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Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Red Devils Must Land Leighton Baines

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Leighton Baines of England in action during the International friendly between England and Brazil at Wembley Stadium on February 6, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured Columnist IVDecember 17, 2016

While the Wayne Rooney drama drags on and Thiago Alcantara continues to be mentioned for the Red Devils but unsigned, there is a player that Manchester United should be focused on landing this summer.

That player is Leighton Baines of Everton. And it appears that the Red Devils are about to make a second approach for the savvy left-back. 

From Andy Hunter of the Guardian:

Everton are prepared for a second bid from Manchester United for their left-back Leighton Baines having completed the first signing of the Roberto Martínez era in Arouna Koné.

The Premier League champions had an offer in the region of £10m rejected for Baines last month and there has been no further contact between David Moyes's present and past clubs. United, however, are believed to be close to making an improved offer for the England international, albeit one that remains way below Everton's £20m valuation of the 28-year-old.

Martínez wants to extend Baines's contract rather than cash in on a defender with only two years remaining on his deal at Goodison Park, and has the backing of the Everton chairman Bill Kenwright to resist any approaches from United

While Patrice Evra still has some traction left on his tires, he's 32, and it's not unrealistic to fear that his pace will continue to wane. 

And even if Evra's skill set is still generally intact, Baines is probably the better player at this point anyway. Much like he should overcome 32-year-old Ashley Cole at left-back for England in next summer's World Cup, so too would he offer United an upgrade over Evra.  

The two players approach the left-back position somewhat differently, though each is capable attackers. Evra makes driving runs forward and is capable of taking on defenders one-on-one as a former winger. 

Baines, meanwhile, possess a left foot that is one of the most dangerous in the business, as he is an accurate crosser and a true threat when swinging a free-kick into the box onto the head of a teammate. He can also step up and curl a free-kick over the wall or blast home a penalty. 

In the past four seasons, Evra has scored five goals and 14 assists in all competitions, while Baines has accumulated an impressive 21 goals and 29 assists. For all of Evra's dangerous runs forward, Baines has proven—at least statistically—to be the more dangerous offensive weapon. 

WhoScored.com gave Evra a 7.29 match rating for the Premier League season, while Baines came in at 7.39. Both players averaged 2.4 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game, while Baines held a significant edge in key passes per contest, 3.1 to 0.7.

Evra's pass success rate was higher (87.1 percent to 82.3), but Baines held the edge in crosses per game, 2.8 to 0.6.

Evra is a better defensive player, as he's proven over his career to be a capable tackler and surprisingly effective player in the air despite his smaller stature. He has solid pace, but more importantly is very strong, allowing him to win 50-50s and push attackers off the ball. 

If United can't land Baines, keeping Evra is hardly a shabby consolation prize. Obviously if Baines comes aboard, Evra will likely request a move elsewhere. It's been an excellent run for Evra at the Red Devils, but Baines would simply add too much to United's attack—and has too obvious a connection to David Moyes—for United not to pursue him this summer. 

The Red Devils have to make Baines a top priority. His dangerous left foot would make them one of Europe's top three or four attacking sides, a prospect too enticing to pass up.

 

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