Manchester United have had a topsy-turvy season so far. Although second in the league and into the round of 16 of the Champions League, most would agree that at this stage, better things were expected from the Red Devils. 16 points off the top, the title is virtually sealed, albeit on the other side of Manchester. Dumped out of the Carabao Cup, the FA Cup remains the only realistic trophy Jose Mourinho would be aiming at, with the Champions League looking like a step too far for an improved but still raw United team.
The arrival of Nemanja Matic has undoubtedly improved Jose’s side, as the big Serbian has arguably been the Red Devils’ best outfield player this season. However, despite his arrival and Pogba having stepped up from last season, United look like they desperately need another midfielder to be genuine contenders next season. Herrera has fallen off from the heights he hit last season, Fellaini has reportedly decided against signing an extension and Carrick is nearing the end of a glorious career. United need upgrades and urgently. A few names have been thrown around, as potential upgrades on what United already have as they look to close the gap to their city rivals and become genuine contenders in Europe.
One of the names that have emerged is Rodrigo Battaglia. Currently plying his trade at Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, the 26-year-old Argentine is also reportedly a target for other Premier League clubs as well. The Moron born central midfielder moved to Sporting from national rivals Braga in the summer of 2017, after spending a lot of time on loan in his Braga stint. Now a key member alongside William Carvalho in the heart of the Sporting midfield, Battaglia started all the CL group stage games, and made a further 17 appearances in the league, catching the eye with some good performances.
A strong and combative player, Battaglia is best suited to the defensive midfield role, sitting just in front of the defence and maintaining the tempo of the game. Battaglia’s best attributes are his positioning and short passing. Rarely caught out of position, he has the ability to play quick passes with his teammates, and play the occasional long ball to switch play to either wing. What sets him apart, however, is his close control and dribbling, something that helps him wriggle out of tight spaces many times. He naturally has a very impressive 72% take-on rate. Strong in the tackle, he wins around 2 tackles every game and even better in the air, as evidenced by his 63% duels winning rate in the air.
For all his positives, Battaglia is still nothing more than a decent player playing in a relatively weaker league. Also, at the age of 26, this is the first time he has cemented a spot for himself. He’s also a bit reckless for his position, committing nearly 4 fouls every game. Should a move to the English league transpire, this could be a hindrance considering the physical nature of the league. His reading of the game needs improvement as well, as he doesn’t average even 1 interception every game.
Above all, despite being raw even at 26, what United need is a genuinely top class midfielder if they have to improve their chances to challenge for the top honours, and Battaglia just doesn’t cut it for now. He could be a very sound risk for a mid-table side in England, but United need to look for someone with more quality and ability as they can’t afford to take any chances to improve their squad immediately to avoid falling further behind not just Manchester City, but also the European elite.
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