Manchester United Message Board
United’s new signing may be something of an unknown quantity in England, but over in France they’ve been singing his praises for years.
In fact, Gabriel Obertan was being tipped for the top long before he even made his senior debut for Bordeaux as a 17-year-old.
So what sort of player is the France U21 international? And what can United fans expect from his first season at Old Trafford? To find out, we spoke exclusively to BBC 5Live’s European football expert Andy Brassell...
How highly rated is Obertan in France?
He’s a terrific player, although, to be honest, I think some people in France are quite surprised by the transfer. He’s been on the cusp of something great at Bordeaux for a while now – he made his debut at 17 – but he hasn’t quite kicked on and forced himself into the side on a regular basis. Despite that, I think he’ll be a really good fit at United.
What are his main attributes?
He’s a very versatile player and the way United play you need your frontmen to be mobile and flexible. He’s a right-sided attacker, but he can also drop back into midfield or play as a second striker. He could probably also play in central midfield, and I expect his adaptability is one reason Sir Alex was interested in him. He went through the famous Clairefontaine football academy so he has a lot of technical ability and he’s also very quick.
So he’s not a like-for-like replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo?
No, I don’t think you can compare him to Ronaldo or claim he’ll be a direct replacement – they’re different sorts of players. However, like Ronaldo when he first came to England, there’s an element of the unknown around Obertan, which could work in his favour. Remember, though, Obertan’s played about 100 first-team games already and he’s played in the Champions League, so he has decent experience under his belt. In that sense, he’s maybe better prepared for England than Ronaldo was when he first arrived. Obertan also understands his attributes very well: he’s direct and has plenty of tricks, but he’s not going to over-elaborate or do them for the sake of showing off.
Are we talking about a future star?
Well, a lot of people in France think he could become something really special. He hasn’t quite progressed at the rate people had hoped after his debut at 17, but he’s also been a little bit unlucky. Last year, for instance, Bordeaux played Roma in the Champions League and Obertan started terrifically. Bordeaux went 1-0 up and things were looking really good. But then their centre-back was sent off and Obertan was sacrificed for a defender and Bordeaux ended up losing. Similar things have happened on one or two other occasions and there was a feeling that it just wasn’t going to happen for him at Bordeaux, a feeling that luck just wasn’t going his way.
He was sent out on loan to FC Lorient for the second half of 2008/09. They’re not exactly a big club…
That’s true, but he did very well at Lorient. And the fact that Bordeaux sent him on loan to a struggling side shouldn’t be seen as a negative. I think it served two purposes: it said to him that he needed to play more games and start making some progress, but it also would have provided a valuable education. Lorient are a modest club without bells or whistles – he would have been forced to work hard there and roll his sleeves up and get stuck in. While he was there he played for France U21s against England U21s in Nottingham. France won that night, Obertan was the best player on the park and scored the first goal. That performance was a good indication of what he's capable of.
Good thread ...turnip....he's definatly one for the future,but will get some playing time......even though he has the same shaped head as Verom...eeeeek!....they also mentioned on radio 5 some Equadorian kid...but missed the name,but calling him the new Ronaldo....but i suppose they are calling a lot of young wingers that....comparison...
Realistically, how much can United fans expect to see him this season?
He’s relatively unknown so I don’t think too much will be expected of him. There won’t be too much pressure. I see it almost as a free season for him to ease himself into the club. I definitely wouldn’t like to see him go out on loan – he has such fantastic players to learn from at United and because he’s tall, pacy and has tricks I think he’ll work really well as an impact substitute against tired defenders. I can see him playing about 25 games this season.
Can he cope with the rigours of the English game?
Absolutely. I think the French league, in general, is a great finishing school for life in England. It’s physically tougher than most other leagues in Europe – certainly the Spanish, Portuguese, German or Italian leagues – so that helps players prepare for the Premier League. Most players who have come from France to England are quite physical and get stuck in – people like Drogba and Essien at Chelsea and even Bassong at Newcastle. Obertan is a big guy – 6ft 1in – he’s quick and he can handle himself against defenders. I think that’s something that would have really appealed to United.