes had agreed not to poach any players from Goodison Park, such an arrangement might not be honored. Just look at Brendan Rodgers, who agreed not to sign any Swansea players for 12 months but didn't waste much time in bringing Joe Allen on board.)
But will Baines and Fellaini make the move?
Let's start with Baines. Since moving from Wigan in 2007, the left-back has become an England regular (when Ashley Cole isn't around) and has made the PFA Premier League Team of the Year the past two seasons.
The 28-year-old has been linked to Manchester United many times, and he would certainly be welcome in a Moyes team, but The Telegraph report that Everton are "adamant" he will not make the move to the Red Devils.
Another stumbling block in the Baines transfer would be Patrice Evra.
The Frenchman has been a consistently strong performer under Ferguson, and considering his role as vice-captain, his relegation to the bench on account of a new upstart may not sit well with the rest of the United squad. Moyes would have to make a very difficult choice in this instance.
Perhaps a move for Fellaini is more likely. Few attacking midfielders in the Premiership are more dangerous than the Belgian, who has been labeled with the wonderfully trite "unplayable" description by many of his peers.
Fellaini has a well-publicised £22 million release clause in a contract that is supposed to keep him in Everton colours until 2015-16, but it can be activated if a Champions League-calibre team comes calling.
Considering the alleged £120 million war chest that Fergie was supposed to have been offered next season, there would be little trouble covering the transfer fee.
As B/R's Jake Nisse notes, Moyes' tactics revolve around a solid defence and strong aerial play up front. Obviously, this system would suit Fellaini in an attacking midfield role, perhaps sitting in front of Carrick and Cleverly.
The 50-year-old manager also has a habit of moving strikers to roles on the wing (see Nikica Jelavic). If he were to put Wayne Rooney (provided he stays) and Danny Welbeck on the flanks, they could provide adequate service to Fellaini and Van Persie.
But Fellaini's arrival would be bad news for Shinji Kagawa, who is comparatively weak in the air—and on the ground!
While a "double swoop" for the two Everton stars is perfectly possible, perhaps it is more likely that one or the other will follow their manager.
Moyes will undoubtedly have too much respect for his employers of 11 years to poach two of their best assets, while Everton seem confident they do not need to sell out of necessity.
Of Everton's current squad, the most likely man to join Moyes at Old Trafford might actually be Phil Neville.
The club captain will play his final game at Goodison Park at the end of this season, and he has made no secret of his desire to move into management. Moyes offered him a coaching role a few weeks ago, presumably believing that role would be at Everton. But the Daily Mail are among those who believe the offer still stands at the club where Neville spent his formative years.
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