Towards the end of my career Walter Smith, the Rangers manager, would sometimes ask me to play as a wing-back. I didn’t enjoy it one little bit – at an age when running was getting harder I was being asked to do more of it – but I did it.
Now it looks like one of Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie’s turn to bite their lip and take one for the team, following Manchester United’s deadline-day signing of Monaco striker Falcao. Suddenly they have three world-class strikers for two positions, so someone is going to have to play in an unfamiliar role. But if they and £60m record signing Angel di Maria can’t adapt to accommodate each other it’ll be a poor show.
I think Louis van Gaal needs to change formation from the 3-5-2 he’s tried to implement. It hasn’t worked, from front to back. They have square pegs in round holes, and by the time those square pegs have been rounded sufficiently, a top four place could be out of sight. Van Gaal could try the so-called Christmas tree system – a 4-3-2-1 – with Rooney and Van Persie behind Falcao, Di Maria and Antonio Valencia on the flanks and Darren Fletcher in the middle. Alternatively, Van Persie could play wide left, where he might see more of the ball.
Falcao’s move to United surprised me because I thought he’d join Real Madrid and I expected Van Gaal to sign a defender, but I’m not shocked he signed a striker. They’re not scoring goals, and Manchester City have shown the benefit of having several first-rate forwards at once. In many respects, United couldn’t afford not to sign him; they need to get back into the Champions League and this is about protecting their brand.
The deal is great news for the Premier League on two counts. First, it’s not good for English football for United to be labouring in mid-table, and second, we get to watch a player who, like Diego Costa at Chelsea, we know a lot about without having seen them play that much.
For now the jury’s out on how Van Gaal’s expensive puzzle all comes together. But if he manages to guide them to a top-four finish – a target that looked very attainable before the start of the season but now appears a huge challenge – then that will go down as a very good first season in charge at Old Trafford.
Chelsea had the best transfer window of any of the top-flight clubs, happily sealing all of their business before the mad rush of the last 24 hours. They have a very strong, well balanced squad – so both thumbs up to them. Manchester City may have wobbled against Stoke, who seem to be a bogey side for them, on Saturday, but their resources are on a par with Chelsea’s.You can’t argue with the business Liverpool did. Mario Balotelli looked a threat on his debut against Tottenham, while full-back Alberto Moreno capped a very good start with a fine goal.
I don’t get Arsene Wenger’s judgement, though. This could’ve been Arsenal’s big year but he didn’t go for the good striker I think they still need. Tottenham’s weaknesses were exposed by Liverpool, meanwhile. They have a soft underbelly. Previously they had Scott Parker, but now seem to lack defensive aggression in midfield.
City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.