Three reasons Man United will regret not signing Chelsea-bound Pedro
Paul McNamara examines three reasons why Manchester United will regret not signing Chelsea target Pedro Rodriguez
It might be only two years since Manchester United were last crowned champions of England, but the last of the Old Trafford club’s 20 English title triumphs actually feels as if it happened an age ago. Some sort of post-Sir Alex Ferguson slump was expected, but the joyless year that United suffered following the Scot’s retirement defies belief, even now. Yet, it really is only 15 months ago that the Red Devils were finishing a Premier League campaign in seventh place. The winning mentality that had been forged at Old Trafford, as Ferguson overcame his own sticky start at the club to develop a trophy winning dynasty across 20 years, was put on the line by one miserable season under the tutelage of David Moyes. With Louis van Gaal’s appointment as Moyes’ successor in the United hot-seat last summer, came an implicit admission from the club’s Kingmakers that this is a job for an individual who knows how to win. The Dutchman was never going to be intimidated by the still-present spectre of United’s Ferguson led glory days. Van Gaal is a title-winning boss in three countries, and counts a Champions League success with Ajax in 1995 among his other major achievements. Moyes, a solid and shrewd manager, had nevertheless not won a bean in 11 years at Everton’s helm, when he was granted the dubious honour of following in Ferguson’s stead. After belatedly recognising the value of having a proven winner at the team’s helm, United shouldn’t be slow in appreciating the importance of boasting similarly minded individuals on the pitch. Van Gaal already had a few hardened champions in place, as he set about the task of propelling his new club back into the upper echelons of English and European football. The Red Devils manager has since added Daley Blind and the vastly decorated Bastian Schweinsteiger to the likes of Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick, but this is still a United squad slightly light on silverware winning nous. To introduce a caveat, a player’s previous successes don’t provide any guarantee that he will be a force for good when he moves into a new environment. Victor Valdes’ Old Trafford career seems destined to be a short and not so sweet affair – and the ex-Barcelona stopper has fifteen major medals to his name. It is a personal haul matched by Pedro – and bettered among players plying their trade in this country by Schweinsteiger, alone. Whereas Valdes was moving to England expecting to play second fiddle to David De Gea, however, Pedro remains in his pomp. Hungry to spread his wings and help inspire his new club to glory, the Tenerife born attacker would have brought more than the ability he possesses in his twinkling feet to Manchester. Pedro’s knowledge of what is required to see the job through, when the pressure is at its most intense, would have been a priceless asset for Van Gaal’s evolving team.
Beware the spurned footballer
We all know that when a player comes up against one of his past clubs, he will be intent on doing some damage. Never mind the modern, somewhat mystifying, trend for refusing to celebrate against former employers, footballers relish proving a point. Be that to baiting supporters, erstwhile team-mates, or the manager who didn’t rate them. And we can all recount plenty of occasions when we’ve watched an old favourite or, just as likely, a one-time boo-boy, burst the back of his former team’s net. Pedro might never have played for Manchester United in his life but, make no mistake, the player who won five league titles and three Champions League’s with Barcelona, and who lined up for Spain when his country overcame Holland in the 2010 World Cup final, will have had his pride dented by the Old Trafford club’s refusal to meet his relatively modest release clause at Barcelona. Now that he will be plying his trade in the Premier League, Pedro will not be short of opportunities to rub Van Gaal and United’s noses in what the forward will believe was the manager and club’s short-sightedness, when they went cold on the deal to recruit him. Chelsea are one of the most high-profile football teams in this country. If, therefore, Pedro is pivotal to an upturn in fortunes at Stamford Bridge; if the 51 cap international hits a prolific streak, or makes a habit of positively affecting matches for his team, then there will be no escape from these deeds for those at Old Trafford – the people who eschewed the chance to have him for themselves. Had Pedro chosen to link up with a club on the continent, then he might have, sporadically, cropped up on the radar with a telling contribution on Champions League nights. In those, theoretical, instances, though, United could have argued that a player’s ability to shine in Europe doesn’t necessarily translate into a prosperous Premier League performer. As it is, every time Pedro dazzles in Chelsea blue, it will act as a direct message to Manchester United: Look at what you could have had.
Never give a sucker an even break
By opting not to sign Pedro, United unwittingly opened the door for their floundering title rivals in west London to recruit exactly the type of player that their increasingly grumpy boss has been desperate to land. The troubles currently encircling Chelsea – on and off the pitch – were largely unforeseen. There weren’t many judges, filing their pre-season predictions a fortnight ago, who were tipping the champions to display any hint of vulnerability in defence of their crown. But, after two uncharacteristically disjointed performances, the controversy surrounding Mourinho’s public criticism of Eva Carneiro and, finally, the furore that greeted the manager’s half-time substitution of John Terry at Manchester City last Sunday, Chelsea were as close to being there for the taking, as any of their challengers could have realistically hoped. With Arsenal’s first day flop against West Ham offering a timely reminder of the Gunners’ own on-going deficiencies, United must have sensed that this was their moment; time to pounce and shift back up the Premier League pecking order. Van Gaal’s players have held up their side of the bargain, winning both of their opening league encounters, and breaking the back of their Champions League play-off tie with Club Brugge, by inflicting a 3-1 defeat on the Belgians in Tuesday’s first leg at Old Trafford. By allowing Pedro out of their clutches, and into the grateful hands of Mourinho, however, the Red Devils have given Chelsea a leg-up, just when the 2012 Champions League winners needed it most. Pedro might turn out to be all that the Blues needed to emerge from their mini-rut. If that proves to be the case, then all of the teams trying to wrestle the title away from its holders will rue the day that a World Cup winning forward joined the Chelsea cause. None more so than Manchester United, who could have had him all for themselves.