Should Man United Keep Falcao?
“He is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the game. His appearance-to-goal ratio speaks for itself and, when a player of this calibre becomes available, it is an opportunity not to be missed.”
So said Louis van Gaal of Radamel Falcao after his stunning deadline day capture of the Monaco striker just four months ago. So how has it come to dropping the Colombian from his squad entirely for the recent match with Southampton – instead padding out his bench with three central defenders and James Wilson?
United have until the end of the season to decide whether to sign the striker on a permanent basis, with van Gaal still proclaiming that Falcao needs to “prove himself”. However, it’s pretty difficult to prove oneself from a director’s box while you watch your team-mates fail to manage a shot on target.
Many critics claim Falcao’s just not cut the mustard at Old Trafford but he’s hardly had a chance. He’s made just nine Premier League starts, scoring and assisting three goals – that’s a goal or an assist every 115 minutes. That’s compared to Wayne Rooney’s goal or assist ratio of 131 minutes and Robin van Persie’s 164 minutes. Wilson, meanwhile, has scored one goal in his 311 minutes in the league this term.
Falcao’s ratio is also better than the likes of Graziano Pelle and Wilfried Bony and similar to that of Charlie Austin. He’s just not got as many minutes as they have yet this season.
That’s down to a mixture of van Gaal’s notorious stubbornness and undoubted fitness issues as Falcao returns from a serious anterior cruciate ligament injury. The former helped jettison fan’s favourite Rivaldo from Barcelona during van Gaal’s tenure, while the latter has definitely contributed to Falcao’s struggles to adapt at Old Trafford.
However, surely there’s a case that when he is fit he should be given an opportunity. Van Persie’s interest, in direct contrast to companies like Wonga, seems to be dropping daily and Rooney’s relocation to a deeper role suits the selection of the Colombian in his favoured number nine role.
Certainly when he’s been given an opportunity he has impressed, with misses like those against QPR at the weekend merely endemic of a player short of match fitness.
Nevertheless, it may be Falcao’s failure to adapt to van Gaal’s philosophy that ultimately spells an end to his time at the club. The manager insists on strikers defending from the front, but Falcao’s tackles per game is the worst of any of United’s first team regulars. The Dutchman also seems to favour James Wilson’s pace over any of the Colombian’s attributes, something that Falcao is unlikely to improve at the age of 28.
And maybe that’s just it. At 29 in February, van Gaal obviously sees his on-loan striker as past his peak. Would it be profligate of him to splash out £43 million on a transfer fee alone on a player probably with his best years behind him?
The loan signing was certainly one “not to be missed” but to make a qualified decision on retaining him, van Gaal must offer Falcao more opportunities to let his “appearance-to-goal ratio speak for itself”. Like any decent striker, how can he take his chances if he’s not given any?