The Arturo Vidal transfer saga looks to finally have taken it’s final turn. While the player’s words at an airport interview were certainly interpreted wrongly in the media, Juve CEO Marotta’s words certainly don’t leave room for doubt about Juve’s intentions to keep the Chilean. “It’s very simple. Vidal extended his contract with us last season, as there was a mutual desire to continue this rapport,” Marotta told the press yesterday and he also went on to say that he’d be surprised if Vidal pushed for a transfer. In light of all these denials, here are five alternatives to Vidal that United can now pursue.
1. Sami Khedira:
Sami Khedira had a bizzarre season last year. The player suffered a serious calf injury in November and was subsequently ruled out for five months. That did not stop both Carlo Ancelotti and Joachim Loew from including them in their most important squads for the year- the Real Madrid Champions League final match day squad and Germany’s World Cup squad. The German played a key part in both those victories for his respective sides and was the best player on the pitch during Germany’s 7-1 hammering of hosts Brazil.
While Khedira does not possess the explosiveness of Vidal, he does have the uncanny ability to break up play and play tidy passes. Khedira could be regarded as an excellent foil for Ander Herrera in United’s midfield and would not only add quality but also trophy-winning experience to United’s threadbare midfield. The player might also be available on the cheap this summer with Real Madrid already having purchased Toni Kroos this summer. Unfortunately for United fans, Arsenal and Chelsea have emerged as favourites for the player but if United can edge themselves ahead of that particular queue, then the blow of losing Vidal would be softened considerably.
2. Kevin Strootman:
Kevin Strootman is a player who has seemingly been linked with Manchester United since the dawn of time. The player was touted for a move during his playing days at PSV Eindhoven and the fact that he made the move to AS Roma for a mere £13 million in the summer of 2013 highlights United’s blind assessment of their midfield. Aged just 24, the player has his best years ahead of him and given his current performances, it’s scary to fathom how good he might become.
A player very much in the Vidal mould, Strootman possesses an incredible eye for a pass as well as boundless energy to hassle opponents and break up play. He also has an admirer in current United manager Louis van Gaal, who announced while he was Oranje manager, that Strootman would have been a certainty to be a part of the Netherlands’ World Cup squad along with Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. The stumbling block however has proven to be the knee injury Strootman suffered in March that ruled him out for six months. The injury ruled him out of the World Cup squad as well and the player has not played any regular football since. While a move this summer is unlikely, van Gaal will be keeping a watchful eye on Strootman’s recovery and may make a move as soon as January next year.
3. William Carvalho:
The youngest player on this list at 22 years of age. Carvalho was mooted as a strong possibility to aid United’s midfield at the start of the summer with talks between Sporting CP and United officials reported to be taking place. That move however has fallen apart due to Sporting’s insistence on getting the players release clause – an eye watering £35 million. United were understandably weary of paying those fees for a player with one season of top level experience but the Vidal situation might make United reconsider.
A player capable of playing the role of defensive midfielder excellently, Carvalho can be expected to provide Herrera some respite as the Spaniard tries to prove the creative outlet for United’s midfield. While the player’s goalscoring prowess is a shadow of Vidal’s, at just 22 he has the ability to improve that aspect of his game and at a club the size of United and with a manager like van Gaal who’s faith in youth is well documented, Carvalho might thrive and help United climb back to the summit of English football again.
4. Daley Blind:
A player coming off the back of an impressive World Cup, his tournament form has led to him being linked with Spanish giants Barcelona, Blind would solve more than one problem at United. The player started off the World Cup playing at left wing-back against Spain and set up van Persie for one of the iconic goals of the tournament. The player proved his versatility when Nigel de Jong, a key cog in the Netherlands’ midfield for the tournament, suffered an injury and Blind stepped into the midfield. That the Netherlands still went on to third place at the tournament is testament to Blind’s form at the centre of midfield. The player registered 3 assists (joint 2nd with Toni Kroos) through the course of the tournament and even got on the scoresheet against Brazil in the third-place playoff.
Another Louis van Gaal favourite, Blind is currently odds-on to make the move to United. A product of Ajax’s excellent academy, Blind possesses both the tactical nous and the ability to thrive under van Gaal’s stewardship at United. The player can also provide cover for Luke Shaw given that Patrice Evra has left for Juventus and with club Ajax willing to accept an offer in the range of £18 million, expect the deal to go ahead before the close of the window.
5. Nigel de Jong:
The fourth Dutchman on the list, de Jong represents something of a stop-gap option for United. At the age of 29, de Jong can hardly be expected to have United’s midfield built around him but in the short term, the former Manchester City man represents excellent value. Renowned for his hard tackling and no-holds barred approach to breaking up play in midfield, de Jong will instantly add the bite to United’s midfield that has been missing since the days of Roy Keane. The player was part of the Netherlands’ World Cup squad and was a star performer during the Dutch 5-1 romp against Spain bossing Xabi Alonso into non-recognition.
The ‘stop-gap’ refers to de Jong holding United’s midfield together until van Gaal can either get in Kevin Strootman or another viable alternative. Louis van Gaal is a keen admirer of the player and with AC Milan willing to do business for as little as £8 million, this is a move that makes little sense to turn down. United fans may be a little miffed at signing a player who played for rivals City but there should be little doubt that de Jong’s performances will win them over eventually.
The above list is merely formed by yours truly as a list of viable alternatives to Vidal that United can actually, feasibly pursue. In no way does this columnist consider the above names the best defensive midfielders in Europe and if you feel that a player has been unjustifiably left out, do feel free to let us know in the comments below.