Leighton Baines has been on Manchester United’s radar for some time now, even when the Red Devils were still under Sir Alex Ferguson.
David Moyes retained his predecessor’s interest in the English left-back and even had two bids rejected in the summer, after making a double swoop for him and Marouane Fellaini.
What transpired was an angry Everton refusing to do business on PR grounds, only later allowing the Belgian a deadline day move. It is rumoured thatUnited are close to agreeing a deal for the injured 28-year-old in January and it seems like Moyes may finally land his man.
Question is: is he the right man?
Personally, I am a big fan of Baines. He is comfortably the best left-back in the league (at least, since Ashley Cole found out that his age wasn’t just a number), and is among the top left-backs in the world at the moment.
Baines made more key passes than any other player in the entire top flight last season while the average number per game, was only bettered by City’s David Silva.
To put this in perspective, he created 116 chances for his Everton teammates – 12 more than any other player and, more remarkably, more than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues (Ozil who?).
He also delivered 241 crosses, of which 106 found a teammate and ended up scoring five goals. Do not forget his prowess from set-pieces (just ask West Ham). Now you get the picture.
However, he turns 29 years old this month. 29. He has, if we can apply Ashley Cole’s aging graph, at most two more years at the same level, producing the same numbers.
United already have a 32-year old in their ranks and should really be looking towards the long term rather than the short. Baines is absolutely fantastic, but coughing up a large sum for him would not be in line with United’s long-term transfer policy.
Yes, Fergie did bring in a 29-year-old Robin van Persie and it proved to be a masterstroke as the Dutchman played a big part in title number 20.
However, this should be considered an isolated incident. Forwards and full-backs are not subject to the same physical demands and that is why the former normally play for longer at the absolute highest level.
United should really be looking to build for the future. They already have a prodigious Rafael for the right back slot and Moyes should be aiming for more of the same on the left.
Southampton’s Luke Shaw has been brilliant so far and definitely bears the qualities necessary to fill United’s left-back position. He is fast, calm in possession, solid defensively, crosses well, bears a mature head temperament and best of all, is only 18.
The potential is monumental and United are certain to get maximum returns from what
would be his significant price tag. He, and not Baines, should be the focus of United.
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