Leighton Baines Must Be Manchester United's No. 1 January Transfer Target
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Leighton Baines must be Manchester United's primary January transfer target because more often than not the obvious answer is the right one. And with Patrice Evra threatening to leave, the time to move in for Baines is now.
Gallons of printer's ink and millions of bytes have already been spent analyzing and rehashing United manager David Moyes' clumsy attempt at a buy-one-get-one-free this past summer. Few were surprised when Everton did not jump at the chance to sell Marouane Fellaini and Baines for a total of £28 million.
There was a bit of surprise at what came next—Moyes outright overpaying to secure Fellaini. Per the ESPN.co.uk postmortem:
"Fellaini has cost £27.5 million - almost double the £16m United valued him at when submitting a joint, £28m bid for the midfielder and left-back Leighton Baines last month.
It was £4m also more than the £23.5m release clause Fellaini had at Goodison Park, which expired at the end of July and which United had opted not to activate."
Not exactly United's (or Moyes') finest hour.
Fortunately for United, Everton have not been bought by an oil tycoon or a fourth-generation billionaire in the past few months, which means they are as strapped for cash as ever. And Everton's present position in the Premier League table (seventh), is as familiar as an old pair of slippers.
Even if Everton will not outright admit it, they are on another slow boat to just missing a Europa League place.
Which probably suits them just fine, since all those extra matches (and travel too) wreak havoc on a paper-thin side that has its hands full accounting for all the Premier League, FA Cup and Capital One Cup matches to begin with.
So there is nothing new to report here.
Everton are Everton and they would surely welcome a hefty bid for Baines from United. Obviously, it is no secret that United wanted Baines before. There is no reason not to want him now.
Actually, the reasons for United's desire to acquire Baines have only become more acute since summer turned to autumn.
United now are a side with outstanding goalkeeping, world class striking and, well, that is sort of it.
The ever-present drumbeat about holes in the United midfield is as loud as ever. But United have to count on Fellaini bedding in (soon) and taking some of the strain off players like Tom Cleverley to hurry up and figure it out already.
United can survive inconsistent midfield play as long as Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie keep scoring goals and the back line holds. The home loss to West Bromwich Albion and the points lost late at home against Southampton underscored what can happen when the defense is not up to their task.
Even with Patrice Evra at left-back, United's defense has had struggles. Now that Evra is making unhappy noises about leaving, United have to move quickly to fill the hole he is likely to leave.Here is Evra's recent statement, per Ben Jefferson of The Independent:
It is not that Manchester United do not want me to sign a new contract. This whole thing is personal. Manchester United would like me to finish my career there, but this is something personal.
Yes, get the checkbook out for Baines as quickly as you can, Mr. Moyes.
After all, it is a rare thing to be given a second chance to so quickly fix a mistake as egregious as United's summer transfer business was.
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