At time of writing it appears as if Chelsea have emerged as champions in the transfer market tug of war over Belgium’s precocious young star Eden Hazard. It has long been the accepted truth that the transfer market tug of war was a by invitation only three-way between Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United (rather depressingly my beloved Arsenal didn’t so much fall at the first hurdle as fall off the starting block, smashing their dignified face on the rapidly disappearing heels of the leagues elite.)
Eden Hazard has been one of the very few genuine superstars available on the open market in recent years and the (presumed) failure of Manchester United to secure his signature should come as a crushing blow to the clubs fans.
There can be no doubt that Manchester United are the most successful team of the premier league era, continuously reinventing themselves after losing their star players. To lose the title on goal difference to the ridiculously resourced City with a poor United squad is a feat only achievable via Glaswegian witchcraft. However with the league going to City, and Chelsea back to winning ways with their Champions league victory, both teams now have the champions kudos to go with their infinite resources and United may not be such an attractive option for top young talent any more.
The popular assumption that United would be an ideal destination due to guaranteed playing time also has to be questioned. If you look at the breakthrough stars of recent United seasons in Nani, Berbatov and Hernandez, all three have found their opportunities limited recently. With Nani facing fierce competition on the right wing from the excellent Valencia, Chicharito sharing the lone striker role with Welbeck and finally Berbatov, a £30 million pound signing, falling from league top scorer to a largely unused substitute.
The fact that Paul Scholes, at 37, was able to effortlessly emerge from his pasty ginger cocoon of retirement and become the “beautiful” butterfly of United’s midfield shows just how desperately United need to invest in quality talent. Whether they can still attract the best in Europe remains to be seen.