Just imagine it. Raheem Sterling, a man painted as the future of Liverpool football club jumps ship to fierce rivals Manchester United. Surely not? The summer transfer juggernaut is under way and we can look forward to months of solid transfer gossip interspersed amidst a sea of nonsense rumours.
Whilst there are reports that Manchester City have had a bid rejected you’d think the interest of Manchester United in Raheem Sterling is one of the most outlandish! It is not outlandish to believe that Manchester United would be interested in Sterling. United have a history of looking to young talent and building around them. The unbelievable part is that they could manage to secure his transfer from Liverpool. The two clubs haven’t had a player transfer between the two of them since Phil Chisnall departed Old Trafford for Anfield in 1964. Sir Alex Ferguson shut the door on Gabriel Heinze’s proposed move to Merseyside a few years ago. They aren’t exactly each other’s biggest fans these two clubs. Putting aside the politics of a move between United and Liverpool, we ask; what would Raheem Sterling bring to Manchester United? Would he be worth the hassle?
Raheem Sterling is enemy number 1 right now for a lot of football fans and ex-players alike. He is being portrayed as money grabbing, spoilt young footballer who needs a clip round the ears and his head checked. What total nonsense. He has been billed as one of the top young talents in the country since he was about 17. He was major part of the Liverpool side that nearly won the league just the season before last. He was a starter for England at a World Cup. But, now that he has decided he is worth all the hype that he created for himself with his performances he is just a deluded young man. Raheem Sterling wants to leave Liverpool because he doesn’t see them winning titles and competing in the Champions League like his talent deserves. Sterling was expected to carry Rodgers’ team last year to the top 4. How can you put that onus on a player who is only had two full Premier League seasons under his belt no matter how good they are?
Liverpool let Sterling down when they wasted the Luis Suarez money on sub-par talent. Great players bring out the best in other great players. Sterling was immense when playing with Suarez one of the world’s top talents. Is it therefore really a surprise he wants to leave for a club with players of a similar caliber to best showcase his talents and aid his development? Instead he is meant to be loyal to the team who gave him his professional debut? Be loyal to a manager that has played him out of position for large parts of the season? Football is one of the only professions in the world where this idea of allegiance is used as an argument. In any other profession if you are capable of getting a better salary with a better company no one holds it against you for making the move that’s in your best interest. But, in football you are labeled some sort of Judas. In the end Liverpool’s loss could be another clubs gain, even their fiercest rival’s gain.
With Manchester United already having secured Memphis Depay this summer they have secured one of Europe’s premier young talents. Luring Sterling from Liverpool would give a young look and serious pace to Man United’s wings. Something the club had always been famous for but had lost in recent years is their emphasis on good attacking wide men. Sterling would bring that back to Old Trafford. His electric pace and ability to beat a man has been made evident. Most importantly for United is that electric pace he would bring. At times last season United were vilified for their tediously slow build up and lack of pace. A player like Sterling brings that pace in spades. Not just pace for the sake of being quick, but also an ability to use it effectively with his ability once on the ball.
After the recent Ireland vs England game I saw a lot of talk about how Sterling is overrated and not in fact worth the money he is asking for. What that tells me is you will have a player with a point to prove if you decide to pay his fee and meet his wage demands. That can go one of two ways; either the player crumbles and isn’t interested in proving anything because he believes in his own ability without proving it to his doubters, or you have a young player hungry to prove to those doubters they are talking rubbish and continue to develop into the talent his promise projects him to be.
Should Man United be the team that signs him he will have even more to prove. He will be the ultimate enemy to Liverpool supporters; there may even be United fans unconvinced by a former Liverpool player amongst their ranks. Call me naïve but I get the impression Sterling is a young player who wants to become the best he can possibly be. He battled his way into the Liverpool team and established his reputation on the pitch at an extremely young age. Sterling doesn’t want to leave Liverpool to sit on the bench at a top side and waste away. Sterling wants to be winning titles and become the best player he can be, become the England team’s centre piece and create his own legend in the game. Any team scouting him will no doubt be weighing this up. What his reaction would be and what his attitude is. If Man United are willing to go head to head with Liverpool to sign the player they will not only be getting a young talent, they will be getting a young talent with a point to prove which could make for something special.
Another important aspect of Sterling’s game is his versatility. His talents allow him to be a frightening winger, an inside man playing off the striker and with years ahead of him to improve he can play as a striker. That type of versatility can be invaluable to a team, especially one with title ambitions. Just don’t waste that versatility by having Mario Balotelli be the striker he plays off, or by making him your lone striker with in a team incapable of supplying him with opportunities. At United he would be playing off of Wayne Rooney or whichever other top striker they secure this summer. At United he would have players like Mata or Angel Di Maria supplying him with opportunities. Like I said earlier great players bring out the best in other great players. At Manchester United he is more likely to be working with players nearer the level – not the same level, nearer the level before you all lose your mind – he was working with when he teamed up with Luis Suarez.
Perhaps most importantly with regards to a move for Raheem Sterling, United would still be getting him young. You are getting a readymade Premier League star who is only 20 years of age, which is something that is hard to come by. At 20 years of age Sterling’s best years are still potentially well ahead of him. All his critics can say what they want but how many other players have amassed the CV he has at 20? How many players would have the hope of a team on his shoulders at 20? Sterling has set the bar for himself at a young age which can be a curse because the rest of your career there are expectations you are meant to meet and then surpass. Already fans and ex-players are getting on his back. I’d say it’s unfair because he isn’t being given a chance to surpass those standards he has set at Liverpool. Manchester United or any other top side would give him that platform and from there it would be up to him. There are parts of his game that he still needs to develop as he is still an incredibly raw player. From what I have seen of him I would say give him that platform. There would be no excuses then, put it all in front of him and help continue his development into one of the world’s greats.
People can come down on either side of the argument. I come down on the side that Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool have let Sterling down. He has lost his faith in the club and management to help him achieve his goals and ambitions. Liverpool fans can blame Sterling for being greedy and people can disapprove of his approach to the situation, at the end of the day it looks increasingly like they could lose one of their best players and worst of all to another Premier League side. The scary part could be it might not just be any other Premier League club, it could be Manchester United.