One of the few things that is universally accepted by football fans from all backgrounds is the fact that international breaks are painfully boring. And if there is anything that makes them even more tedious to follow than the actual football itself, then it is the truck load of transfer rumours that get discussed across the media to keep the plate spinning.
Recently, one of those rumors saw Manchester United linked with a summer transfer of Croatian Attacking Midfielder Ivan Perisic, who currently plays for Jose Mourinho’s former employers Inter Milan.
Although there is a strong temptation to dismiss the information as standard-in-the-know-bollocks on a Premier League-less weekend to attract attention, it is rather interesting to note that it is a relatively under-the-radar Perisic that is mentioned and not a more famous Rakitic or Modric, which would have made more sense from the click-bait point of view, if that had been the sole objective.
So what can Perisic actually offer to Mourinho’s United who are reasonably well stocked in the attacking areas? But, are they? They may have two players for every position in the front three/four to call upon at any point, but there is a gaping hole up front in terms of goals and assists which is more glaringly obvious when Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not converting the chances.
Perisic primarily plays in the left flank – has done at Dortmund in a high-pressing three, Wolfsburg likewise and now at Inter Milan in the Serie A. The 28-year old has in 49 starts for Inter in the last two campaigns in the league, scoring or assisting 25 goals. He has already scored 9 goals this season in an Inter Milan outfit that have had their ups and downs in 2016/17.
His most prolific individual campaign came under current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp; the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund in 2013/14, when they lost both the Bundesliga and Champions League titles to arch rivals Bayern Munich. He scored 10 goals and assisted 4 in an exciting Dortmund side, but his current form with Inter (9 goals + 3 assists in 23 Serie A starts) suggest that he may be in his ‘peak’ years now.
What he could bring to Old Trafford, should the transfer happen, is probably a more direct influence on goals. United may be fifth in the league and could finish higher (mathematically) with their games in hand over teams above them. But their goal return of 42 is dwarfed by all of their direct rivals for the top four – City and Liverpool, in particular. With Perisic, someone that has played in different leagues with reasonable success, there is a good chance that Mourinho could finally solve the problem that has been hindering their progress.
But more interestingly, how Perisic stands out in comparison to United’s current crop of attacking players is his work off the ball. Perisic’s style of football underscored by the sudden burst of speed is more similar to Mkhitaryan than Mata and that is exactly how the Portuguese would like his teams to attack, fast and on the break.
Also, the Croatian has made more tackles, interceptions and clearances than Juan Mata and Anthony Martial and it is hard not to notice the fact that his defensive numbers averaged across the season are very similar to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, supporting the above hypothesis.
It’s no secret that Mourinho is by default, a pragmatic manager, no matter how much he tries to emphasize on playing the ‘Manchester United way’ after every frustrating draw.
He is a winner, first and foremost and if 28-year old Perisic presented him with a more balanced option going forward and from a defensive standpoint, there is no reason why he cannot make an instantaneous and positive impact on Manchester United’s first team squad – which is again, how Mourinho has modelled his entire transfer philosophy around, and will no doubt be given the utmost freedom to, at his new club.