Manchester United’s squad met actors from the HBO series Game of Thrones over the weekend as the club continues its preseason tour of the western United States.
Over in Europe, another interminable epic with multiple plot twists and red herrings was apparently drawing to a close.
The Independent reported on Monday that United had moved “closer” to agreeing a fee with Inter Milan for the Croatia winger Ivan Perišić. That—settling upon a price—has been the sticking point for weeks. It’s likely to be £48 million. Perišić has agreed personal terms, so this is nearly done.
Is that amount of money too much? Remember when your parents stuck stabilizers on your bike, or when they sent you off to university with orders not to drink too much, or else study in moderation if you were a gawky teenager?
In different ways, they must have been seeking balance. Mourinho is employing no less simple a concept. United lacks a natural left-footer for its left wing position—someone to beat a defender with a combination of skill and power before whipping a dangerous cross into the box.
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United didn’t just spend £75 million on Romelu Lukaku from Everton to have him stare up at the clouds above Old Trafford. Lukaku works best on instinct, when the football is delivered early into the penalty area. He will enjoy Perišić.
United’s best years, looking through a pair of objective lenses rather than the rose-tinted ones on offer in club shops right now, came when it made the pitch as wide as it would stretch. Think Andrei Kanchelskis and Ryan Giggs. There’s a reason Sir Alex Ferguson stuffed Wayne Rooney into a hole he didn’t necessarily fit on United’s left wing in the 2007-08 season. Rooney’s effort and desire to play an unfamiliar role allowed Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez to run free.
Which is to say, Perišić is almost certainly not a £48 million player if that is measured by goals and assists alone. United is paying for the intangible lesson your parents taught you, one easily forgotten. Balance is important, and so it follows that a balanced football team is a happy one.
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