What If Manchester United Had Signed Lucas Moura, Eden Hazard or Mousa Dembele?
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Manchester United bought Robin van Persie for £24 million and won the Premier League.
The two events are not inexorably linked, but without the Dutchman, who knows what the outcome would have been?
Hindsight can be both a wonderful and terrifying thing.
Last summer was a long, and at times, painful one. Transfer targets came and went; by August, the Red Devils had only captured Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell.
Early on, Sir Alex Ferguson missed out on Eden Hazard, who went to Chelsea, and Lucas Moura, who chose Paris Saint-Germain over Old Trafford.
Mousa Dembele, a box-to-box threat who would have suited the United way to a tee, moved to Tottenham Hotspur.
The club's pull in the transfer market was questioned, as was the financial capabilities of the owners, the Glazer family.
Then along came Van Persie and the rest, as they say, is history.
Football, as in life, can sometimes be decided by the smallest of margins.
What if United had met Hazard's contract demands? What if PSG hadn't turned up, pockets overflowing, at the last minute in the Lucas negotiations? What if Sir Alex had been more rigorous in his pursuit of Dembele?
I am not someone who likes to dwell on the past, but for the sake of conjecture, I find these types of questions appealing.
This article will imagine parallel universes, the Sliding Doors rule if you like, where the Red Devils sign each player, and what the outcome would have been.
Where we're going, we don't need roads...
I won't beat around the bush, I invested a lot in the Lucas to Manchester United transfer saga.
From his early days in a Sao Paulo shirt, I was a fan, a superfan if you like, of his.
When the gossip built to speculation to genuine transfer reporting, my excitement grew. I wrote what seemed like hundreds of articles espousing my view that he would be an excellent signing.
When the news broke that he had signed for PSG, I wrote a hasty, and very slanted reaction piece which justifiably wasn't received very kindly by the Bleacher Report community.
"Let [PSG] slither in and outbid United for a player they have little need for, because when you have all the money in the world, an arrogant sense of entitlement inevitably follows," I said.
If I had known that Van Persie was soon to join, I might not have been so bitter.
But if Lucas instead of the Dutchman had joined United, the make-up of the team would be very different indeed.
Without RvP, Wayne Rooney would have continued with his duties as the lone striker, and would probably not be demanding to leave right about now.
With the more continental style of Lucas, I would argue that Shinji Kagawa would have gotten more playing time.
The side would have resembled a far more flexible 4-2-3-1, with Lucas, Kagawa and a third wheel forming a transient attacking midfield three.
The Red Devils' wingers were borderline useless last term anyway, and the Brazilian would have offered more versatility without them.
It would be a less experienced side, but one that could have easily won the league.
This being said, Lucas still has a way to go before he is the world-class footballer many expect him to be. His debut campaign in France was promising, but raw.
His exceptional control and dribbling would have brought great excitement to the Old Trafford faithful, even if his lack of experience may have proven a dampener on occasion.
Eden Hazard didn't move to Manchester United because Sir Alex wasn't willing to match Chelsea's enormous £150,000-a-week contract offer.
The fans wanted him, heck, United wanted him, but the club refused to assuage to the financial demands of a young, relatively untested player.
A few weeks into the Premier League season though, the decision was looking a little faulty.
Hazard started life at Stamford Bridge in barnstorming form and was arguably the best player in Britain in August and September.
He understandably faded through the winter period, but came back strong in the new year.
If United had signed him, like with Lucas, it would have been Rooney scoring the goals up front.
Hazard would most likely have played the majority of his games on the left wing, or competing with Kagawa for the central attacking midfield role.
His immediate impact may not have been so great as Van Persie's, but working under Sir Alex he would have fine-tuned his game to suit the United style.
Like Lucas, he would have added plenty of glitz to the Red Devils, and might have even persuaded the Scotsman to revert to the previously successful 4-3-3.
I would argue that United would have still won the league. Manchester City would have had the same problems both on the pitch and off it.
Looking a little further ahead, with Eden Hazard on board, there wouldn't be such an abundance of Cristiano Ronaldo-to-return stories filling the back pages this summer too.
If there was one player available last summer who United should have pursued more it was Mousa Dembele.
When the Red Devils were at their worst last term in the October/November period, they were in sore need of a physical box-to-box midfielder to work alongside Michael Carrick.
Dembele would have added a real grit to the side, and been an influential threat going forward too.
I would contend that Michael Carrick wouldn't have been named the player's player of the season with the Belgian on board.
That's not to say that he wouldn't have been excellent, but that a massive burden would have been taken of his shoulders.
It would be easy to suggest that the Red Devils would have scored fewer goals without Van Persie, but I don't believe this to be the case.
There would still be the world class Wayne Rooney, plus United would be a more balanced team from front to back.
Phil Jones might not have had such a strong campaign though, and Tom Cleverley might have been left questioning his place in the team.
Of course, this is all conjecture. One person's imaginary world, nothing more.
Sir Alex signed Robin van Persie last summer and won the league. What will we be saying this time next year?
Should United have signed Kevin Strootman, James Rodriguez or Robert Lewandowski?
What do you think? Which of Lucas, Hazard or Dembele would have been the best signing?
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