Well that was quite a week of Champions League quarter finals with maybe the only predictable outcome of the 4 games being a Ronaldo goal, but it was another event in the same game that may have Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho picking up the phone to Florentine Perez. Gareth Bale surprisingly started the game against Juventus, the first time for a while that Zinedine Zidane has trusted the Welshman in a big game. However, as Real struggled to a half time 2-0 deficit and staring an embarrassing exit in the face, Bale was hooked by his French boss, sparking fresh talk that this season maybe his last in Spain. Regardless of this season’s less than convincing performances, rumours would be rife of Bale moving to United and maybe the time has finally come for another Welsh winger to become an Old Trafford legend.
The half time changes did not go unnoticed on social media and the opinion of most was very much split, maybe even the majority against the idea of Bale moving United. I even received some messages suggesting he should look to go to the ply his trade in America or even China. This for me is nonsense as the main concern has been his injury record and the impact it has had on him as a player. Based on his performance on Wednesday night, I completely understand, however, people are looking past the fact that Zidane opted to deploy Bale centrally alongside Ronaldo rather than his better position of on the wing. Ironically Zidane changed the formation slightly after the break that would have suited Bale more than the first half set up. To ask the 28 year old to come in to the side, in Champions League quarter final, where the away side get an early lead, foothold and momentum in the game and then play in a less familiar position with very little form behind him, is a big ask for anyone. The calls that Bale is on the decline may well be very premature and instead the cause could be the way the French legend prefers to set his team up, not utilising the best assets of the once most expensive player in world football.
His injury record is not a great read for potential future suitors, but I have always felt that Madrid have not done the best for Bale and rather put their needs ahead of the long term interest of the player. He has suffered regular calf injuries and time and again, Zidane rushed him back into the starting 11. It was no surprise there was a recurrence of the same injury. It is also no coincidence that since Bale’s importance to the side has decreased, his injuries have followed suit. The Welshman has made 34 appearance this term, scoring 17 goals and recording 6 assists, definitely not stats that belong to an injury prone player and certainly not someone on the decline.
The United problem are
The right wing area has been a weak area for United for a couple of seasons now. Juan Mata has occupied the spot for much of the time and the majority of the time has provided decent performances, however even by his own admittance, he is not a right sided player. The bigger issue has been that Alexis Sanchez has been brought in on the opposite flank who, like Mata, enjoys coming inside rather than stay wide, resulting in United becoming predictable and lacking width. Jesse Lingard is probably United’s next best option right side, but Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and even Sanchez have all been tried and failed to nail down the spot and although Mourinho has stated he is not interest in signing any attacking players, I am almost certain he will try to get it resolved this summer. Bale could well be the answer. In his first season in the Spanish capital, probably his best season, he was mainly deployed on the right flank, in return, Bale provided 22 goals and a whopping 19 assists from 44 games, how United would love to add these numbers to the current squad.
I have stated before that there seems to be a obsession from the United hierarchy to sign a marquee player each summer, Bale would fit into this bracket and bring the added bonus of slotting perfectly into the side rather than upset the balance of the current squad. There are even bigger positives to look to with this potential signing, no bigger than the Premier League experience he will bring. The season before he left for Madrid, he was one of, if not the best player in the Premier League, he know how to perform to the highest level in this league. Mainly playing from the left for Spurs, he scored goals on a consistent basis, from multiple positions. Something United have missed for years are goals from outside the area, I struggle to think of any from open play for some time. Someone like Bale, especially coming in from the right onto his left foot, would give Mourinho even more goal scoring threat. He offers great aerial threat too, standing at over 6ft and with a good leap, he fits the mould of a Mourinho player. He will also bring extreme pace down that side of the pitch, with the ability to go on the outside of the full back, as well as the inside. In games where Mourinho feels like he may have to change the shape or the attacking intent of the side to suit the opposition, Bale would give him so many more options on the counter attack. The Welshman can score goals from nothing, something United have lacked for some time. Every top side has one, if not more. Real have Ronaldo and Bale, City have Sergio Aguero & Kevin DeBruyne, Liverpool have Mo Salah, Barcelona have Lionel Messi & Luis Suarez, the list goes on. These players are crucial to success, United need to start adding them to this current squad.
The 3-2 win over City was a superb result and the second half showed how this current squad can perform when adding a little attacking intent to their play. However, I can’t help but feel that it flattered them slightly if you look at the first half performance. City had big players missing and still looked streets ahead, proving the gap between the 2 clubs remains. United will need to close that gap this summer by strengthening in the right areas, the right wing spot should be top of the list. Of course there are other options, but I am struggling to make a case for anyone else over Bale’s resume. If he becomes available, it seems ridiculous that a club with any ambition will not to try and sign him at all costs, the Welshman ticks so many boxes. This summer seems like a big one for both of the giant Spanish clubs and a high turnover of players is expected by both and based on the treatment of Bale by Zidane, he could well be high on the list of departures. Bale will have so much to prove if he does leave and that can only be a positive for his next destination. The United faithful adored the last Welsh winger to where the United red and they would no doubt adore this one too. Jose, go and make it happen, it is a no brainer.