Contrary to popular belief, Manchester United’s problem does not lie solely in the central midfield department.
Since the days of Cristiano Ronaldo there is something that has been missing, and for me the thing that we have missed most is not his skill on the ball or his ability to leave a player for dead, it is the danger that he posed on free kicks.
If my memory serves me correctly, the last time that Manchester United scored a direct free kick was back on the 28th November 2009 when Ryan Giggs scored a late 4th goal against Portsmouth in the league.
This becomes quite a shocking stat when you consider that it is now 2011 and so it has been long over a year since we last scored a direct free kick, even more so when you consider that our regular free kick taker Nani isn’t even the last to score off one. The last time Nani scored a direct free kick was back in August 2009. I must add to make it clear that this article is not an attack on Nani as it is not his fault that he has been made our first choice free kick taker, however it is clear to see that this is an area in which we are lacking.
In the 08/09 season, Cristiano Ronaldo converted six direct free kicks whereas this season Manchester United have not even scored one. I agree that the season is far from over yet and there is still time but for me the lack of goals from free kicks is deeply concerning. If an extra six goals were scored by us in a season, maybe it could have been the difference between a win and a draw on the countless occasions that we have drawn matches this season. Maybe we would have been very much out of sight by now in the race for the title.
For me a free kick specialist is a must buy this summer, and must take presidence over a world class centre midfielder. Even a world class centre midfielder can’t win the same amount of points on his own that a skilful top class free kick specialist could. Watching Nani taking free kicks has just frustrated me so much this season. He’d might as well hand the ball to the keeper or pass it out of play. His freekick’s either hit the wall, go over the wall and straight at the keeper, or it goes over the wall and high into the stands. He’s just testing the reflexes of the spectators sitting behind the goal most of the time.
Having said this, a trend I have noticed this season is that teams nowadays do not mind giving away free kicks to us in great areas mainly for the fact that we are just not as dangerous on them as we are in normal play. In the Cristiano Ronaldo years it was clear to see that the defences we played against were terrified of giving away free kicks to us in the dangerous positions just because they knew what was going to come from his right foot if they did.
So who else could take free kicks for us you ask? Well Ryan Giggs is obviously the other player who could take one, however after watching him the last few times he had taken one, I really don’t think that his free kicks are powerful enough to beat the goalkeeper anymore. I do recall in pre-season last year Anderson and Darron Gibson both scored a free kick however they have both failed to stake a claim in the Manchester United first team. Owen Hargreaves may have probably been another contender for free kicks had he managed to keep himself fit for the past two years.
So realistically who could be bought in as a free kick specialist? Well a player that has been heavily linked with Manchester United in the past few days is also a free kick specialist. Douglas Costa has has scored some brilliant free kicks so far in his career. He is naturally a left-footed attacking midfielder who can also play as a winger and has widely been touted as a replacement for Ryan Giggs. He is also known for his ability and vision to deliver killer passes. Charlie Adam is also a name that has been linked to Manchester United. We already know what he can do and for me he has been one of the players of the season in the premiership. Justin already did a great article on everything that Charlie Adam is about: “Why I’m Beginning To Think United Should Buy Charlie Adam”. It is definitely worth a read!
And so I come to the conclusion that the solution to Manchester United’s problems is a specialist free kick taker. Whoever we do sign in the summer, this has to be the area in which we improve on above all else.
Do you agree? Feel free to comment below.
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