Radamel Falcao’s move from Monaco to Manchester United is the perfect transfer on all levels for the Red Devils.
The reported £6 million loan deal, which Guillem Balague insists will be a permanent £51.4 million transfer, has stunned their rivals.
It’s also shown how United, and in particular Ed Woodward, are finally thinking ahead, and why Louis van Gaal has more than a shade of Sir Alex Ferguson about him.
Falcao agents insist he’s been bought €65m for 4 years. Loan deal first for FFP reasons?
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) September 1, 2014
Falcao was the one elite striker who was available for transfer this summer.
With United already having four strikers in Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, and with young James Wilson also set to be promoted to the first-team, it seemed that the striker position was one area the Red Devils wouldn’t look to strengthen.
The club has already spent over £150 million this window, and while Chicharito has gone to Real Madrid, even if Welbeck also left, signing a new striker still appeared a long shot. And it’s that suprise factor which might well have ruined the plans of United’s rivals.
There seemed to be a lot of truth in Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal pursuing Falcao recently. While Liverpool plumped for Mario Balotelli in the end (though they would have almost certainly preferred Radamel Falcao), it appeared City especially were planning for his arrival.
It was thought that Falcao would arrive after wantaway striker Alvaro Negredo left for Valencia (h/t Daily Mail). However, United’s swoop for the Colombian now means City could well have to keep the disgruntled Negredo. While the Gunners now appear set to continue without a new striker if Arsene Wenger’s comments (h/t SkySports.com) are to be believed – particularly damaging for his team after missing out on Loic Remy.
So in one fell swoop, Manchester United have boosted the optimism flying around their squad and their fans, while creating an air of disappointment at both Manchester City and Arsenal.
On top of that, Falcao’s transfer shows how United – and Ed Woodward – have learned the lessons of their midfield crisis, and are now investing to avoid a similar situation up-front.
While Falcao is the same age as Rooney and just three years younger than van Persie, with the latter’s injury concerns the Falcao move provides that security for the Red Devils in attack.
In a season where Manchester United need to get back into the Champions League if their hard work building a money-spinning empire is not to be all for nothing, Louis van Gaal needs to have two world-class forwards in his line-up.
With van Persie needing to go under the knife and thus be ruled out for a number of months, United would be short of the required quality should Welbeck or Hernandez be deputising in that time.
So to replace van Persie in the short-term with a truly world-class forward in Falcao is the ideal situation for United which is now a reality.Plus van Persie’s injury record and the reported concerns over his fitness means a top striker is more of a necessity than most would think.
Van Gaal thinks Van Persie will continue struggling with injuries and Falcao is more than an ideal replacement — Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) September 1, 2014
And in the long-term, yes Falcao is only three years younger than van Persie, but that’s potentially three more years with a world-class striker in the team.
Signing Falcao almost certainly means Welbeck will follow Chicharito out of Old Trafford, and will provide a further boost for United in terms of the progress of James Wilson.
Wilson was better than both Welbeck and Chicharito put together in his cameo appearance at MK Dons, and the 18-year-old has already shown great promise with his two-goal debut against Hull City.
His promotion to fourth choice this season will enhance his development – and give United a better option than Welbeck or Hernandez – but the real boost to his progress will be at Carrington.
Training and learning off Radamel Falcao, in addition to Rooney and van Persie, could improve Wilson’s game immeasurably – again keeping United strong up-front for the long-term.
And finally for Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, his agreeing to the Falcao signing provides a good insight into how his team will play this season.
That is, we now know that United – in terms of how the team is set-up – will be one of the most unpredictable sides in the Premier League this season.
While van Persie is out of action, van Gaal could well stick to the 3-5-2 formation. But when the Dutchman returns, the manager has a plethora of options.
He could go 4-3-3 with a fearsome Falcao-Rooney-RvP trio up front, or he could play Angel di Maria on one side with Rooney playing deeper.
Or van Gaal could stick to 3-5-2 with Falcao and van Persie, with Rooney just behind and di Maria as a wing-back. Or have Juan Mata in the no.10 with Rooney in central midfield.
The possibilities are endless.
Falcao’s signing begs the question of where the likes of di Maria, Rooney and Mata will play, and simply makes United a much harder team to second-guess for managers and oppositon scouts across the Premier League.
It also makes competition for places even tougher in the forward positions – that will make Rooney, van Persie, Mata, even di Maria and Falcao himself work harder in training and become more focused.
Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson always had many different options in midfield and attack.
They could be impossible to second-guess, and with so many quality players to choose from, teams would face the Red Devils without much of a clue as to how they would line up and how they would play.
It’s part of the reason why United were so dominant under Sir Alex – opponents just didn’t know who would play, but they knew whoever did play was going to be a quality option that could tear their team apart.
After sanctioning this deal, Louis van Gaal appears to be following a similar route to Sir Alex.
The signing of Radamel Falcao looks set to bring the fear factor back to Manchester United.
Here are some Premier League betting tips for Gameweek 3.
While these tips are based on tactical, psychological and statistical analysis, the Premier League can be damn near impossible to predict at times.
As such, they could all be wrong.
Or they could all be right.
Or some of them could be right.
Aston Villa v Hull City – Draw @ 9/4 (or 0-0 @ 6/1)
Aston Villa are favourites for this game at Villa Park, but this one has draw written all over it.
Even Paul Lambert and Steve Bruce would probably be surprised if either walked away with a win.
Going for 0-0 would be a good shout for a number of reasons. Looking back at the stats, Hull have failed to score in eight of their last nine matches against Villa.
On top of that, the understanding between Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos is improving every match, and crucially both are in top form.
They both close down the space well, can read an opponent’s run and most importantly, they can read each other’s play as well.
Especially after losing Shane Long, who – despite his lack of good finishing ability (reflected in his goal tally) – is great at dragging defenders out of position to create space for teammates, Hull don’t have the imaginative kind of striker or midfielder who could trouble such a solid partnership as Vlaar and Senderos.
As for Aston Villa, they simply don’t have the firepower, especially with Christian Benteke and Libor Kozak still injured. Much more on that is outlined here.
Both will be fatigued and lower on confidence after their midweek losses in the League Cup and Europa League respectively (Hull’s being on aggregate of course).
And at home Villa have a big problem tactically which manager Paul Lambert still hasn’t sorted.
He’s worked hard on making sure his team keep their shape, have runners in midfield who can slot into defence to provide cover (Kieran Richardson is the one who doing it most this season), and are ready to pounce on the counter-attack.
However, teams drop off and let Villa play when they’re at home, knowing that Villa don’t have a good rhythm when they have time and space on the ball.
Lambert has yet to get his team playing better with long spells in possession.
Again, this one has draw – and quite probably 0-0 – written all over it.
Everton v Chelsea – Draw @ 12/5
Chelsea are the favourites here by a fair distance, but Everton have won the past four out of five between the two sides at Goodison Park.
That doesn’t make them favourites however. They may have two strikers who used to play for the Blues – Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o – who no doubt will be more fired up than ever, but this Chelsea team will be the best they’ve played in a long time.
Roberto Martinez’s men were brilliant in the first half against Arsenal when facing Alexis Sanchez up-front.
But in that first-half, Sanchez couldn’t adapt to being a centre forward, and often looked for the ball on the wing, leaving nobody in the middle. That meant no focal point.
Arsene Wenger then makes a masterstroke sub at half-time, bringing on Olivier Giroud for Sanchez.
Suddenly the Gunners have direction in attack, and a focus in how they go forward. As a result, the Everton defence is tested more and eventually cracks.
Against Chelsea, Everton’s defence will be tested much more than last weekend with a direct striker like Diego Costa, or even Didier Drogba.
The weak point for Martinez’s men is their difficulty dealing with direct strikers who are supported with great service in midfield.
Hence Chris Wood got on the scoresheet for Leicester against the Toffees on the opening day.
Chelsea have the striker in Costa, and the midfielder in Cesc Fabregas (and of course the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, etc).
But, it will play on Chelsea and Mourinho’s mind that they lost the last game at Goodison, and that they haven’t done well there over the years.
On top of that, Everton have quality through the pitch themselves, which will leave the Blues vulnerable at times (as evidenced against Leicester last weekend).
The likes of James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, Steven Pienaar, Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman seem more comfortable in their play at Goodison – regardless of opposition – and that will help Everton stick to the manager’s tactics.
A draw with both teams scoring seems the most likely outcome here.
Tottenham v Liverpool – Home win @ 8/5
Mauricio Pochettino has worked wonders at White Hart Lane this season.
When Tottenham beat AEL Limassol 3-0 on Thursday night, the commentator on ITV4 was spot on. “Liverpool can’t come soon enough for Spurs”, he said.
The feel-good factor around the club is highly visible, even from the outside. It is only two games into the season, but the fact that Tottenham sit top of the Premier League is significant.
Pochettino has established a solid core to his team and has blended strong defensive football with attacking flair beautifully.
The likes of Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen have been reinvigorated by Pochettino’s arrival, while overall the team is finally starting to gel with the understanding between them much better than last season.
However, the picture is rather different at Liverpool. The defence still needs sorting (much more explained here) tactically, and confidence is fairly low after a lacklustre win over Southampton, and a crushing defeat at Manchester City.
And going forward, Brendan Rodgers still seems to be working out the best way for his team to attack without Luis Suarez, part of the reason why Daniel Sturridge hasn’t been in the same form as last season.
There seems to be a bit of transition at Liverpool after losing Suarez and adding a lot of numbers to the squad for the Champions League.
However, Spurs have hit the ground running and don’t look like stopping soon. A home win and a clean sheet for Tottenham appears most probable.
Sergio Aguero to score two or more @ 5/2 (or three or more @ 9/1)
Sergio Aguero has three goals in his three games in the Premier League at home to Stoke City.
He’s approaching full fitness and is providing early indications – with the ease at which he scores, the cleverness of his forward runs, the spaces he can create for himself, the list is endless – that he is in the form of his life.
Stevan Jovetic may also be in stellar form, but there’s no doubt Manchester City look first to Aguero for goals.
Tactically, Stoke’s defence and midfield simply aren’t good enough to stop a player like Aguero, especially at the Etihad.
Two goals is a safe bet for Aguero, but it could well be quids in with an Aguero hat-trick.
Manchester United and both teams to score @ 13/5
This one doesn’t need a great deal of analysis and is quite obvious, but with odds of 13/5 seems worth a punt.
Angel di Maria is in line to make his Manchester United debut, and besides the obvious improvement he will clearly give the team, his signing could well have the ‘Mesut Ozil effect’ seen at Arsenal.
Also, United have greater belief in themselves away from Old Trafford, and will seek a response from last week’s disappointing draw at Sunderland (the 4-0 MK Dons defeat compromised virtually none of those who will start this season, besides David de Gea).
Burnley did beat United 1-0 at Turf Moor at the start of the 2009/10 Premier League season, and while the teams are markedly different today, that will still give the Clarets confidence.
Combine that with a defence still struggling with their roles in the 3-5-2, and it does seem clear United will concede.
But overall, with the ‘di Maria’ effect, as bad as they’ve been it’s really hard not to see United win this one.
As Alberto Moreno received a crash course in dealing with Premier League forwards, courtesy of Stevan Jovetic, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers suddenly had a lot more on his plate than how to handle Mario Balotelli.
The 3-1 defeat away to Manchester City split wide open the cracks which surfaced against Southampton at Anfield.
It must be said Liverpool were looking solid all-round for the first 40 minutes, but that’s because their main line of defence was possession and high pressing.
But if the Reds are to challenge for the title, they need to plug their cracks ASAP – the cracks being the defence.
Besides a momentary lack of concentration which allowed Rickie Lambert to test the goal-line technology, City’s backline was the perfect case study that will could well be used in FIFA, UEFA and Premier League technical reports.
Liverpool’s back four however would more like feature alongside the Manchester United defence in the new ‘Rough Guide to Schoolboy Defending’ textbook.
Take the goals. Liverpool looked strong when they had possession and when they had the energy to press high up the pitch to stop City having any space.
But as soon as their backline were tested, they faltered. Spectacularly.
The first goal has to be down to Moreno’s mistake; the Spaniard showed no awareness of where Jovetic was and no anticipation of either what Dejan Lovren was going to do or what threat was behind him.
Had Moreno been as alert as he should have been, at best the ball would’ve been smashed clear and out of danger, and at worst it’d go out for a corner.
But his error doesn’t mean he’s the only guilty party in this crime.
As the ball gets played into David Silva inside the penalty area, Lovren is way too close to his centre-back partner Martin Skrtel and way too far from Silva.
That means as the ball’s played in, Lovren’s only option by the time he reacts and gets across is to head the ball down for Moreno to clear (and we know the young Spaniard fluffed that one up).
Had Lovren been in the position where he should’ve been, he would have been able to either punt the ball out for a throw in or make a challenge on Silva that would most likely result in the ball rolling out to a covering midfielder or earning a free-kick from a Silva dive.
Of course when you play two signings next to each other in defence away to Manchester City, in August, against forwards like Stevan Jovetic, you’re always asking for trouble.
No doubt the understanding between Lovren and Moreno – as well as Lovren’s partnership with Skrtel – will get better with time on the training pitch, but Rodgers really has to speed it along if Liverpool are going to stay in title contention.
One other point to mention – as seen in the top picture, Joe Allen shouts to Moreno to clear the ball as Lovren knocks it down to him.
It could be the case that had Moreno understood English, he might have heeded Allen’s warning and not considered it as background noise.
As touched upon in the article on City’s Barca dream coming to life, despite the home side’s magnificent teamwork for the second goal, it would not have been made possible had Liverpool decided to defend better.
Just like Tyler Blackett was at the heart of all that was wrong for Manchester United in their disappointing opener against Swansea, Moreno was the epicentre for Liverpool’s “shocking” (as Alan Hansen would say) defending.
His decision to go out and close down Yaya Toure on the wing meant Philippe Coutinho had to fill in for him at left-back.
And so as the ball came through from Jovetic for the onrushing Samir Nasri, the City winger had all the time in the world with Coutinho nowhere to be seen.
That was because, as seen in the picture, the not-so-defensively-minded ‘Big Phil’ had jogged away from the action and back up the field.
While Coutinho is clearly at fault, Moreno also has to take his fair share of the slack.
He should’ve told Coutinho to go out and close down Toure, thus keeping the back four intact and the gaps closed.
Instead he went out and left a player whose mind was halfway up the pitch to plug the hole.
Again more teething problems for the new signing, who needs to add communication to his list of things to work on.
But it’s not just Coutinho and Moreno who should be in the firing line.
Lovren again gives a helping hand for City, as he steps out of position for no good reason (perhaps it was to close down Jovetic, but Lovren too far away to do anything), meaning he can’t get across in time to cover where the left-back should be and stop Nasri playing a ball in.
And as the ball comes in and Jovetic gratefully tucks it away, one more guilty party emerges – Jordan Henderson.
As Jovetic is alive to the play and makes his run into the penalty area, the closest player to him – and the one who should be marking him – Henderson, fails to react and leaves the Montenegrin with all space he needs to bag a brace and kickstart his season.
Communication, marking, positioning and defensive drills with the wingers and midfielders are the main things it would appear that Brendan Rodgers needs to work on in training this week.
The 23-second man Sergio Aguero proved why he’s the frontrunner for the Premier League Golden Boot this season. Two goals in two substitute appearances and he’s not even fully fit yet.
But again it was Liverpool’s defending which helped Manchester City score.
Dejan Lovren is arguably the most at fault thanks to his lack of pace compared to Aguero and the fact he had to waste valuable time, and therefore yards, looking over his shoulder to check where the Argentine was.
But he was not helped by Martin Skrtel or Glen Johnson, who were also out of position.
For all three – Lovren, Skrtel and Johnson – were all out of position as a backline.
They were solid and intact as a defensive line, but as a line they were too many yards to the right.
As the play was shifted across to the left by Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and then Jesus Navas, the Liverpool defence didn’t move over quickly and far enough.
And it shows how intelligent a striker Aguero is, knowing that because of the defence’s position he could score if he could get the run on Lovren, made even more remarkable by the fact he had only been on the pitch less than 30 seconds.
To be able to read the game so well immediately after coming shows what a top player Aguero is, and also the importance of studying the match when on the bench.
Fair play to Navas as well, being alive to the opportunity and playing a perfect ball into his teammate’s path.
But the structural problem in Liverpool’s defence also played its part. Had the defence been further to the left as it should have been, Navas’ ball would most likely have been intercepted by Lovren or Aguero would have Skrtel in front of him instead of Lovren behind him.
There are plenty of defensive issues for Brendan Rodgers to work on if he is ensure his side remain title contenders this season.
To fill the cracks, he needs to get cracking on his defence ASAP at Melwood, because if Tottenham’s brilliant 4-0 thrashing of QPR is anything to go by, they could be in for a rough ride at White Hart Lane this Sunday.
- Manchester City ruthless in win over Liverpool with less shots but more on target and more goals
- Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero goals example of why City are Premier League title favourites
- City directors Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain seeing Barcelona dream come to life
- Pep Guardiola glory days at Barca the model for Soriano and Begiristain to achieve at City
As Manchester City demolished Liverpool 3-1 at the Etihad on Monday night, many would think Stevan Jovetic, Sergio Aguero or even Manuel Pellegrini would be the main winners from the game.
Sure, Jovetic was phenomenal and Aguero scintillating, while Pellegrini had his team and his tactics absolutely spot on.
But the real winners on the night were City’s CEO Ferran Soriano and Director of Football Txiki Begiristain.
For at last, confirmation that the duo’s vision – of recreating the Pep Guardiola glory days at FC Barcelona – can become a distinctive reality at Manchester City.
Against a Liverpool team tipped for title contention, City were remarkably ruthless – three mistakes, three goals.
Each time the Reds slipped up, City pounced. The movement, the passing, and crucially, the understanding between teammates, was all there.
Jovetic’s first goal came through Alberto Moreno’s mistake more than anything, but his second was pure teamwork – the kind of move usually done over and over by the same group of players in training.
From David Silva’s touch back to Yaya Toure, to his give-and-go with Samir Nasri, to Nasri’s give-and-go with Silva again, to Silva’s ball into Jovetic (who’s probably been left out in training games before but now decides he wants to play as well) and Jovetic’s flick on for Nasri who finally gets the ball he was waiting for, the patient play at last came together and the chance was soon to be created.
Nasri then guided it to the area where Jovetic usually makes his runs, and voila – the goal.
Of course he ball is helped on its way into the net by Liverpool’s defending, especially when left-back Moreno stepped out of the defensive line to close down Yaya Toure out on the wing, leaving the not-so-defensively-minded Philippe Coutinho to fill the hole in defence.
A ball into Nasri later – given space thanks to Dejan Lovren stepping out of position for no reason – and with Jordan Henderson ball-watching instead of picking up Jovetic, City get a well-worked goal helped by clueless, Manchester United-esque defending.
Then there’s the third goal by Aguero, forged by an understanding with Jesus Navas and a knowledge that the winger will read his run and play the ball just ahead of the covering centre-back.
That goal defines how well this Manchester City team has gelled together. Aguero was on the pitch just 22 seconds by the time he found the net.
For Aguero to score from open play like that immediately after coming on takes excellent understanding of how his teammates work.
And now that intrinsic knowledge of how their teammates play could see Manchester City make their directors’ Barcelona dream a reality.
The stellar understanding between the Barca team of Pep Guardiola was the main factor that allowed his tiki-taka to become so dominant and win two Champions League titles.
Soriano and Begiristain came to City determined to recreate the Camp Nou glory days at the Etihad.
In hiring Pellegrini, they have a man who can realise their vision.
A 2013/14 season which yielded a Premier League and League Cup double was a great start, but it was just the beginning of the five-year cycle.
Last season, it was about polishing the squad, and then adapting it to playing more attractive football with a clockwork understanding.
Now is the season Manchester City are meant to dominate. The team has well and truly gelled, and the City juggernaut is finally scheduled to get rolling.
The beating of Liverpool and the teamwork that went into it gave Soriano and Begiristain the confirmation they clearly wanted – that their hard work and many hours put into this project are going to pay off.
Last season was no flash in the pan. Manchester City have proved again they are the top dogs in the Premier League, and that they’re going to keep it that way.