Manchester United fans could hardly conceal their delight when, on September 1 2014, news broke that Radamel Falcao was set to join the Red Devils on a season-long loan deal from AS Monaco.
The Colombian was one of a select group of strikers on the planet universally considered world-class. He had proved his credentials, after all, during his free-scoring spells with FC Porto and Atletico Madrid.
And although the 28-year-old’s serious knee injury was a bit of a concern, United fans were optimistic that Falcao would rediscover his best form after the South American made a goalscoring return to action at the Emirates Cup.
The Manchester United supporters’ collective giddiness rose as they logged on to YouTube and watched compilation videos of Falcao’s best goals - there have been plenty of stunners over the years - and then, at 1:30am on September 2, it was finally confirmed that the striker had completed his loan move to Old Trafford.
In an attempt to make their new star signing feel at home in Manchester, the United fans quickly learned a Falcao chant which Atletico Madrid fans created - Lo Lo Lo, etc - and blasted out their first rendition on his debut against Queens Park Rangers.
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Encouraging first few performances
A week later Falcao made his first start for Manchester United, in the now-infamous 5-3 defeat to Leicester City, and it took him just 13 minutes to make his first contribution for his new employers - a rare assist courtesy of a left-wing cross for Robin van Persie.
Falcao also hit the bar in that match and the general consensus was that, after a week or two, the Colombian would be back to his world-class best and scoring goals on a consistent basis for the Red Devils.
Falcao is no longer world class
Five months later, however, and it’s clear that Falcao is a shadow of the striker who scored goals for fun in Portugal and Spain.
Four goals in 16 appearances is a pitiful return for a striker of his calibre - particularly when you consider the quality of his teammates and the chances he has been presented with - and there’s no way Manchester United should consider paying the £46 million required to turn his loan move into a permanent transfer.
Few would attempt to argue that Falcao is still a world-class striker after watching his displays since September. An awful miss against West Ham on Sunday typified his disastrous spell at Manchester United.
Falcao’s finishing has always been the most impressive aspect of his game, but even that has deserted him. His back-to-goal play - never his biggest strength - has also deteriorated since arriving at Old Trafford. He continues to look weak and slow off the mark.
Not worth the money
Even if Monaco offered Manchester United Falcao at half-price to get him off their wage bill, the Red Devils would have to say thanks but no thanks.
The only positive has been his movement - but signing a striker on the basis of decent movement for a fee in excess of £40 million would be nonsensical.
Manchester United are better off using that money on a quality replacement for both Falcao and Robin van Persie, another striker whose days at Old Trafford look numbered.
Falcao, sadly, will never be the same clinical finisher again - certainly not at the very top level.
The United fans and Van Gaal will appreciate his efforts - his poor form has not been the result of a lack of effort - but unfortunately his best days are firmly behind him.
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