Manchester United, in the last few years have made it a habit of associating themselves with big names throughout the summer window – names that could take their side to the next level – only to disappoint in the end by signing virtually none. Bale, Ronaldo, Kroos, Fabregas, Muller, Sneijder; the list goes on with rumors of varied degrees linking the players with the club throughout the transfer season – but to no positive outcome. Post 2015/16 has been no different in terms of the usual transfer malarkey but for the fact that the mood has drastically changed – for good.
The Red Devils, seem to have a plan – a structure in this window where they look like they have identified the right players, and by right players I mean achievable targets who could have pretty much the same impact on the side as the superstars aforementioned. One of those that was rumored to make the move to Old Trafford is Roma and Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic
A creative force from the middle with a bit of innate Balkan aggression in him, Miralem is a rare blend, who could have suited the Premier League, and Manchester United in particular, to a tee. He would have massive improved United as, weirdly enough, it’s hard to point to a player in their current squad who could do what he does from the middle of the park, which is quite remarkable considering the amount of money they have invested in midfielders over the last three years. One could argue Ander Herrera has the makings of Pjanic but the Bosnian is comfortably the better player for now in statistical terms when we crunch the numbers and get to the bottom of things.
Although Pjanic has had more minutes than all the other midfielders in the list, meaning he’s had a more regular run in Roma than the rest at United, the numbers are remarkable for a midfielder, let alone the alarming gap when pitted against those of his United counterparts. In a league renowned for pragmatism, Pjanic has had a direct influence on 23 goals (12 G + 11 A), which is staggering, to say the least. When was the last time a central midfielder at Manchester United managed to hit the 20’s in goals plus assists tally? Not since the days of Paul Scholes in fact.
The 26-year-old has not only scored and assisted more than the rest of the midfielders combined but has a better chance creation number per game, takes more shots outside the area (this could be attributed to Louis van Gaal’s insistence on not shooting from outside the box unless there’s a clear sight on goal, in others’ defence) and carries a superior threat from dead ball situations, which Manchester United could certainly have done with, in their first eleven.
Defensively, the 26-year-old is definitely comparable with the rest and taking all the good work that he does going forward into account, he has earned the right to have slightly lesser figures than the rest. Alongside a vastly experienced defensive minded midfielder like Carrick who reads the game as well as anyone in the league, Pjanic’s contribution to the side in the business end could have added that extra five to ten goals – that United so desperately wanted from midfield.
But as it turned out, there was a buyout value, a concrete figure that United could have bid to activate the clause that would have enabled them sign the talented 26-year-old. But multiple reports in Italy have pretty much confirmed that four-time defending Serie A champions Juventus have triggered the release clause in an effort to bolster their midfield – ahead of the new season. It’s a bargain as there’s not many midfielders available for that price can claim to be as good as him, especially in an era when even a sum as high as £20m cannot buy Troy Deeney.
From United’s point of view, if they showed any kind of interest in signing him, which I presume they did, it should be seen as a missed opportunity but one that could also mean they could be plotting to bring in a better alternative (hint – Pogba) to begin the new era under Jose Mourinho with the strongest side they can assemble.