Sneijder to Manchester United - A Year And A Half Later

December 1, 2012 in Premier League, Transfers by Farhat Raza

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In the summer of 2011, Wesley Sneijder was as good as a Manchester United player. And then he wasn’t. For whatever reason, the transfer didn’t go through and United moved on and…well, no, they didn’t move on. That’s why they’re back in for him, if you believe the rumour mill. After Inter Milan revealed that Sneijder would not play for them again unless he took a significant pay cut, stories have once again emerged that Ferguson is back in for Sneijder. It does seem to be a case of 2+2 on the face of it, but stories that United have been in touch with Sneijder continued throughout last year, and so it is not surprising that everything seems to have come to the fore after Inter’s ultimatum.

18 months ago, Sneijder to United made perfect sense, or near enough. He plays in midfield, he is very good, United are rubbish there - sorted. Today, the same suggestion is met with a sense of bemusement. Sneijder? What? Why? No thanks. That seems to be the most common response from United fans. The fickle football fan curse has struck once more. That’s not to say the fans are being fickle now - but perhaps they were back in 2011 when Sneijder seemed to be the answer to all of United’s ills. If you run through the arguments against signing Sneijder, most of what is true now was true then. But what’s still true and should be most significant for United fans is that their midfield still sucks, and Sneijder would make it better. That’s why Sneijder to United, even now, is not something to moan about.

It is true that he plays best in the #10 role, not as a box-to-box CM; just as true as it was the first time round. As prodigiously gifted as Sneijder is, there is no doubt that he is not a box-to-box midfield player, but somebody who flourishes in a free role, given the license to create. Immediately, he appears to clash with Wayne Rooney and the recently signed Shinji Kagawa. But Sneijder CAN play deeper. It may not be his favourite position, but more than the names just mentioned, Sneijder has a similar skill set to Paul Scholes which would allow him to work well playing behind Wayne Rooney AND Robin van Persie.

Sneijder’s quality is not really in doubt, however. The two biggest considerations over this deal should be:

1) His age and injury record. Here, there are legitimate concerns. At 28, Sneijder is hardly Ryan Giggs, and he could still play on for a good while yet, but he is not going to get any better from here on in, or at least it’s unlikely. Injuries are, however, a genuine concern. Due to this, Sneijder would be more of a quick fix than a long-term solution.

2) The price. And this is where the deal swings into the “get it done” category. In 2011, the fee being mentioned was in the region of £30m, with wages close to £200k per week. Today, the fee is likely to be half, at most. The wage packet is always an unknown, but Inter Milan are reportedly demanding Sneijder signs a package worth no more than £100k per week - something Man United can easily better.

It is true that Sneijder is not the perfect solution to United’s midfield woes. And even if they sign him, another combative and defensively bullish midfielder is still in urgent need. But at the moment, United’s midfield is in a truly sorry state. Sneijder might not plug all the holes, but at £15m, he could be United’s Polyfilla for the next couple of seasons. Sneijder improves United’s weakest area of the team, and that is why they should sign him - if it doesn’t break the bank, of course.