Arturo Vidal: The vital piece in Louis van Gaal’s Man United midfield puzzle
Manchester United have reportedly made signing Arturo Vidal a priority, and it is no surprise after Chile's penalty loss to Brazil
Chile may have fallen at a familiar hurdle on Saturday, but Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal finished the World Cup with their reputations very much enhanced.
La Roja lost to Brazil for the third time in the World Cup last 16, although Sanchez and Vidal forced the hosts to book their place in the quarter-final courtesy of a tense shootout, which Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men won 3-2.
Manchester United have learned their lesson from last summer and chief executive Ed Woodward has already completed deals for Athletic Bilbao’s Ander Herrera and Southampton left-back Luke Shaw. But to complete the midfield face-lift, the Red Devils must land Vidal.
The Chile playmaker has been the driving force behind Juventus’s current dominance of Serie A, scoring 28 goals and making 20 assists in 96 appearances following his bargain €10.5m (£8.4m) move from Bayer Leverkusen in 2011.
There are many Serie A skeptics as Italy’s top-flight attempts to bounce back from its recent nadir, highlighted by the disappointing performances of Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli in the Champions League last season.
But if there were any suggestions that Vidal’s influential performances were being distorted by a poor league, the 27-year-old appeared every inch the real deal in Chile’s 2-1 loss to Brazil on Saturday evening.
Bearing in mind the former Colo-Colo man was half fit after picking up a knee injury ahead of the tournament, Vidal withstood the unforgiving Belo Horizonte heat for 88 minutes as he, like the rest of Chile team-mates, carried out Jorge Sampaoli’s high-pressing tactics.
Whilst Liverpool target Sanchez brought the flicks and tricks to the World Cup last-16 party, as well as showing his strength to hold up the ball, Vidal fulfilled all the requirements of a true box-to-box midfielder.
The Juve man tracked back and, although going to ground a little too often, he nicked the ball from opponents with well-timed challenges, winning 67 per cent of his attempted tackles against A Selecao.
Herrera’s arrival should signal the gradual easing out of Michael Carrick from the United midfield, with the Spaniard, like Vidal, capable of winning the ball and starting his side’s attacks from deep positions.
What Van Gaal will need is a creative spark, something United lacked last season. Tom Cleverley, despite claiming to be a Spanish maestro trapped in an Englishman’s body in an English league, isn’t the answer. Vidal, again, is.
What was most impressive against Brazil was the Chilean’s ability to piece phases of play together with a subtle pass into the feet of his team-mates, or else using the full width of the pitch, showcasing his long-range passing. He finished with a pass completion rate of 74 per cent, reflecting his ambitious, forward-thinking instincts.
For almost a decade United have been accused of failing to replace the heartbeat of their all-conquering dynasty in the 1990s and early 2000s – Roy Keane. The same can be said of Arsenal, too, who have never unearthed a worthy successor to Patrick Vieira.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger missed out on Yaya Toure, who was the Premier League’s best all-round midfielder last season. Although he is four inches shorter than the Manchester City talisman, Vidal would challenge the Ivorian for that title should he move to the Premier League. There are similarities to a young Steven Gerrard, too.
Van Gaal was denied the chance to analyse Vidal at close quarters after he was rested for Holland’s 2-0 win against Chile in Group B, but it is no surprise to learn that United have reportedly made signing the Juventus star their priority following their two early summer signings.
You feel if the United manager can land the Chile international, the Red Devils will have made more progress under the Dutchman, who is yet to warm the Old Trafford hot-seat since signing a three-year deal in May, than David Moyes managed in 10 months.
Vidal really is that good.