Riquelme, forgotten maestro, could be just what Man Utd need

by Charlie Coffey

Friday, July 30th, 2010
 

If David Gill is telling the truth and the money is there for Sir Alex Ferguson to strengthen his squad, why isn’t he doing so? It is as likely of course, that two men employed by the Glazer family are putting a brave face on a club finance system that is as tight as a broken catflap. However let us pretend, for just a minute, that Ferguson does indeed have a few pennies to spend.

Last season showed the over-reliance United have on Wayne Rooney. Looking favourites to win a fourth title in a row and odds-on for another Champions League final at least, Rooney turned his ankle and missed the four days that would make, or as it were break United’s season, in which they lost to Chelsea on the Sunday, surrendering their lead in the Premier League. They were then knocked out of Europe by Bayern Munich on the Wednesday.

To put it lightly, Dimitar Berbatov does not quite have the same energy levels as Rooney. When forced to actually do some running when Rooney was missing and the team were relying on him he tired quickly and was easily marked out of the game. Such is the work Rooney does between the midfield and attack that United look like they have lost two players when he is unavailable, and have only Ryan Giggs that can also do an effective job in that position.

With Giggs and Paul Scholes only able to play sporadically now, United could do with another creative attacking midfielder (or trequartista) to support Rooney from midfield when he plays and/or do his work between the lines if he gets injured. Without such an addition they are unlikely to wrestle their old Premier League crown away from Chelsea. Even worse, they could even finish behind their City rivals.

But who to buy? It is likely that, even if United do locate the perfect man for the job, City will try to pip them to the post out of sheer spite. Mikel Arteta is one of those players, but City have already registered an interest and although United have a good relationship with the Toffees, City have a blank chequebook.

Mesut Ozil could be available for a nice price (said to be around £15m) given that he wants away and has only one year left on his current deal. However with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea said to be interested, United could again be priced out of the market.

One man I have long admired in world football who I think could prosper in any league is Juan Roman Riquelme. He has just turned thirty two, but his game is much more about his technique, passing range and exquisite set-piece ability than his pace. He is just short of six feet and is suitably robust for English football.

Oh, and he is out of contract. West Ham have been knocking and although he is still trying to continue his long-standing love affair with Boca Juniors by negotiating for a new deal, surely the offer of Champions League football would be too much to resist, especially when you consider that Boca finished 11th in the Argentinean Primera Division last season.

The downsides of such a move are that Riquelme does not speak English and, as a playmaker in the traditional mould (think Carlos Valderrama with less hair), tends to dominate his own team as much as others, dictating the pace of play and having a monopoly on set-pieces. United, however, missed Ronaldo’s free-kicks last season, and even had Wayne Rooney taking corners, with mixed results.

On a free transfer, I think Riquelme would be well worth a gamble. When Rooney is missing, Riquelme could take the reins, but he is good enough to be a first-team regular. If United continue to play a 4-2-3-1 against the better sides, Riquelme could sit behind Rooney and supply the killer ball.

An investment in a young attacking midfield prodigy with Riquelme to come in on a free transfer for a couple of years, until he is ready for first-team action, could be the low-cost, low-profile solution Ferguson needs with the limited resources he has at his disposal.

Read Charlie Coffey’s World Cup every weekday at my11.com.

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  • isaiah

    You are right.Just the way Iniesta plays for Barca that is what we at Man u.Very sensible indeed.If it is not possible because of age then we better settle on Reqeulme.

  • isaiah

    ou are right.Just the way Iniesta plays for Barca that is what we need at Man u.Very sensible indeed.If it is not possible because of age then we better settle on Reqeulme.

  • IVOR IRWIN

    Glad to see someone’s thinking beyond Ozil, who keeps saying in interviews that he wants to play for Barca(although I can’t see where he’d fit in). Riquelme’s a reat player, but he’s got an ego the size of Buenos Aires and is as mercurial as they come. Maybe if it was May! United’s whole system would need to be altered. Bad enough that Berbawank puts the brakes on so many one-touch express train attacks on the edge of the box, worse if ‘no hable’ Riquelme arrives with only a week or so to adjust to United. He does, however, date the hottest WAG of them all.

  • charlie coffey

    It’s not his bird! She’s just got the same surname. I already checked that out. Research, you know… Just ‘researching’ a wag piece now actually. Check out Sylvie van der Vaart. Dang.

  • Sagar

    I think the author has playd 1 too many game of football manager!

  • IVOR IRWIN

    Yeah. Dang! Shoot the wad on Hernanes or Ganso. It’s all a gamble, anyway, innit?

  • dexylongshot

    now now gents, dang dang.

    I’ve a feeling the mancs will have nothing again this season unless they spunk out on a goalscoring midfielder. Ozil is tidy but i’m not sure he could come ina knock in 15 goals a season like frank. Personally, i’d be gunning for Milner.

  • IVOR IRWIN

    Milner is a Leeds true believer! He’d never play for us. I gather he hates United so much that he was barely on speaking terms in the Newcastle dressing room with Smudger. Thirty million quid is a lot of dosh for someone with no history of winning big games, anyway. Ozil isn’t much of a scorer, to be sure, he’s a table setter, but neither is Defour or Eden Hazzard. There’s nobody I can think of in Brittain or Ireland, so I guess that leaves Dzagoev.

  • dexylongshot

    Good point on Leeds-Reds rivalry Ivor, i’d forgotton about that.

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