In a summer where Manchester United simply have to rebuild their midfield, it’s unsurprising that stellar names such as Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Arturo Vidal have all been linked with a move—but maybe the relatively unknown Jordy Clasie is the one who should make the switch to Old Trafford.
“The Dutch Xavi,” as he has been dubbed, has all the attributes to succeed in the Premier League, and joining United would make sense.
Diminutive, he may be, but don’t be fooled—Clasie has enough bite and tenacity about his play to fill one of the three midfield slots that Louis van Gaal tends to favour in his starting lineups.
At just 22 years old, the Feyenoord man doesn’t have the experience required to single-handedly reinvigorate United’s midfield, but there’s no doubt that he could work well alongside another dynamic midfielder.
With many of Van Gaal’s targets on show at this summer’s World Cup, the newly appointed United boss will watch on intently.
Maybe, just maybe, the Dutch national team manager will be keeping a close eye on one of his own players—Jordy Clasie.
Clasie Has the All-Round Game to Succeed at United
What’s important for United this summer is that they sign midfielders who are effective in a defensive and attacking capacity.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho made a mockery of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini at the Etihad last season, which is why any new midfielder joining United must possess the ability to mix it with the very best in a technical and physical sense.
Kroos and Fabregas just don’t fit the bill in that regard, but Clasie does; he has the all-round game. What he lacks in raw strength he makes up for in determination and work rate.
The only concern would be playing both him and Juan Mata in a midfield three. Size certainly does not matter when it comes to carving out a successful career in football, but having both Clasie and Mata in the same midfield might be a step too far.
Regardless, it’s crucial that United draft in someone who can win the ball in midfield and, at the same time, offer a creative spark. Clasie is very much that type of player.
In the Netherlands’ World Cup warm-up game against Ecuador, Clasie demonstrated his panoramic vision and range of passing, particularly with his assist for Robin van Persie’s stunning goal.
The technique in his clipped pass forward, as the video illustrates, was outstanding. It was the type of pass that United dearly missed last season. Carrick, Fellaini and Tom Cleverley all seemed reluctant, if not incapable, of delivering such probing, incisive passes.
After the game, Van Persie was quick to heap praise on his young compatriot, per Goal.com:
That pass made the goal possible. That was a world class ball. That pass gave me the opportunity to do my thing. I think that pass was more beautiful than my goal. The only thing I had to do was control the ball and score. That pass from Clasie was world class.
For United fans, that duo linking up on a frequent basis at Old Trafford would be a welcome sight.
And while it would be ludicrous to sign a player based on one pass, never mind one game, it’s precisely the kind of play that epitomises the young Dutchman.
The following compilation video demonstrates further the type of player Clasie is, although not all clips are from the last season.
As the video shows, Clasie is a ball winner, a competent passer and he has a quick turn of pace that allows him to carry the ball forward with intent.
That’s the kind of player Clasie is, and that’s precisely what United need.
He may not be tested at the very highest level, and he would need to be complemented by another physically capable midfielder, but Clasie is a classy player. United would be wise to invest in him.
Clasie Could Spearhead a Dutch Invasion
Somewhat inevitably, United have been inked with a number of up-and-coming Dutch stars following Van Gaal’s appointment.
Clasie is just one of those mooted to make the switch. It may be a question of how many Dutch players join Van Gaal at United, not if they do.
And that’s no bad thing.
In the FA Chairman’s England Commission report, released at the beginning of May, Dutch clubs were shown to be among the best when it comes to ensuring academy players fulfil their potential in Europe’s top leagues.
As the following graphic illustrates, Clasie’s current team, Feyenoord, are bettered only by Ajax, Barcelona, Sporting Lisbon and Real Madrid in terms of producing top players. In fact, the Netherlands have five clubs in the top 18.
All of that is to say United fans shouldn’t be concerned about Clasie and Co. not being up to scratch; there is a long-standing precedent of Dutch players thriving in Europe’s elite leagues.
With a Dutch theme in mind, it’s important to consider whether Van Gaal will also target Roma’s Kevin Strootman, a player who United really should have signed last summer.
Despite the fact that he won’t return from a knee ligament injury until the end of 2014—at least, not to full fitness—there have been suggestions that Van Gaal will make a move for Strootman in this transfer window, per Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express.
Should that move materialise, will Van Gaal want to have Strootman and Clasie playing together?
There’s absolutely no reason why the two Dutch midfielders couldn’t form a successful partnership in the heart of United’s midfield, but Van Gaal may opt for more diversity. And if it comes down to a shootout between Strootman and Clasie, Strootman will likely come out on top.
Will United Make a Move for Clasie?
With Van Gaal supposedly ruling out a move for Kroos and Fabregas, per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, the list of available world-class central midfielders is getting shorter.
Inevitably, United fans will be concerned.
They expect world-class midfielders—quite fairly, perhaps—but systems, formations and tactics will always be more important than the personnel involved.
Clasie is very much a player who could work well in the system that Van Gaal will likely adopt at United next season. Playing alongside another midfielder, sat behind Wayne Rooney or Mata, he could really shine.
And if Clasie impresses Van Gaal in the next few weeks, then there’s no reason why bringing him to United should be seen as a step down from Kroos or Fabregas.
Clasie is much closer to what United need right now than that duo, and he would be following in the footsteps of his current national team manager, which could help him settle.
After all, there may yet be some room for Clasie in Van Gaal’s suitcase when he makes his own way to Manchester.