The Premier League, for all its razzmatazz and elegance, is short of dominant personalities.
Every year the annual influx of foreign talent ensures the continuation of slick, penetrative players who can do damage to opponents, but ones possessive of leadership and the grit and determination that English football has become defined by, are rarely acquirable.
It’s no coincidence that Manchester United are in need of such a player to hold their midfield together. At the moment Wayne Rooney and perhaps the young Phil Jones embody such traits, but neither are suited to the role which David Moyes needs to address in order to achieve defensive stability.
Here we arrive at the crux of the problem – a lack of a midfield presence.
Admittedly Jones may in time come to grow into a player who can orchestrate proceedings by way of acting as an anchor in the middle of the park, but at the moment it looks to be too much to ask of the 21-year-old.
No, it was Marouane Fellaini that Moyes had in mind when it became apparent that there was a gaping hole which needed to be filled with an enforcer. To say the Belgian looks out of his depth would be paying him a compliment.
Sami Khedira and Tony Kroos have since both been earmarked, but a summer raid for either of the pair looks unlikely given their importance to their respective clubs. For me Moyes should learn from his endeavours in the summer that money does not always promise a quick fix, particularly to a problem which requires a special type of personnel.
And when it comes to the issue at hand, there really isn’t anyone more tailor made to confront it head on than former Manchester City man Nigel de Jong.
The Dutch star, who arrived at the Etihad for £18million in 2009, was one of the integral parts of the City team which steamrollered the league for the majority of the 2011-2012 season, before slipping up at the end to bring about a needlessly nail-biting final day with their noisy neighbours.
Much in the same way as the widely celebrated Claude Makelele, De Jong’s game isn’t fuelled by his desire to score goals or bomb up the pitch. The 29-year-old has fashioned his career out of a unique ability to be in the right place at the right time in order to quell the threat of the opposition.
He’s exactly the type of player United need at the moment. Deadly in the tackle, energetic and passionate, his presence could be the glue with which to hold the Red Devils’ midfield together.
Not only this but he could serve as an excellent mentor to the aforementioned Jones. At 29 he’s not going to promise in excess of two or three years great service at the top, but that’s more than enough time to help Jones develop into the type of player many predict he could become under the right guidance.
Made all the more feasible by AC Milan’s disastrous fortunes of late, De Jong’s switch to United wouldn’t even cost them that much. When he was inexplicably allowed to leave City in 2012 it was for a mooted £3million – not exactly high-end business.
At the end of the day he may not be as technically gifted as Mesut Ozil, as well-rounded as Nemanja Matic or as even as appealing as Juan Mata. What he would give to United though is exactly what they need, nothing more, nothing less.
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