It is fair to say that Radamel Falcao has not hit the ground running at Manchester United. The Colombian has scored just three goals in the first half of the season, during which he missed many games due to injuries.
Falcao suffered a knee ligament injury in his time at AS Monaco, which stopped him from participating in the 2014 World Cup. Colombia were considered as dark horses by some, as young James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Juan Quintero looked to create an upset by partnering with Radamel Falcao. The injury news came as a blow to their hopes of possibly challenging for, or even winning the World Cup.
There were doubts about his fitness in late August as the transfer window approached its deadline. Many clubs were apparently interested in his services yet doubtful about his fitness—namely Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Manchester City. To everyone’s surprise, Falcao joined Manchester United on deadline day, moving on a season-long loan deal, with an option to make it permanent at the end of the season.
Falcao was given time to rest his knee and regain full fitness by Louis van Gaal, before the striker could make his debut. As he started playing more, he picked up a bit of form and rhythm, but unfortunately he picked up another injury, leaving United fans frustrated.
Despite these injury setbacks and lack of game-time, the 28 year old has made 12 appearances, scored three goals and has assisted on numerous occasions as well. His partnership with Robin van Persie appeared to be flourishing as the Colombian assisted the Dutchman with two assists.
Falcao has already shown promising signs, but United must find a way to get him back to his lethal best. Here are some points to be considered before jumping to conclusions about the impact he has had in his form, his play-style and how he has fared in his debut season in the Premier League.
- Falcao, known as one the most devastating finishers in world football, is a player who revels in the opposition penalty area. His movement to fool defenders, not only for himself, but for his partnering striker as well is absolutely world class. Falcao and van Persie have struck a basic understanding of how to create space for each other. Both forwards know how and when to make crossing runs that split the defenders. That creates space for the advancing midfielder as well, as we saw for Rooney’s first goal against Newcastle United. Falcao is a striker who has exceptional ability around the opposition penalty box, on and off the ball. He has been fairly good with his footwork as well, having 65% shot accuracy and 86% pass accuracy.
- Falcao was judged by many pundits to have lost a yard of pace after his knee injury. Although this may be true to some extent, he was never a player who beat defenders with his pace. He has shown that his main qualities consist of being a poacher, not a speedster.
- Team player – Falcao has shown he is willing to do the dirty work and tackle to win ball possession for his team. He is selfless and a very smart footballer. The way he made the run and squared up Rooney against Newcastle United was a prime example. He could have taken a shot himself, but had the presence of mind and vision to spot the late run from Rooney. Rooney’s second goal in the same game was also started by Falcao who tackled hard, won the ball in a dangerous position, which led to Mata getting the assist for the United captain.
- Lack of service – The likes of Ander Herrera, Angel di Maria, Marouane Fellaini and Daley Blind have been in and out of the team due to injuries. The players replacing them have not provided much service for Falcao, who has been left frustrated at times. He has had to do more running, trying to create chances for himself, rather than focus on his finishing. Juan Mata and Robin van Persie have played alongside him in recent matches, but they failed to produce opportunities for him and indeed themselves. There is only so much he can do to have an impact. United pass the ball around in their own half most of the time, and hoof a hopeful ball to the attackers. These long balls are hard to control, thus disabling United from creating chances. For a poacher, chances need to be made by the men behind him, and that has simply not happened yet.
- Fitness is a major part of any successful player. The Colombian has remained injury plagued most of the season, having only appeared in just over half the games. The knee injury he suffered has surely set him back a fair bit, being unfairly criticized by pundits, fans and experts within the game. These types of knee injuries are generally very nasty and tend to take players between 8 to 18 months to fully recover mentally and physically. Joining a team in transition, he already had enough problems and hurdles to overcome. Considering all these factors, scoring three and assisting three in just about over six games of playing time is not bad at all.
- Louis van Gaal has been very wise in playing the striker sparingly, easing him back from injury. The Dutch manager has given Falcao sometimes an hour, sometimes a few minutes to regain his touch and get used to the pace of the league. This will help in a longer term basis as he acclimatizes to his new surroundings, teammates and indeed the Premier League.
Judging him at the end of the season would be the wisest thing to do, as he has yet to settle in completely in Manchester. Considering all this, their rivals should be scared, because once he finds his scoring touch and hits top form, he will be impossible to stop.
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