They say money can’t buy experience. That general rule of course doesn’t apply if you’re a football manager - money can and will, more often than not, give you just that.
Coincidentally experience is the desired platter of the day at Old Trafford ahead of what could very well be a busy summer transfer window for Manchester United and David Moyes. Not only does the squad require an assertive revamp in a host of positions, but the players who come in have to fit two categories;
A) They must be be capable of consistently turning in substantially better performances than the ones which have far too frequently been exhibited by United this year.
B) They must be able to lead from their respective positions by using the experience and pedigree they have accumulated from playing football at the highest level possible.
Now the first is a given; United have been far too sloppy far too many times this term, and it’s cost them dearly. The second however, and in my mind the more pertinent of the two, is one which Moyes must engage if he really hopes to bring his side up to speed with the one Sir Alex Ferguson walked to the Premier League title last season.
With a number of their most senior players looking exit bound, the acquisition of characters who can lead has never been more pressing. I’m not only talking about the obvious roles that need re-assigning - the centre of midfield, the centre of defence etc - but also about the ones that may probably feature lower on Moyes’ list of priorities heading into the transfer window.
Primarily it’s the left back berth I’m leaning towards. Patrice Evra is looking more and more each day as though he could finish his days elsewhere if offered the right terms, and his current understudy Alexander Buttner isn’t nearly qualified enough to assume defensive responsibilities on United’s left-flank. Even if Evra does choose to stay past this season, the ease at which teams have been able to get at Moyes’ team by attacking them down their left-side is alarming. An upgrade is needed.
Three names have been realistically linked to United; Leighton Baines, Luke Shaw and Fabio Coentrao. Whilst the first of those is perhaps the most ideal candidate, he’s only recently penned a lengthy new deal at Everton, and so the chances of him being lured away have been significantly lowered. That leaves Shaw and Coentrao.
For many people, the 18-year-old Shaw is the man they would have bought in, but I disagree. The Saints starlet is engaging, exciting and most definitely one of the brightest prospects to be coming through the ranks of English football. However he has one fatal flaw that isn’t wanted nor needed at Old Trafford in their current predicament; a genuine lack of experience.
Though it’s not his fault the youngster has only actually played 59 professional games for Southampton, and none of them have been in Europe. The tally is impressive for a player of his age but it doesn’t come close to measuring up against Coentrao’s 235, which includes 45 appearances in European competition, plenty of games for Real Madrid and fixtures on some of the biggest stages in the world.
If Moyes is aiming to secure a like for like replacement for Evra then it’s those statistics that should be the most heavily deciding factors. Whilst Shaw may have English tongues wagging when it comes to the prospect of how good he could be in a mere few years, the bulk of United’s problems lie in the here and now, and unless they can address them they may not even be in a position to be buying Shaw when and if he does become the world beater he’s expected to be.
For me Coentrao’s time at Madrid, and his subsequent appearances in the El Classico derbys and tough Champions League matches, make him the obvious choice to be bought in. Not only has he proven that he is capable of playing the highest level, but he’s also had the benefit of having taken to the field alongside some of the best players in the history of the game - if you consider Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to be of such calibre.
A versatile, grounded full-back who is available for purchase this summer, the Portuguese international is the perfect fix for a defence which has looked dangerously short of characters. Shaw's may be the name on everyone's lips, but Moyes must look past that if he truly wants to improve his team's credentials.