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James Rodriguez; Manchester United’s next midfield maestro?

For those who watched the 2014 World Cup, this man will need no real introduction. After winning the competition’s Golden Boot in what was an impressive Colombian showing, the attacking midfielder earned himself a lavish €70 million transfer to the Bernabeu from Monaco.

After an exhilarating first campaign, Rodriguez settled into Real Madrid’s team comfortably, impressing with thirteen goals and thirteen assists in just 29 league starts. Operating as the main No.10 behind the striker, Rodriguez certainly provided as one of the few highlights in a disappointing and trophyless season for Madrid.

Despite this impressive start, Rodriguez has since fallen out of favour for the Spanish side ever since Rafa Benitez’s appointment and his continuous rotation of the side. It seemed the Colombian, despite scoring seven goals and assisting eight in seventeen starts, failed to impress Benitez and has since even further deteriorated under Zinedine Zidane who prefers the compact three of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro in his midfield.

After starting just league nine games all season it is evident that the Colombian does not belong in the long-term plans of Zidane’s Real Madrid team. It would appear that come the Summer, Rodriguez will most likely be assessing his options and considering he would be available for a fair price, he could provide as an excellent acquisition for Manchester United.

Style of Play

After making a name for himself playing in the No.10 role for Colombia and Monaco, Rodriguez clearly operates most effectively as the playmaker in the space behind the striker. Notorious for his agile dribbling and close technical control, Rodriquez excels in making chances for his team-mates once given this license to drift without any defensive duties. Whilst conducting in this free role, Rodriguez is also able to get in and around the box to get into scoring positions and with his clinical finishing, the Colombian offers as a true goal scoring threat.

It is no surprise as to why Rodriguez played most effectively under the management of Carlo Ancelotti compared to his successors as he benefited most from playing under a more fluid team, whose attacking players were allowed to interlink and roam around the final quarter of the pitch. Whilst admitting himself that he prefers playing as the No.10, the Colombian can also be described as versatile and following his ambidexterity, Rodriguez can play centrally in a midfield three or on either wing.

Where would he fit?

Whilst it may seem bizarre that United are being linked to yet another playmaker who can operate in the No.10 role, it is Rodriguez’s incredible goalscoring ability from midfield that would benefit this current United side. The lacking of clinical finishing or even ‘true goalscorers’ in the team has been a prominent point throughout United’s season and thus could be attended to from the Colombian and not through a new striker.

Alternatively, Rodriguez could potentially conduct centrally in a midfield three at United as he flourishes in keeping possession through a variety of short quick passing, whilst also being able to distribute long balls across the field. With Herrera impressing in a defensive manner this season Rodriguez could potentially sit alongside Pogba, as the attacking threat the two would hold together would be a force to be reckoned with.

Verdict

Whilst it could be said with some confidence that Rodriguez’s future lies away from the Spanish side, there may be some hesitance from Mourinho in bringing in another playmaker when we have starting players such as Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Having said this, if the Colombian is available for a reasonable price then United will be one of many teams who will find it hard to turn down a player of his caliber, particularly in the modern-day transfer market.

In my own opinion, I do believe Rodriguez could add that extra spice to United’s attacking front, most primarily because of his track goal scoring record. In a season where United have lacked more than one goalscorer, it would seem rather strange that they would let a player like Rodriguez, aged at just 25, slip through their fingers.

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