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Sports Features of Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Source: Yaw Adjei-Mintah, contributor

How Thomas Partey fits in Manchester United's team of the future


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With a couple of lucky bounces, Ghana International Thomas Partey should be a starting member of Manchester United’s next legendary teams.

With the Atletico Madrid midfielder’s play at a very high level and the Red Devils in need of a guy with his qualities, the marriage between both parties looks perfect.

However, that can only happen when Man United makes a serious move to get him after reports surfaced of the English team’s business as usual inquest on a prospective signing.

Fellow English side Arsenal looks the most interested in Partey’s services but the London side is far from the best team to join at this moment in time. When the almost inevitable departure of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang in the coming months is considered, Arsenal is likely to continue its struggle breaking into the upper tier of European football. Champions elect Liverpool should be interested in Partey considering its hardworking midfield corps is ageing fast. James Milner is well above 30, Jordan Henderson recently celebrated his 30th birthday and Gigi Wijnaldum turns 30 in November with his contract running out at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 campaign.

Getting Partey once this season ends gives the Reds time to bed him in the system and get him ready to take over from the aforementioned players without missing a beat. On the surface, Liverpool should be the most ideal team to join but why join an already made historically great team when you could be part of the final pieces that gets the next dynasty rolling. Should Man United hit on Partey and a couple of players in the transfer market and adopt the right tactical approach, Partey would emulate countryman Michael Essien as an integral member of a legendary English club.

For a second, Scott McTominay and Fred looked like the midfield combo to shield the backline and give enough thrust to Man United when the creative wheels of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba weren’t turning. However, for Man United to move from a dark horse league title contender to a real contender, the team needs an upgrade on the duo. Atletico Madrid’s Partey is the ideal candidate for the job because he excels where McTominay and Fred fall short.

While McTominay is 6 foot 4 inches tall and strong, he is slower and less technically adept compared to Partey who combines defensive and offensive duties with aplomb. The 27 year old Spanish based player is equally physical, versatile to play in central defense and as a right full back and has a great motor. Fred lacks speed, height, strength and positional awareness; the latter was exploited by Norwich City in the recent FA Cup quarterfinal tie.

Partey brings a lot to the table-goals, assists, tackles, dribbling ability and composure-but football involves a lot more people to deliver wins and titles. As such, Man United needs to get its signings this offseason right just as it did in the previous window with Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James. There have been ups and downs in Solskjaer’s first season as a full time Coach but the foundation for the next treble winning side looks set to build on. A handful of additions should do the trick to end Man United’s league drought as early as next season.

A defensive partner for Maguire is badly needed and Napoli’s Senegalese Center Back Khalidou Khoulibaly is the best choice. Up front, Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund should form an exciting attacking trident with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford for many years. But the right balance is needed in midfield and the right balance is having Partey play alongside Fernades and Pogba in a three man unit in a 4-3-3 system.

Pogba excelled on the left side in Juventus’ three man midfield that led to his return to Man United and Fernandes can man the right side. Solskjaer has flexed his side’s versatility by adopting multiple systems throughout this season including the 3-4-1-2 formation he deployed in the 0-2 loss to Liverpool at Anfield in January.

However, getting Partey, Khoulibaly and Sancho should lead to a near permanent 4-3-3 system to maximize the broad talent of this setup.

It is important Partey hits high marks because the national team-Black Stars-and any national team for that matter (irrespective of the sport) benefits when individual players excel at the highest level. Excelling at the highest level with Man United has a snow ball effect as witnessed during Ghana’s golden years in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s when almost all starters played for top flight clubs consistently.

Some clubs-Real Madrid, Barcelona-add an allure to a player’s profile irrespective of the skill set and Manchester United is one of them. As the team continues to rebuild, it has fallen a step short of elite teams like Liverpool, Juventus, Man City and Bayern Munich. Atletico Madrid lacks such allure and this has had a knock-on Partey’s profile since he isn’t given the recognition he deserves.

A team in need of a quality player to get back its lost clout and a player in need of a team that puts him on the path to gain the respect he deserves sounds like the perfect marriage to make Thomas Partey and Man United right for each other.

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