Like most Manchester United fans, I went into England’s U21 clash with Spain, hopeful of getting a feeling for future United signings Phil Jones and David De Gea, as well as have a look at youngsters like Welbeck, Cleverley and Smalling.
However, upon viewing the match, I realized that on show were three men who could potentially become important cogs in our faltering midfield machine…
1. Juan Mata- I remember reading an article about Mata on the eve of our Champions League home clash with Valencia, apparently the Spaniard had dreamed of playing alongside Ryan Giggs, at that point I merely chuckled, happy to see one of our opposition so enamored with a United legend. However, after digesting a season of La Liga and taking in England’s match earlier today, I have begun to wonder whether using Giggs as bate for Juan Mata wouldn’t be such a poor idea. A classy left winger, Mata possesses very Spanish amounts of skill, and his type of play is much in the mold of one of our past slaughterers; Andres Iniesta. Mata has pace and an eye for goal, as well as the ability to spot out a teammate; his twelve league assists last year are testament to that.
Mata strikes me as a player capable of replacing his aging hero, he obviously has some emotional attachment to United, so I imagine that Sir Alex would find it easy to persuade him to come. For those who would question his ability to take over the very hefty boots of our Welsh magician, a cursory glance over the Spanish league table should palliate your anxieties. Despite losing Davids Silva and Villa last summer, Mata’s club Valencia still managed to finish the top team outside the Madrid-Barca duopoly, thanks in part to the way our prospective signing stepped up to compensate for the absences of two star names.
2. Javi Martinez- If Mata is the answer to the soon to be left vacany of Ryan Giggs, then Martinez is the man equipped to take over for Paul Scholes. With a World Cup winners medal in the bag, Martinez is one of the finest up and coming Spanish midfielders, a deep lying creator who dominated Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson in today’s match. The thought of him doing the same in the Premier League next year is a very enticing one indeed…
Having finished sixth with Athletic Bilbao last campaign, Martinez will no doubt be longing for a first taste of Champions League football, something he is unlikely to attain if he stays with his current club. Martinez has all the tools to be the next great United holding midfielder, his vision is terrific, and his ability to control a midfield simply stunning. All who watched the Spain U21s play earlier today will have seen the way Martinez dictated the tempo of play, his poise and control were awe inspiring.
In too many games last season, particularly away from home, United were unable to grab a hold of the other team, in part due to the mediocre performances of men like Carrick and Gibson. Martinez could be an ideal tonic too our plethora of central woes, there is no way he would overrun by the sub par likes of Gareth Barry and company.
Perhaps Martinez’s most unique quality is one that would serve him well in English football, unlike most footballers of his ilk, Martinez is a threat in the air. It was his flicked header which set up Spain’s opener, and he won another impressive header in the second half. Make no mistake, Martinez has robustness to go with his silk.
3. Ander Herrera- The least well know of this trio, Herrera is another typical Spanish midfielder. As displayed against England, he has a terrifically soft touch, one which complements his aggressive attitude in the heart of midfield.
Herrera was my Man of the Match in today’s game, he opened the scoring for Spain early on, and was imperious throughout. His little one-twos helped to the Spaniards run rings around the dizzied English midfield, and his mazy dribbles caused the defense all sorts of problems.
One of Martinez’s new teammates at Atletico Bilbao, Herrera seemed to have a terrific understanding with his fellow Spaniard; the pair played off each other very nicely indeed. However, since completing his move in February, Herrera has yet to play for Bilbao, rendering any potential deal a difficult, if not impossible, enterprise.
While I understand that signing all three of these players would be impossible, it’s still important to realize that if move for Sneijder and Modric fail there are other men capable of filling our midfield void.