Depending on who you talk to, Arturo Vidal's arrival at Manchester United would galvanise the club into becoming instant favourites for the Premier League title, unstoppable through the middle regardless of their opposition or as strong a team as they have ever been.
In fairness the Chilean certainly looks the part; for both Juventus and Chile he is a one-man conveyer belt of goals, chances, tackles, turnovers and surging runs that are genuinely box-to-box in their nature. He made 96 tackles last season in Serie A, took 56 shots, scored 11 goals and was named man of the match on five occasions.
At a time when players like Aaron Ramsey and Jordan Henderson are emerging as key players, Vidal looks a perfect fit. Yet while many continue to hail him as the perfect man to complete Louis van Gaal’s squad, it feels as though they have jumped the gun slightly. Regardless of what the gossip columns may be saying in Italy, Vidal to United is not a done deal: far from it, according to the English journalists who remain adamant that no move has been made yet.
So just in case the 27-year-old pitbull doesn't hot-foot it to Manchester, here are six alternatives who could grace the United shirt instead...
Strootman’s injury before the World Cup forced Van Gaal to switch to a 3-5-2 in Brazil, such was the Roma midfielder’s importance to the 4-3-3 system that had served the Dutch so well during qualifying.
Though not blessed with pace, like Vidal he can be regarded as a complete midfielder, offering plenty of comparable defensive coverage with tackles and ball recoveries, if not the lung-busting acceleration of the Chilean. With 55 tackles in 25 Serie A appearances, along with 5 goals and 6 assists in his first season in Italy, he certainly hasn’t lacked end product.
However, he is yet to return to full fitness and will be able to count on Champions League football for the time being with Roma, so a move before January seems unlikely. If Van Gaal feels he can wait until then, he could be an even more suitable capture given his existing understanding of the new manager’s ideas and methods.
Southampton’s defensive midfielder may not be a like-for-like substitute for Juve’s box-to-box general, but during his two seasons of Premier League football, Schneiderlin has certainly shown flashes of being capable of far more than intercepting and neat distribution.
He is a less active player – more of a passer than a runner – but few players compare to Vidal’s mixture of athleticism, attacking prowess and defensive power. With Ander Herrera providing combativeness and creativity higher up the field, Schneiderlin wouldn’t need to be the sole dynamic presence in midfield anyway.
Saints won’t let another one of their young stars leave without a fight – or an offer too big to turn down – especially now Ronald Koeman is in charge at St Mary's. The former Feyenoord boss enjoys an adversarial relationship with Van Gaal that would hardly stir any genuine interest.
After a promising campaign last season with Sporting, Carvalho made his World Cup debut this summer for Portugal against the USA as a substitute, and impressed with his composure on the ball.
Like Schneiderlin, the defensive midfielder would be a less dynamic option than Vidal, but as shown by his occasional forays forward from deep last season, he can be a more mobile threat when not on defensive duty.
Though regularly linked with a move to the Premier League, Bender is reportedly content with life at Bayer Leverkusen. Yet if the Vidal deal did fall through, he would be an intriguing option. The Arsenal-linked German is more mobile than he is often given credit for, and while he may be a far more defensively focused player than Vidal – he made 87 tackles last season in the Bundeliga but created only 1 goal, scoring 4 – he is far from limited.
Leverkusen was Vidal’s club prior to Juventus, and a move away helped him to flourish in a more rounded role. Perhaps a similar opportunity could unleash Bender’s true potential.
Staying in the Bundesliga, Schalke’s 19-year-old midfielder Goretzka could be a left-field, yet well-suited option for Van Gaal. The young German is also capable of playing wide on the right but looked surprisingly mature when called upon to play in central midfield last season.
Although still young and largely inexperienced, he did not seem fazed getting involved all over the pitch against Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin (see below). His age might worry United fans who crave Vidal's more refined abilities, but Van Gaal has never been afraid to trust youngsters with big responsibilities.
Hoffenheim’s No.10 may not seem like an obvious candidate to replace Vidal as a transfer target, but the midfielder-cum-striker is an exceptionally hard-working player who made 82 tackles in just 33 Bundesliga appearances last season.
Even if the Brazilian isn’t already a true box-to-box midfielder, at just 22 he could still become one. Van Gaal’s ability to redeploy players in roles that suit their abilities saw him turn wingers into full-backs and defenders at Ajax, and although buying big on a young star to play them out of position may be a step further, Firmino could be a player who could thrive if played deeper.
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