It’s something United will have to work on in the tight season, both with the rookies and to get the most out of the squad they have, but one of their main goals is the qualities – and the examples to follow – to make a difference.
If Jack Grealish is moving to Old Trafford this summer, there are plenty of players he can look at if he needs an example of big fish continuing to thrive in a big pond. Grealish is the star in Villa; at United, he would be one of many.
United found themselves in a similar position in 2004, coming out of a third place in the league and preparing to go to war with a Chelsea side bolstered by the appointment of Jose Mourinho.
A six-game winning streak over the Christmas period had left United at the top of the tree, but their slim side – unaided by the disappointing presence of Kleberson and Eric Djemba-Djemba in midfield – saw the Sir Alex Ferguson’s team will retire in the second part. of the season.
While the arrival of Wayne Rooney was the flagship summer signing, Ferguson also moved for Alan Smith – a key man for Leeds United even before their relegation, but someone whose stature at Old Trafford would be very different.
However, until a serious injury in 2006 that ultimately reduced his fate to the top, Smith did just the right thing of him, abandoning the talismanic role he had held at Elland Road to become the kind of player. who could play when needed and bring out the best in his teammates.
Jack Grealish at the last Man Utd
It’s always a challenge to find the type of player who can step in when called up and show intensity even without a consistent streak, but many top four clubs have been successful.
For Chelsea, one of the best examples is Demba Ba, a man who has gone from being a regular at Newcastle United to Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge.
In 18 months in west London, the Senegal international started just 16 league games but was a much more reliable presence than anyone in that scenario was allowed to be.
It can sometimes take players a bit longer to recognize their new role in a squad as well as a squad, as Chelsea recently discovered with Ross Barkley. After taking a while to find his place, injuries didn’t help, the former Everton man began to embrace his new surroundings after leaving his childhood club and showed Frank Lampard that he could trust the bench or early on.
Liverpool have perhaps been the best in the league at turning star men’s players from small clubs into key cogs in their system, whether it’s Adam Lallana after arriving from Southampton in 2014 or Gini Wijnaldum at the back of a season in which he barely missed. one minute for relegated Newcastle.
Wijnaldum could be instructive in regards to Grealish’s “big club” role. Top scorer for the Magpies in 2015/16 with 11 league goals, it took the Dutchman until his fourth season at Liverpool to pull off this tally with a red jersey. There have been times he has been called upon to deliver in an offensive sense, with the 2019 Champions League semi-final being a clear example, but his role had to be more malleable to keep him as important for the team of Jurgen Klopp. as it was in the northeast.
If Grealish does indeed complete a move to Old Trafford this summer, his role in a Manchester United shirt might not be as immediately defined as the one he grew up in at Villa Park. There may be games where he is called upon to handle things from the middle as he previously did during his Villa spell while other games may see him play the more advanced role that allowed him to score. the best score this season for the club that he currently captains. In addition, there will surely be occasions when he starts games from the bench and only has limited time to make an impact of any kind.
United’s progress this season will depend on how well they are able to develop plans A, B and C to help break down opponents. Although Grealish has found himself at the center of a lot of things at Villa, his success at Old Trafford would likely depend on how well he adapts to no longer be the Biggest Fish. However, as others have shown before him, there are plenty of ways to make this work.