The start of an international break is a sort of a signal to rumour mills to start churning transfer rumours. This international break is no different. The mills are churning furiously and are spewing possibilities after possibilities. One particular rumour that is catching on over the last two days is that Mesut Ozil is going to join Manchester United.
There are two variants of this rumour. One haves us believe that Arsenal will cut their losses and sell the playmaker to their rivals in January. The other wants us to think that Manchester United will land a bigger-than-Robin-van-Persie coup on the Gunners and sign Ozil in the summer next year. Either way, it is a very strong and to some extent believable rumour.
To be fair to the rumour mills, it is not only in the last few days that the possibility of Ozil to Manchester United has surfaced. It has always been there ever since Ozil looked ready to leave Real Madrid. Even after Arsenal signed him, the possibility that the German will find himself at Old Trafford one day has never gone away. In fact, it keeps coming back again and again. Even in March this year, media were speculating about the possibility of Ozil to United. Then again during the summer transfer window, they were at it. And when the move did not happen when the window slammed shut during the previous international break, the media found this current break to be a great opportunity to bring it up.
The contract impasse between Mesut Ozil and Arsenal is cited as the primary reason why Manchester United are favourites to sign the German. Ozil apparently wants to be paid £300,000 per week and Gunners are not willing to pay that kind of money to a player who has not had the best of starts to the campaign. Indeed, the rumour is very credible and it might eventually turn out to be true. But, I believe that such a move will benefit neither Manchester United nor Mesut Ozil. Here’s why.
Manchester United’s Perspective
Mesut Ozil shares a very cordial relationship with Jose Mourinho, who was his manager at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013. The German was key to executing the manager’s complex tactical instructions in Real Madrid’s attack. But, that was Real Madrid’s attack, in La Liga. This possible move, if it happens, will take place in the Premier League, where even the Manchester clubs cannot afford to have an all-out attack. Both Mourinho and Guardiola require their attacker to track back and contribute to the defence. Mourinho has sidelined many a player at both Chelsea and United because of their lack of defensive efforts. And, defensive contribution is one of the only two weaknesses that WhoScored attributes to Ozil. Tracking back and battling for the ball is not his style. This mismatch of styles is the first reason why Ozil might not be the best for Manchester United.
The second reason is Ozil’s aerial weakness. The German is brilliant when the ball is at his feet, but when the ball his floating above his head, he is more likely to lose the challenge than win it. When the going gets tough, Mourinho likes his attackers to be good in the air. He has played Fellaini in the hole behind the striker many times. Ozil is no Fellaini, not in the air at least.
Further, if the reason for Ozil not signing an extension at the Emirates is that he wants £300,000 per week, and if he is not the kind of player that Mourinho is going to play week in week out, then signing him would be a bad piece of business for United.
From Ozil’s Perspective
Mesut Ozil might be tempted by his great relationship with his old manager. Mourinho even wrote the forward for Ozil’s autobiography. But from a footballing standpoint, I feel that this move will not benefit him.
His favoured position is the number 10, advanced midfielder behind the striker. Manchester United have two world-class players already vying for that position. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata both are players who have had to convince Mourinho of their suitability to his methods but now they have done that and they are his regular starters. Further, Paul Pogba and Fellaini can also play in that position, depending on the match situation. So, can Ozil be guaranteed a starting spot in his favoured position at Old Trafford? It seems not.
Ozil is going to be 29 in ten days. To do justice to his own talent and ambition, he needs to start regularly for an elite team. He is doing that at Arsenal but at Manchester United, it is almost certain that he will not. This itself should be reason enough for the player to reject United’s advances.
Some combinations are supposed to work only in certain conditions. Ozil had a brilliant time at Real Madrid under Mourinho but it was in a different team, in a different league. As the first few games of this season have shown him, failure is constantly lurking around in the Premier League and it is not tolerated for long. So, if he wishes to move away from Emirates, he should. But to a club which can give him the best chance to succeed. As I see it, Manchester United are not that club.