In a long interview with the club’s in-house channel MUTV, Van Gaal expressed his desire to strengthen ‘at least two positions’ before his side kicks off the new campaign on the 8th of August at home against Tottenham Hotspur. Although that suggests Van Gaal is looking to sort his priority list that reads signing an experienced centre-half, a forward (to replace Falcao and Van Persie) and a goalkeeper (to replace Victor Valdes) at the moment, rumours have it that the Dutch boss wants to trigger the £22m release clause of Barcelona forward Pedro Rodriguez, to take the Spaniard to Manchester United.
It’s well documented that Pedro, once a vital cog in Pep Guardiola’s machine that was Barcelona, is struggling to get enough playing time under Luis Enrique’s treble winning side that boasts arguably the best front three in the world. As expected, a player of Pedro’s quality is certain to attract interest from some of the elite clubs across Europe and fairly so, it looks like he is wanted by a few of Premier League’s elite, if you like, in Liverpool, Arsenal and now Manchester United.
With United having bought Dutchman Memphis Depay in this window which has been the best the club has had in years in terms of addressing key issues and strengthening the right areas, signing another player who’s most effective in the wide areas for a similar amount looks a bit unnecessary or lavish especially when considering the British record transfer fee paid for bringing in Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid, who Pedro could be competing with for a place in the starting 11, should he join United from Barcelona. But it’s always best to look at how much of an impact the Spaniard could make on Manchester United, purely from a statistical point of view which is why I’ve relied on Squawka’s Comparison Matrix again, to arrive at a few conclusions and results, albeit premature.
Passing – Key Passes, Completion Rate and Others
I realise it’s stupid to doubt the passing credentials of a La Masia graduate but then again you can understand why Barcelona have been so successful in the last decade or so. Impeccable ball rotation and positional awareness play a major part in Barcelona’s football and in some ways, it’s one of the prerogatives in Van Gaal’s style and vision as to how the game has to be played.
Pedro has maintained a very impressive pass accuracy from a wide area, much better than the likes of Di Maria and Depay and only bettered by fellow Spaniard, Juan Mata. While this suggests that Di Maria and Depay are often more creative and expansive whilst the Spaniards prefer slow build-up, which is closer to Van Gaal’s football than the former which is akin to how United used to play under Sir Alex. This can also be understood looking at the number of key passes made and chances created by Di Maria and Depay comfortably managing to dwarf that of Barcelona’s Pedro. As far as assists go, Pedro has set up an impressive 6 goals in 35 appearances (but just 1550 mins on the field) when compared to the likes of Mata and Depay who have played at least 1000 more minutes then Pedro has, during last season.
Attacking Play – Goals, % Shots On Target
Pedro has managed to score a total of 11 goals in 48 appearances (20 starts) for Barcelona across all competitions which translates to almost a goal in every 4 games. His record in the cup competition was impressive with the forward scoring 5 goals in 4 appearances (1 start) contributing to his side’s victorious season.
Pedro’s scoring rate looks far more impressive than Di Maria, and the same as Mata, who scored 9 times in the league and was only trounced by Depay who had his career best haul of 22 goals for the Dutch side in an arguably inferior league; but nevertheless an astounding tally for a winger. Boasting a much better shot accuracy than the rest, Pedro’s otherwise less expansive nature (or the urge to pass the ball to Messi?) has seen him attempt less shots on goal and from outside the box (more than Mata), can be seen as an area to improve on, should he make the move to Old Trafford.
It’s no secret that Louis Van Gaal likes his creative players to be able to make a considerable contribution to the team’s defence. Some of his best teams had creative players who could strike a fine balance between attack and defence (read Seedorf of Ajax 95′, Stijn Schaars of AZ 04′, Schweinsteiger of Bayern 09′) and ably carry out the defensive duties, when needed.
It appears that Pedro has managed to win more tackles per 90 minutes than Di Maria and Depay but slightly bettered by Juan Mata, ironically, by someone who was allowed to leave for United by Jose Mourinho, preferring a more hard-working number 10 in Oscar to the Spaniard. This goes to show what Van Gaal demands of his creative players and with Pedro, it could be no different. His weaknesses when it comes to winning aerial duels is clear as the Spaniard has managed to win only 14% of his aerial battles, way below the likes of Memphis Depay, while this is still an improvement on Juan Mata and Angel Di Maria.
Pedro, who scored for Barcelona against United in the 2011 Champions League final at Wembley, signed a four-year contract at the Nou Camp last month, but it is understood that the player only committed to the new deal after negotiating a reduction in his buy-out clause from £110m to £22m, a shrewd decision considering the fact that he would want to involve week-in week-out at this stage of his career where he is and should be at he peak of his powers. It looks like Luis Enrique has come to terms with the prospect of losing the Spaniard when he said he was powerless to prevent him from moving and that he respected the player’s decision indicating a move to the Premier League is very likely.
There’s little doubt that Pedro would bolster the attacking options at Van Gaal’s disposal if he decided to join United which is his first choice according to The Telegraph. In fact, signing him up now when he’s available and willing, at a price which is safe to say is a bargain in today’s market, should be seen as a brilliant and prudent move, especially if he was going to replace a 30-year old Ashley Young for the foreseeable future. Comfortable with both feet and on either flank, he has played at the top level for years and scored in big games, knows what it takes to win domestic and European titles, Pedro would bring a lot of experience and hunger to the table and should fit in like a hand in glove at Manchester United under Louis Van Gaal. But then again, should this move be lauded as brilliant and prudent if it came at the expense of, say Angel Di Maria? I don’t think so.