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Manchester United's Thiago, Fabregas Pursuits Point to Tactical Evolution

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 01:  Cesc Fabregas (R) of Barcelona holds off the challenge of Franck Ribery (L) of Munich during the UEFA Champions League semi final second leg match between Barcelona and FC Bayern Muenchen at Nou Camp on May 1, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterJuly 19, 2013

The manner in which Manchester United lost out to Bayern Munich over Thiago Alcantara was pretty upsetting.

It felt like the Red Devils were in the driving seat for long periods, but after failing to decisively swoop, Pep Guardiola nipped in and secured the Spaniard's signature in a matter of days.

Bild carried the headline: "Bayern hat einen neuen superstar!", but this particular player really should have been unveiled in the red and white of Man Utd.

A bitter blow, as Thiago is a once-in-a-generation, extraordinary talent who has been criminally misused by Barcelona. El Blaugrana will learn from their mistake, and despite Bayern's stacked midfield, a €20 million price tag was rightly considered too good to pass up by Guardiola.

Aside from the £1 million investment in future prospect Guillermo Varela, David Moyes has made no inroads in the transfer window thus far.

Thiago, at one stage, appeared likely to be a blockbuster signing to kick off a big window; now, things look a little bleak.

Undeterred, United have set about targeting more high-profile acquisitions, and Cesc Fabregas is now the focal point of negotiations.

Ben Smith of the BBC confirmed a £25 million bid has been rebuffed by Barcelona, and Moyes has subsequently revealed, via the BBC, the club are still probing in that direction.

Having lost out on the Thiago deal—a man who could have single-handedly transformed Manchester United's starting XI and playing style—they now appear to be looking for a similar style of player.

Both players share a very modern, desirable characteristic: the ability to either "break" games or control them with assured passing. Cesc has fantastic mobility and excels when given the freedom to make runs—with or without the ball—to create space.

Experienced and comfortable keeping possession of the ball, they can also be difference-makers, providing that spark of ingenuity that allowed, for example, Spain to win the U-21 European Championships so easily this summer.

It's the sort of player that can put you over the edge as a team, and they're a dime a dozen. Barca had three, reduced to two, and there are precious few others in the world. Toni Kroos, perhaps, is in the same mould.

The pursuit is admirable, and on paper it suggests Man Utd are trying to take the next tactical step forward by acquiring a special player.

But landing Fabregas' signature seems pretty unlikely, and these plans may have to be put on the back-burner for the time being. 

Tito Vilanova is quite the fan of Fabregas, and it's arguable that, before the Spaniard's thigh injury in December 2012, he was in the form of his life for Barca. He wasn't quite the same on his return, subsequently missing key games against Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Bayern Munich.

He's still not a guaranteed starter—a titular, as they say in Catalonia—and with a World Cup looming, would Fabregas try and push for a move?

Spanish football expert Andy Mitten believes Fabregas would be happy to move back and link up with his old pal Robin van Persie, but how viable is any sort of deal going to be?

Barca vice-president Josep Bartomeu has explicitly stated to Spanish newspaper Sport (via Pete O'Rourke of Sky Sports) that the club will not listen to offers for Fabregas:

"Barcelona can assure you we will not entertain any offers for Cesc. It is totally ruled out, he's not for sale."

Another blow, and Fabregas remains highly unlikely to make the move to England once more. Manchester United fans will be frustrated and worried, but the very fact Moyes is looking at these players is a positive sign.

They're not just "big names," they're certain types of players. The very type United are crying out for if they want to retain the English Premier League title.

 

 

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