Why Ezequiel Garay Would Thrive at Manchester United
The dilemma of how to reinforce Manchester United's defense is close to being resolved, if reports of an imminent deal for Benfica's Ezequiel Garay are accurate.
The Argentine international is the right man to provide backup for the incumbent center-back pairing of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic next season, with the prospect of becoming a key first-XI player for United in years to come.
As reported by espn.co.uk on June 13, Manchester United's share price took a hit when rumors of a potential £17 million spend on Garay took shape, indicating that many believe the deal is likely to go ahead.
According to the same website on June 21, coach David Moyes was strongly hinting that Garay will be joining the Red Devils within days when he made the following statement:
"As far as players we are looking to bring in, we're working hard to do that, were trying very hard to make some additions to the squad and hopefully there will be some good news in the not too distant future," Moyes said.
Should the move transpire, United would be securing the services of a world-class defender.
Having previously been involved intermittently with the Argentina national side, Garay has established himself as the Seleccion's starting center-back alongside Federico Fernandez under current manager Alejandro Sabella.
If the pair remain fit they are on track to anchor Argentina's backline at next year's World Cup in Brazil.
With the Albicelestes among the favorites to claim glory in 2014, it is not inconceivable that by this time next year the phrase "World Cup winner" could be used to describe the player, with all the benefits, in terms of both aura, on-field confidence and market value that prestigious status brings with it.
Though the Newell's Old Boys product is not lightning quick, he does possess a sharp footballing brain which makes him a valuable asset both with and without the ball.
He is an elegant ball-carrier and adept at pushing short passes out of defense to his midfielders.
He is also capable of spraying longer balls out from the back with impressive accuracy in order to instigate rapid attacking movements; an ability that would prove valuable in the Premier League, and especially so at a team with the kind of savvy forwards Manchester United has up front.
Garay's eye for a pass is also apparent when he is in defensive mode. He will often be moving to snuff out a dangerous through ball seemingly before the opponent has even released the pass.
It is the kind of awareness that ensures he very rarely has to scramble into last-ditch tackles, though he is more than capable of a well-timed slide-tackle if circumstances require it.
At 1.9 meters tall (6'4"), Garay has physical presence to complement his ball skills, making him useful at countering aerial threats at the back and dangerous when coming forward for set pieces. He is also a more-than-handy free kick and penalty taker.
During his time at Real Madrid, Garay struggled to earn a regular starting berth. Since then, having been given the vote of confidence from his coaches at Benfica and Argentina, he has become a more consistent, complete player.
Does Ezequiel Garay have what it takes to make it at Manchester United?
At 26, Garay is just about to enter his peak years as a defender, and the improvement in his performance levels in recent times suggests he could soon be recognized as one of the world's premier centre-backs.
With Ferdinand due turn 35 in November, and Vidic hampered by frequent injury concerns, the Argentine may well find himself getting plenty of game time in his first season at Old Trafford, if he completes his transfer this summer.
The experience he gains training with, and playing alongside, champions like Ferdinand and Vidic should prepare him comprehensively to take command at the back in two or three years time, when one of both veterans move on.
Garay has the game, and the character, to become Manchester United's next great defender.
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