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Why Manchester United Would Be Wrong to Keep Radamel Falcao

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2015

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Radamel Falcao of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Manchester United at Goodison Park on April 26, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Sadly, the time has come when even the most ardent admirer of Radamel Falcao has to concede that his Manchester United career has been a flop.

As recently as January, I wrote advocating for Falcao to be given another chance at United. Unfortunately the ensuing months have provided ample evidence that it would be a mistake for the Red Devils to hang on to the once-prolific Colombian.

Of course, in letting him go, United run the risk that another club will take advantage of the year he has spent getting himself back to full fitness. It is possible that, with a proper preseason under his belt and a system in place in which he can flourish, El Tigre could once again terrorise defences.

It is just that it seems rather unlikely, and certainly not worth gambling on, given the significant financial outlay that would be involved. At the time of his arrival in September 2014, the BBC reported that United had an option to buy him for £43.5 million at the end of his contract. His wage is apparently approximately £265,000 per week.

For those numbers, United need a significant on-pitch return.

PRESTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Manager Louis van Gaal of Manchester United shakes hands with Radamel Falcao García of Manchester United as he is replaced during the FA Cup Fifth round match between Preston North End and Manchester United at Deepdale on
Michael Regan/Getty Images
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In the first half of the season there were glimpses of the Falcao United fans hoped their club had signed. He did not set the scoring charts alight, but managed a steady trickle of goals and assists, particularly during games in which he started.

However, he has not scored a goal since 31 January, and not provided an assist since 11 February. Chris Smalling has caught up with him in the goalscoring charts.

Falcao was relegated to supporting-cast status after United's scrappy win over Sunderland on 28 February. He played 90 minutes against Chelsea because of the injuries elsewhere in United's squad, and 45 minutes against Everton because United had been so appalling in the first half, but otherwise his has been a bit-part role.

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Radamel Falcao of Manchester United  celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Manchester United at Britannia Stadium on January 1, 2015 in Stoke on Tren
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

He is simply too expensive to gamble on. Unless he is prepared to take a significant wage cut, and Monaco are prepared to negotiate down a long way from the reported sale price, there have been too few indications that he will be able to get back to his best.

Of course, if he did get back to his best, or even, say, 75 percent of his best, he would be an enormous asset to the club. This is not a player who had one good season and then faded. Falcao's goalscoring record throughout his European career has been phenomenal.

His lack of form this season would appear to be multi-factorial. The most likely culprit would be the lengthy lay off he faced after a serious knee injury, and the impact that the injury itself had on his physicality. He certainly seems to have lost the electric burst of pace he once possessed, which made him such a threat on the counter-attack.

He has also struggled for service, being used as part of a front-two, rather than ploughing the lone furrow up front which he has done for most of his career. He suffered more than most for Louis van Gaal's experimentation with United's system, given that he was never able to play himself back into form.

MONACO - AUGUST 31: Falcao of Atletico Madrid celebrates following the UEFA Super Cup match between Chelsea and Atletico Madrid at Louis II Stadium on August 31, 2012 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

With that, his confidence appears to have diminished, which has been evident in his hesitant first touch. The player who demolished Chelsea in the European Super Cup Final in 2012, and Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League final which preceded it was devastating in the box. That player seems long gone.

This is all written with a heavy heart. On a personal note, it is hard to remember a signing that brought more excitement than Falcao's. Only really Eric Cantona and Juan Sebastian Veron's arrivals spring to mind.

He has also been a very endearing presence, always positive on social media, and visibly grateful to the fans for the support he has received throughout the season. He has never stopped trying either, looking desperate to score every time he has been on the pitch.

However, good will and endeavour are not enough, given his price tag. The hope that he will ever get back to his best looks forlorn. For now it seems that United were very sensible in acquiring him on loan. It was a manageable gamble. It seems clear that it has not paid off well enough to warrant further investment.

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