Five Africans Who Could Help Manchester United's Revolution
Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, speaking on MUTV (via The Guardian), has announced that the club have “no fixed budget” for new recruits this summer. The Red Devils have already been active in the market, buying Ander Herrera and Luke Shaw.
However, a number of players have left the club. Defenders Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Alex Buttner have all departed and Ryan Giggs has retired. The exodus hasn’t ended, either: Bebe has joined Benfica and 10 more players, including Ashley Young, Wilfried Zaha, Marouane Fellaini, Anderson, Tom Cleverley and Nani, are all rumoured to be heading for the exit door, per Rob Bleaney in The Guardian.
In light of these departures, new manager Louis van Gaal is in need of new recruits to ensure that his new start is not compromised by a lack of adequate personnel.
In this feature, Bleacher Report profiles five African players who may be able to solve some of the present deficiencies in United’s current squad and could be heading to Old Trafford before the end of the current transfer window.
According to Foot sur 7, Nicolas N’Koulou’s mixed season in France, with Olympique Marseille, has deterred the big clubs for bidding from him.
In April last year, Jack Wilson of the Express commented that the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal were monitoring the Cameroon defender’s progress. Those sides appear to have moved on to bigger and better things, though, put off by the stopper’s lapses last term.
However, the defender’s qualities are enduring; he possesses great poise, is a fine reader of the game and boasts the passing abilities craved by Van Gaal. N’Koulou’s record of 88 percent pass accuracy in France last season was the 16th highest in the division, via Whoscored.com.
The Sunday People's Steve Bates (h/t the Mirror) reported in February that the 24-year-old had been identified as a potential signing for David Moyes. Van Gaal could do a lot worse than follow up on Moyes’ frustrated intentions.
Morocco defender Mehdi Benatia may have poured water on reports linking him with a move to the Premier League and Manchester City, per talkSPORT, but it’s not impossible that the right offer or the right move might tempt him away from AS Roma.
Benatia is a rock of a centre-back, and he would surely be a point of solidity at the heart of defence for Manchester United.
The evidence can be found in his stats for the capital club in Serie A last season: He was in the Top 20 in the league for both interceptions and clearances per match and helped Roma to a remarkable 21 clean sheets last term, per WhoScored.com.
The agony of Nemanja Vidic’s departure would be eased greatly should Benatia turn up at Old Trafford over the coming weeks.
Anthony Chapman, of the Express, certainly believes that United might be primed to capitalise from the Moroccan’s growing frustration at the Stadio Olimpico.
For years, Andre Ayew has flattered to deceive. He’s long been a decent Ligue 1 player, but for one who possesses such exciting abilities and has such pedigree, many of us were expecting more.
Last season, however, he began to assert himself more regularly and consistently for Marseille and relished in taking on the side’s creative and offensive burden.
Anthony Chapman of the Daily Express has acknowledged the fact that Manchester United and Liverpool are both keen to add the playmaker—who has only a year left on his contract—to their squad.
Bleacher Report’s Allan Jiang suggested in one of his fabled scouting reports that Ayew’s versatility and age would make him a tempting option for Van Gaal, though one suspects that the Ghanaian would be a little too similar to some of the players already in the club’s ranks.
The Dutch tactician has lamented the volume of No. 10s at the club, via Simon Stone of BBC Sport, and Ayew, who also favours a free role behind and slightly to the left of the striker, would add to an already congested area of the squad.
If, however, Van Gaal envisages the midfielder in a deeper role, perhaps as an energetic presence in the heart of a 4-3-3, then Ayew has the potential to be a successful signing for the Red Devils.
Juventus’s signing of Patrice Evra puts Asamoah’s place in the team in doubt. The west African has performed well as an energetic left-sided option in recent times, but Evra is a defender of genuine pedigree, and the 33-year-old will not be content to simply sit on the bench.
The Bianconeri also have the likes of Martin Caceres, Angelo Ogbonna, Giorgio Chiellini and Simone Padoin in their squad, who could all fill in at left-back.
If he moved to United, however, Van Gaal should use him as a central midfielder—Asamoah has the kind of quality needed for the role and could make a similar impact to that which United are clearly hoping target Arturo Vidal can bring to the table.
The Ghanaian is also versatile, a quality that would doubtless appeal to Van Gaal.
Finally, there is Alex Song.
Unlike the aforementioned players, Song has experience of the Premier League, something that could be a valuable asset in the heart of United’s midfield, particularly with Michael Carrick ruled out for some months with an injury.
Mundo Deportivo, via Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star, has reported that both Louis van Gaal and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho are keen to add a defensive midfielder to their squads ahead of this season’s campaign and earmarked Song to fill the role.
Barcelona are seeking £20 million for the player, who has largely failed to make an impact at Camp Nou.
Could Song revive his flagging career at Old Trafford?