World Cup Star James Rodriguez Could Be Manchester Utd's Next Cristiano Ronaldo

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2014

The rebuilding programme at Old Trafford is well and truly underway after the arrivals of Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.

Both players tick the boxes of what's needed to be long-term United players: young, energetic and hungry for success.

They both also conform to the mantra chanted by many a Red Devil: Manchester United do not buy stars―they create them. 

Though very well known, Herrera and Shaw are yet to explode on the global scene, but they are both ticking time bombs and are very shrewd captures by Louis van Gaal.

As the summer roles on, United will continually be linked with every player who has even a half-decent game in Brazil during the greatest World Cup in living memory. 

But there is one footballer who has been linked to United for sometime who has seen his stock rise like no other individual in the past two weeks.

No one needs to explain to any fan who has watched the World Cup who James Rodriguez is. Yet only a matter of days ago, many will not have known much about him.

However, all of Europe's top clubs have monitored the 22-year-old player for an extended period, including Manchester United, per Ben Jefferson of the Express.

Joe Bernstein of the Daily Mail writes that Rodriguez is now in line to become a global superstar after his two goals against Uruguay set up a quarter-final clash with Neymar and Brazil.

The player joined Monaco only 12 months ago for a reported £37 million, per Bernstein, but this fee now looks like a bargain. 

United's interest in Rodriguez dates back to 2012, when John Edwards of the Daily Mail wrote about Sir Alex Ferguson's intentions of bringing the attacker to Old Trafford. At the time, Edwards said that United were prepared to pay upwards of £30 million for the then-Porto player. However, no deal materialised. 

It was a huge error by United to not secure one of the planet's hottest young talents, and something that needs to be rectified by the club in the coming weeks.

The knowledge that United need to rebuild is nothing new, but the debate lies as to what the team really needs. There certainly are holes in midfield and defence for the Reds, but there is one entity United have never replaced.

The sale of Cristiano Ronaldo marked a change in tack for the club; gone was the talisman of the team in favour of a more holistic approach to tactics. Ferguson knew he could not replace CR7, but United continued to achieve—albeit in slight decline.

That decline reached a new low under David Moyes, meaning United are at ground zero in terms of finding a new approach under Van Gaal.

And with that, United do indeed need a new talisman.

Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie will still be prominent next season but LvG will need to build for the next 12 months and beyond.

It is easy to say that United are blessed in the attacking positions and that funds should be filtered to other areas of the pitch. But the one true element that has evaporated from United in the past few seasons, even as they won championships and went deep into the Champions League, is the loss of the fear factor they had in 2008.

Six years ago, United were the best team on the planet; Ronaldo was strutting and scoring with a supporting cast of Carlos Tevez and Rooney. It was an irrepressible attacking unit that scared the life out of every opponent. 

Behind this, United also had a world-class defence and a magician in Paul Scholes.

United and Van Gaal need to aspire to this once again. Funds have been spent in earnest since Ronaldo's departure to Real Madrid, but not on a player who could be considered among the world's best.

Rodriguez has shown at the World Cup that he loves the big stage. And the Theatre of Dreams would surely appeal to him more than anything Monaco could offer him at their 18,500 capacity Stade Louis II home. 

The Glazer family would have to put in an extraordinary bid for Rodriguez to purchase him, but if the American owners are serious about winning Champions League trophies in the future, the time for action is now.

United need a superstar, but not one who is fully formed and carved to perfection. Rodriguez would grow at Old Trafford, and Van Gaal can shape him in the way that he has done with great talents in the past.

If it means that United need to sell Wayne Rooney to free up funds and create a wage for Rodriguez that he cannot turn down, then so be it. The long-term future of the club means more than the immediate. 

Rodriguez is the future, but plying his trade in the present.

If United are serious about rebuilding to the highest possible standard, Ed Woodward will be flying to the south of France for talks in the very near future. 


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