Owen Hargreaves: The Linchpin To Red Devils Success?
The general consensus is that Manchester United faces a dilemma. That dilemma is that following the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, the Red Devils will have a tough go at winning a fourth straight Premier League title and seriously challenging in Europe.
Many fans and analysts are looking in the direction of striker Wayne Rooney to steer the United ship to further glory. And while his play will certainly have an increased impact on the club's fortune in the coming season, perhaps we should be looking in another direction as to who success could really depend upon.
Owen Hargreaves, who signed with the club in 2007, is that player. No, he won't score 26 goals to make up for Ronaldo and no, he most likely won't net 15 to fill the void left by Tevez. But he can still be the reason that United come away with wins.
It's because a footballer like him can be vital to a side's overall play. He's someone that can bolster a defence and midfield at the very same time. That's an ability that could be a defining factor against the toughest of clubs.
Some of Europe's most efficient midfields are showing the importance of a player in the mold of Hargreaves.
For the perfect example look no further than FC Barcelona (It pains me to say it, but facts are facts). Yaya Touré provides the likes of Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta the freedom to roam in the middle and move forward, probing defences for the smallest of openings.
As if they hadn't already done it throughout the entire season, they showed their class as they totally outplayed Manchester United's midfield.
The point isn't to say that Anderson or Michael Carrick could match the Spaniards' efforts. It's that they'd be given more freedom to use their skill and creavity going forward, something fans have wanted to see from Anderson especially.
Other sides have used the defensive and attacking midfield tandem and seen plenty success:
- AC Milan during their Scudetto and UCL runs with Gennaro Gattuso or Andrea Pirlo in behind Kaká.
- Liverpool has found success with Xabi Alonso and/or Javier Mascherano supporting Steven Gerrard
- Real Madrid's Claude Makélélé (perhaps one of the best players ever to take up the role) was the engine room for Zinedine Zidane and the beginning of the Galácticos era as they took the Champions League crown.
Owen wouldn't simply be filling in a spot on the field. His contribution in such a position could completely alter the way that Manchester United prepare for and play against top sides.
An added feature is that Hargo may currently be United's best free-kick taker (Though Anderson may disagree). We can all remember the critical winner he had against Arsenal. While that may be the only thought of his dead ball ability in a United kit, he displayed during his time at Bayern Munich that he is very capable on set pieces.
It's just another plus for an already valuable player.
Obviously, the major hindrance to all of this bearing fruit is Hargo's injury woes. Operations on both of his knees in the most recent season made him an afterthought as he barely made any appearances. It wasn't the first time he's ever dealt with injury either.
It's an all too important detail to ignore and he will miss the start of the season, slated for a late September comeback at the very earliest.
Here's to hoping that he can see a return to fitness and greatly assist United to seeing returns in silverware.
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