Arturo Vidal could be on his way to Manchester United, but is he what Jose Mourinho needs?
It has been reported in the German newspaper Bild (via Premier Soccer Chat) that the 13-time Premier League champions will pursue Vidal, if as rumoured, Bayern Munich are willing to sell him in the summer. Chelsea are also believed to be interested, with current Blues manager Antonio Conte having coached the Chilean midfielder at Italian giants Juventus between 2011 and 2014.
If the move were to come to fruition, Vidal would be vying for a starting place in an already crowded midfield at Old Trafford, which brings to mind the question, is he the kind of midfielder that the perennial title challengers should be looking at? Should they be searching for a more direct replacement for the now 36-year-old Michael Carrick? Can Vidal thrive in that kind of role? Let’s discuss…
Arturo Vidal has been one of the finest midfielders in world football in the past half-decade. According to Squawka’s ‘Performance Score’ system, which ranks a player’s overall performance, he is the 2nd best midfielder in the Bundesliga so far this season, behind only Joshua Kimmich, his Bayern teammate. He is however, a different player to Carrick in nearly every sense.
Vidal is a high octane, box to box midfielder, snapping into tackles (the Juventus fans didn’t nickname him “The Piranha” for no reason) and getting forward to fire shots at goal (the Chilean has the highest shot accuracy of any Bundesliga midfielder this season with more than 25 shots). Due to his energetic nature however, he’s capable of vacating midfield and leaving his team vulnerable to the counter attack, which is fine when you’re the focal point role of the midfield and have the freedom to do so, ala Paul Pogba, but not so much when you’re supposed to be the holding midfielder (as Arsenal fans are finding out the hard way with Granit Xhaka). Vidal is a flashy player; his distinctive Mohican hair style and neck tattoos mean he is not easily missed. He, like Pogba, is a star, not just a supporting cast member. It is also worth pointing out that Arturo Vidal turns 31 this year, you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks.
“High octane, flash, a star” are not terms you would use to describe Michael Carrick. He cuts a far more inconspicuous figure, careful and composed when he has the ball and extremely intelligent with his positioning when he doesn’t, he’s quiet but effective, he does his job so that others can shine. In many ways, Arturo Vidal is the “Anti-Carrick”.
There are very few Michael Carrick’s around anymore, and the few that do exist, would be branded “boring” five games into their Manchester United careers and likely be sold the following transfer window (Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger spring to mind). Having said that, if United are indeed looking for someone in that mould, two potential options are William Carvalho of Sporting Lisbon, who has been linked with a move to England for what feels like 25 years, or Kevin Strootman of Roma, who United have been linked with previously. Strootman in particular offers strong defensive discipline whilst also carrying an attacking threat. A more obvious example is Sergio Busquets, but I doubt Barcelona would part with him easily. I would suggest however, that United look internally to fill the void of Carrick, Nemanja Matic for example certainly has the ability to play in that position based on his skills on and off the ball, the answer could be right under Jose Mourinho’s nose.
Only time will tell if Arturo Vidal joins his compatriot Alexis Sanchez in the northwest, and if he can take the place of one of the more unique players in Manchester United’s illustrious history.