After a summer filled with speculation surrounding Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder and his task of replacing Paul Scholes at Manchester United - which eventually turned out to be nothing more that tabloid filler - supporters at Old Trafford must be wondering when a replacement for the midfielder will be drafted in.

The media have yet again attempted to tease the United following by tipping Oscar de Marcos to fill that void ahead of the impending departure of Scholes. The Athletic Bilbao attacking midfielder scored in both legs of the Europa League last-16 win over United in March, dumping the club out of a second European competition in one season.

In these two games, De Marcos produced a pair of performances which, while it was overshadowed by the showings of striker Fernando Llorente and fellow forward Iker Muniain, proved he could perform on the grandest of stages.

This is De Marcos' first full season as a professional, hence his sudden emergence on the scene, and he's been worth waiting for. He's notched nine goals in all competitions, with four further assists.

The stats may not read of a player who is being linked with a move to one of the world's biggest clubs, but it's his performances which have caught the eye.

Sir Alex Ferguson has often targeted players who have excelled against his own - Cristiano Ronaldo's performance in a pre-season friendly for Sporting Lisbon against United forced the Scot into signing the winger. Despite being dispatched by two goals to nil, the 12-time Premier League champions recruited a valuable asset for the future.

Having seen De Marcos produce similar feats against United earlier this season, it would be no surprise had Ferguson made similar strides.

His performance in the first-leg at Old Trafford was one far above his years, and faced with Ryan Giggs, De Marcos toyed with the Welshman. He took his goal with aplomb, brilliantly volleying into the far corner to give the visitors a lead in the tie they would not relinquish.

The second leg was something of a canter for Bilbao, with the 22-year-old firing home a second on the night with embarrassing ease, as the Basque side cruised into the last-eight.

If United were able to lure De Marcos away from Spain, then they'd have recruited a player whose dominant midfield manner is likely to see him become a world star, but it's completing a deal that could be the tough part.

The close relationship between the Bilbao crowd and the players, despite the relaxation of the purely Basque player recruitment, means attempting to sign any of the players is a tough ask. The emotional bond can't be broken with healthy contracts.

The other stumbling block might be the fee required to sign de Marcos, which stands at €32 million. For a club who spent in excess of £50 million last summer, and who are more likely to continue to balance their debt rather than splash out on major signings, the fee might appear excessive.

In addition, concerns over whether De Marcos' undeniable talent is transferable to the Champions League and the Premier League are likely to be raised. The pace of English football is such that players from overseas find it tough to adapt. Just ask Juan Sebastien Veron.

So his talent is undeniable, but his pedigree? Ferguson's judgement will give us a good indication.

Topics:
#Europa League
#European News
#Premier League
#UEFA Champions League
#Manchester United
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