Despite being heavily linked with a switch to Manchester United, a move to Old Trafford has so far failed to materialise for Everton defender Leighton Baines.
Baines, 28, was seemingly destined for United in the summer, but the Liverpudlian full-back remains an Everton player and has continued to impress this season, receiving a number of plaudits for his consistent performances.
Marauding forward runs, linking up with Steven Pienaar down the left-hand side, providing assists and with an eye for goal from set-pieces, it's easy to see why Sir Alex Ferguson would be interested in bringing the England international to Manchester United.
Left-back is undoubtedly a problem area for United. Patrice Evra’s goal-scoring exploits aside, his defensive shortcomings cannot be ignored, especially in a season where United have shipped goals left, right and centre - especially left.
The combative, energetic Evra now seems lethargic and unenthused when it comes to his defensive duties, often caught out of position and a key perpetrator behind United's defensive frailties this season.
Much has been made of the current lack of competition at left-back, with Brazilian full-back Fabio currently on loan to QPR to gain vital Premier League experience, whilst Alexander Buttner is a long-term project and is not a genuine contender for the number three shirt at this time.
With that in mind, Baines could be the answer to United's problems. His arrival would put Evra under the kind of pressure that will either improve his level of performance, or force the French international into watching from the sidelines as he attempts to rediscover his best form.
The Kirkby-born left back has certainly been consistent over the last few seasons, and consistency is something that United’s defence could certainly do with. At 28, he would come as the finished article with proven Premier League experience, although he has never played in the Champions League and has only limited exposure to international football. With a price tag rumoured to be anything from as little as £8million to £15million, Baines represents great value for money in today's transfer climate.
Everton's lack of finance means they are under some pressure to sell, and David Moyes may be tempted to cash-in on one of his most prized assets in order to re-invest the money and strengthen his squad.
The Toffees have a ready-made replacement already at the club too. Bryan Oviedo, 22, signed for the club on transfer deadline day for £5million, and could be the long-term successor to Baines given his relatively young age.
Baines definitely has something to offer the current United set-up, although somewhat ironically, the positives can also be used as reasons not to pursue this deal.
Ferguson may decide that Baines isn't a priority as his strengths are getting forward, providing assists and scoring goals from set-pieces - United aren't short of free-kick specialists with Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young all in their ranks . . .
Ferguson may also feel that at 28 and with potentially little to no re-sell value, Baines is only a short-term answer to the problematic left-back position, and he may opt to persist with youngsters Buttner and Fabio, with the latter set to return from his loan spell and compete for a starting slot ahead of the 2013/14 season.
As much as I would relish the opportunity to see Baines make the move to Old Trafford, this transfer is far from a certainty, and it remains to be seen whether all the speculation will come to anything more.
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