Around Europe, in the last week, there has been a buzz over the futures of Pedro from FC Barcelona and Valencia’s Nicolás Otamendi.
After Pedro scored the winner in Barca’s thrilling European Super Cup victory over Sevilla, he looked quite distant from the celebrations, and the post-match interview he gave after the match did little to refute the rumors of a potential move to Old Trafford.
Meanwhile, Otamendi has been once again linked to a move to Old Trafford for the 100th time this summer. According to Goal.com, he was reportedly left off Valencia’s Champions League squad against AS Monaco amid interest from both United and City. With the news of their potential arrivals, let’s take a look at the type of impact both men could have at Old Trafford.
If confirmed, the arrival of Nicolás Otamendi would ameliorate one of United’s key issues: the defence. Last season, and this pre-season, it was clear that there was instability in defence. This was seen many times, with United failing to hold on to leads, most memorably against Leicester City away.
Louis van Gaal has experimented with Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Paddy McNair, Tyler Blackett, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans at center half since the beginning of last season. With the arrival of Otamendi, United would have a far more stable and strong defence; one capable of containing the offensive firepower of teams like Chelsea and Manchester City. If Otamendi joins, then the back line would most likely feature the quartet of Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, Nicolas Otamendi, and new signing Matteo Darmian.
The arrival of Pedro would be another boost for United and their title aspirations, both domestically and in Europe. Pedro has struggled recently to break into the Barcelona front line, which now features the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr. Though he has found himself on the fringes at Barcelona, his place would be far more assured at United.
If this signing happens, United would likely line-up with a front three featuring Pedro, Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay. With the skills from Pedro and Depay on the wings, and Rooney down the middle as a lone striker, Manchester United’s attacking flair could put them in a position for a title challenge in the Premier League and perhaps even in the Champions League. Given the millions of pounds spent on summer signings, excluding the potential arrivals of Pedro and Otamendi, it would be a failure to not challenge on both fronts.
Nicolás Otamendi made 35 appearances in La Liga for Valencia last season, who finished in 4th place, and are now in the Champions League qualifying round against AS Monaco. Otamendi won 49% of his tackles, 59% of his fouls, 50% of his take-ons, and 64% of his aerial duels. He made 267 clearances, 111 interceptions, and 28 blocks. And he managed to sustain 79% pass accuracy, while scoring 6 goals, 5 of them being headers. Chris Smalling, by comparison, won 44% of his tackles, 32% of his fouls, 84% of his take-ons, and 66% of his aerial duels, while scoring 4 goals in 25 appearances. In addition, he managed 163 clearances, 58 interceptions, and 16 blocks. Based on these stats, the clear superiority to Smalling, arguably United’s most reliable center back last season, demonstrates the capabilities that Otamendi has to bolster United’s back line.
Pedro made 35 appearances for Barcelona, who finished last season as Champions League, La Liga, Copa del Rey and European Super Cup winners. He started 15 matches from those 35 appearances and scored 6 times for. He managed 87% pass accuracy while also creating 25 chances for goal, 19 coming in the form of a key pass and 6 coming in the form of an assist. Pedro managed a 65% shot accuracy and, in addition, won 40% of his duels. Ashley Young, who plays a similar position out wide and with similar characteristics, managed 26 appearances last term for Manchester United. From 26 appearances, he managed 24 starts and scored 2 times. He managed 81% pass accuracy while creating 34 chances for goal, 29 in the form of a key pass and 5 as an assist. Young had 47% shot accuracy and won 51% of his duels. Though he managed fewer starts than Young, Pedro would be a fine addition based on his performance last season for Barcelona.
With Phil Jones’ recent injury and an unconvincing back line, it would be wise to bring in a world-class defender in Otamendi, whilst Pedro would give United an attacking spark and flair, which could make the front line more prolific and could take some of the responsibilities off Memphis Depay, who has not yet hit his stride at Manchester United.