Manchester United's European Scouting Road Trip
Earlier this month Manchester United manager David Moyes summoned his European scouting team to the club’s Carrington training facility and mapped out an ambitious schedule for the January transfer window.
At least 16 staff members were present at the meeting, according to the Daily Mail, and after agreeing on a list of targets, they dispersed throughout the continent, with Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain the initial destinations.
A disappointing start to the season has the reigning Premier League champions sitting seventh in the table after 21 rounds and already out of the FA Cup. It has drawn Moyes into a continental search for squad reinforcements, and already he and his scouts have watched no fewer than 10 matches in person.
A Tuesday report in The Guardian compounded United’s problems in disclosing an autumn dip in the club’s share value—a revelation that will no doubt heap even more pressure on Moyes to sign players, improve results and bring the team he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson back into the Champions League places.
Following is a look at several matches watched by either Moyes, assistant manager Phil Neville or chief scout Jim Lawlor, along with the players they traveled to see.
Getafe vs. Rayo Vallecano
Rayo ended up winning 1-0 at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, thanks to Alberto Bueno’s 29th-minute goal, but it was Franjirrojos midfielder Saul Niguez the 36-year-old had come to see.
The 19-year-old actually operated in the centre of defense for the full 90 minutes, which speaks to his versatility, and United are also thought to value the Atletico Madrid loanee’s combativeness.
Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia
Also on Neville’s schedule was Tuesday’s Copa del Rey contest between Atletico Madrid and Valencia, as revealed by the Daily Mail.
Striker Diego Costa played the entire match but failed to find the back of the net in Atletico’s 2-0 victory, and midfielder Koke replaced Jose Sosa in the 58th minute with the hosts leading 1-0.
Neville will no doubt have been making notes on both players.
Benfica vs. Porto
Benfica beat Porto 2-0 in a massive Primeira Liga match on Sunday, and Jim Lawlor was in attendance to keep an eye on Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala, according to the Daily Mail.
Mangala, 22, won a Belgian title with Standard Liege before moving to Porto, where he has since had a hand in back-to-back championships.
A 6'2" defender with good positional sense and an accurate first pass, he made his France debut in a 2013 friendly against Uruguay.
Cagliari vs. Juventus
Rossoblu defender Davide Astori’s name likely found its way into the United manager’s notebook, but the 50-year-old will have also been on the island to watch Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio.
Interestingly, the 27-year-old Italian midfielder started on the bench for the Bianconeri but found the back of the net shortly after replacing Andrea Pirlo.
Bordeaux vs. Paris SG
Moyes’ most recent scouting trip took him to France, where on Tuesday he watched Paris Saint-Germain beat Bordeaux 3-1 in a Coupe de la Ligue encounter at Stade Chaban Delmas, according to The Independent.
United’s quite obvious need of midfield reinforcement likely had him in wine country to watch Blaise Matuidi, although the France international only came onto the pitch in the 79th minute to replace Marco Verratti.
Still, there was time for the 26-year-old to find the back of the net, rounding out the score just moments after Adrien Rabiot’s winner.
According to an article by Chris Wheeler and Dominic King of the Daily Mail, Lawlor will get another look at Eliaquim Mangala when Porto host Penafiel in the Taca de Portugal on Wednesday.
Moyes, meanwhile, will spend the evening in Napoli, where he will presumably be scouting Marek Hamsik.