If you look back over the past few Premier League seasons you’ll notice a fairly simple correlation which runs through each of the teams who have been crowned champions of England; the presence of a world-class player.
In 2009/10 Chelsea boasted Didier Drogba at the peak of his powers, in 10/11 Manchester United relied heavily on the unerring figure of Nemanja Vidic at the heart of their defence, in 11/12 Sergio Aguero ran rampant for Manchester City, in 12/13 United had Robin van Persie in the form of his life and last year Yaya Toure was as dominant a force as anyone in the modern game… My point is that a side’s chances of winning the race to English football’s most prestigious crown are significantly boosted when the inclusion of a top draw, in form, asset is assured.
In my opinion that was one of the reasons why United were so woeful last year. With Sir Alex Ferguson gone they had no go-to-guy to turn to, and as such they squandered their perennial reputation for being the Premier League’s consistent top dogs and genuinely looked lost as they toiled to a seventh-placed finish.
When Louis van Gaal packs his bags ready for United’s USA preseason camp it makes sense to assume that he’ll be doing so with confidence that he can get the best out of the side’s top performers - the 63-year-old is experienced enough to know that it is an absolute must if the Red Devils are to provide the likes of City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool with a worthy test in his maiden campaign at Old Trafford. However the Dutchman has yet one ace card in his hand to play to assure that beyond all reasonable doubt; and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be hoping against hope that it comes through with aplomb - the capture of Arturo Vidal.
The hunt for Vidal
For as long as Van Gaal has been named in the same breathe as the United hot-seat Vidal has never been far removed from the picture, such is the ex-Bayern Munich boss’ admiration for his abilities. The 63-year-old has already admitted that he wanted to sign the Chilean whilst at the helm at the Allianz Arena, and Vidal’s development since that stage has allowed his reputation to sky-rocket.
Now, following a World Cup venture which has seen him lauded by journalists and pundits all over the planet, the Juventus playmaker finds himself more sought after by Van Gaal than ever before. The primary reason? He’s established himself amongst the likes of the aforementioned Toure, Aguero and Van Persie in the world-class bracket of player.
At 27 Vidal is now entering the supposed peak years of his career, and his ability as it stands is frightening. The ease with which he tore apart Brazil’s midfield in the second-round of Chile’s campaign in Brazil has left the public baying for more, and his records on the club scene over the past few seasons speak for themselves.
According to Squawka stats Vidal made 42 key passes over the course of last season (an average of 1.31 a game), which practically laughs at Michael Carrick’s 28 - he was United’s highest scorer - and the Chilean also managed to create 47 chances, again heavily outweighing Carrick’s 28, Tom Cleverley’s 10 and Marouane Fellaini’s 5.
Is it fair to compare Vidal to a midfield which was largely ostracised for its lack of efficiency last term? Perhaps not. However consider that Vidal was only marginally behind Andres Iniesta (45 key passes in three more games played and 52 chances created) and Luka Modric (44 key passes in two more appearances and 50 chances created) and you can accept that he really is up there with the best of them.
Would Vidal and United work?
Under David Moyes, who also actively tried to convince Antonio Conte to sell Vidal, it’s difficult to envisage the Chilean releasing his full potential in the Premier League. With Van Gaal in charge however United are expected to be an altogether different beast, and the drive and energy that Vidal encompasses would complement the natural abilities of Ander Herrera nicely.
Behind an attacking unit consisting of Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney, Van Persie and Adnan Januzaj the Juve man would surely thrive, and if United can coax the best out of him they would certainly have a world-class talent at their disposal. That, as Van Gaal is well aware, would almost certainly be enough to allow them to mount a serious charge to reclaim their title at the first time of asking.