It’s the international break and admittedly, things outside of this bubble called football, have for once, seemed more important for all of us in this period – such as the recent United States Presidential Election. Whether you are a disappointed Democrat or an excited Republican, it is all over now and about time we switched our minds back to the more pressing questions in life, especially if you’re a Manchester United fan – Should the Red Devils sign Julian Weigl from Dortmund in the summer?
Long story short, they must absolutely go for the German midfielder without question. Julian Weigl’s rise in Germany has been nothing less than meteoric. A 21-year old from the youth academy of Bayern Munich’s closest rivals 1860 Munich, he made the big leap to one of the biggest clubs in Germany and European football by moving to Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2015. The youngster then went on to appear in 51 of 55 games Thomas Tuchel’s side were involved in that season which surprised everyone including himself. He said,
“It’s all gone much faster that I’d have dreamed or imagined”
A culmination of impressive performances for Borussia Dortmund resulted in an inevitable call up to the national team which duly happened in May 29th 2016 as Weigl made his international debut in the 3-1 defeat to Slovakia when he came off the bench and was also remarkably, included in the German national team for the European Championships in France.
Looking at what Weigl has been doing for Dortmund from the middle of the park, it’s not hard to imagine why Dortmund’s director Michael Zorc wants to tie him down to a long-term contract despite the fact that he only signed for the club in the previous summer which may also be due to the rumoured interest from Real Madrid and Manchester City. The German club has a group of next generation super stars with some of the best young attacking talents in Europe at their disposal. With Emre Mor, Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, Felix Passlack the list is quite astounding but the crowning jewel of their squad is arguably the 21-year old Julian Weigl. He is the glue that is responsible for their side to be able to play the free flowing attacking football that they do, so consistently.
In 30 Bundesliga appearances (25 starts) last season, Weigl managed a passing accuracy of 92% (highest in the squad and second highest in the division behind David Alaba) and this is particularly important for a player that normally has the most touches for Dortmund and makes the highest number of passes for the side in most games. He has created 16 clear cut chances too which is commendable from a deeper midfield role. He can be described as a shrewd player off the ball, with his impeccable reading of the game with an extra yard in his head (fairly quick runner) has made him a specialist at interceptions and breaking opposition teams about to transition from defence to attack. His 62 interceptions (at the rate of 2 per game and 2.5 per 90 minutes) is hugely impressive for such a young player in his debut season.
This is a player that is not afraid to receive the ball in any situation so much so that he touched the ball 216 times in the 90 minutes against FC Koln in 2015/16, breaking the previous Bundesliga record of 213 set by Bayern Munich’s Xabi Alonso in the 2014/15 campaign. Manchester United have been criticised in the past three years of not being able to utilise possession better.
It’s safe to say Manchester United have a very similar set of exciting young and promising attacking players to Borussia Dortmund. What they seemingly lack is a midfielder who can play week in week out, in front of the defence, setting the tempo, helping the team not only win football matches but also control them. Despite the fact that Manchester United broke the world transfer record to sign a midfielder in Paul Pogba who can be breathtakingly brilliant on his day, it’s not a coincidence that the team and more importantly the Frenchman himself struggles on the pitch whenever a clever deep-lying midfielder in the mould of Michael Carrick is absent. This is why Julian Weigl can be the long-term solution to the Michael Carrick shaped problem as the signs suggest the 35-year old will play his final season for the Red Devils in 16/17 in what has been a largely successful career.
Julian Weigl may not be an archetypal midfielder that Mourinho has relied on in his successful teams – most recently Nemanja Matic who was instrumental in Chelsea’s title winning 2014/15 campaign. But he is also aware that his projects at Chelsea were different from the current stint at United where he is expected to play football in a certain style which is entertaining as much as it is effective, even more so with the resources he has at his disposal.
In signing the German, he can add a very important piece to the puzzle he is trying to complete and address an issue that will quickly become a debilitating one at the club, should he decide against it.