Manchester United need a left-back; Marc Cucurella needs a chance to rebuild his reputation; and Chelsea need that to be away from Stamford Bridge. Get it done, lads…
If Manchester United need to sign a left-back before Friday’s transfer deadline – apparently Erik ten Hag reckons they do – then they could do a lot worse than borrowing Marc Cucurella from Chelsea.
Some United fans seem somewhat sniffy about the prospect of the luscious-locked Spaniard patrolling Ten Hag’s left flank but here the Red Devils and the Blues have an opportunity to strike a deal that makes sense for everyone involved.
United need an emergency left-back; Chelsea have an excess of platers in that position; and Cucurella needs to get away from Stamford Bridge to repair his reputation and rebuild some confidence after a torrid year at Stamford Bridge.
Ten Hag seems willing to look deeper into Cucurella’s body of work and so should United fans. Yes, the 25-year-old endured a miserable season at Chelsea, but so did everyone else. Roberto Carlos would have struggled to thrive amid the Stamford Bridge sh*tshow last term.
Prior to that, Cucurella was brilliant at Brighton. Similarly, everyone looks swell with the Seagulls but when Chelsea paid £56million for the defender, few batted an eyelid. A huge fee, yes, inflated by Brighton’s negotiating power and Todd Boehly’s lavishness. It was a price too high for Manchester City, but Pep Guardiola was similarly keen on his compatriot and the champions don’t often chase duds.
Why has Cucurella struggled at Stamford Bridge even more than most? Graham Potter alluded to the player going through a hard time off the pitch at the same time he was trying to settle in to the Chelsea circus, and no-one, even the world’s most expensive left-back, is immune from issues relating to family and away from football.
Cucurella admitted himself that he may have been blinded somewhat by the Chelsea spotlight. “I play all my career in a [smaller] club so we don’t have this pressure,” Cucurella told ESPN. “When you come to these big clubs, you feel this pressure and sometimes it is not easy to play with this pressure because you know you need to win every game.
“Sometimes you need to adapt as well to these situations, but this is part of life. Sometimes you have good years, bad years, but the most important thing is to learn and have energy to improve.”
United have to hope that a year is long enough to feel more comfortable with such scrutiny because it is no less intense at Old Trafford. Indeed, the glare is even brighter.
But Cucurella could shine on a different stage with a different director. The defender has had three managers in a turbulent year at Chelsea when it wasn’t always clear who was calling the shots. There is no such confusion at United.
And it won’t have escaped Cucurella the effect Ten Hag has had on full-backs in the year he has been in the United hot-seat. The manager has turned Luke Shaw into one of his most important players – hence why his absence has prompted United to dip into the market rather than mend and make do – while Ten Hag has transformed Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
The right-back was in a very similar position to Cucurella not even a year ago. Wan-Bissaka looked cringingly uncomfortable in United’s defence when it emerged that he was expected to do more than slide tackle anything that moves. He looked to be a lost cause before Ten Hag broke him down and built him back up again. No longer does he need a map and compass to cross the halfway line, which is the result of good coaching but also a huge injection of confidence for the one-time winger.
Cucurella could certainly use both right now. Which might put Diogo Dalot’s nose out of joint somewhat, just as he looked set for a run in the side, but Ten Hag cannot go through the next few months with only two senior full-backs, especially if he feels that Alvaro Fernandez is not yet ready for a senior role. In which case, the young Spaniard needs to go out again and build on the progress he made at Preston last season.
What’s in it for Chelsea? They have shown no reluctance to deal with clubs they perceive as rivals, sending players to United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Newcastle already this summer. And what’s the alternative? Leaving Cucurella to stew as a substitute serves no-one’s needs at Stamford Bridge.
Ben Chilwell is Mauricio Pochettino’s first-choice left-back and the manager has back-up in the shape of Ian Maatsen, who so impressed at Burnley last season. Cucurella was also useful as centre-back cover but Pochettino has bloody loads of them now.
Chelsea have plenty to gain from Cucurella succeeding at United. He would return to Stamford Bridge renewed and revitalised, ripe either for integration with Pochettino’s first-team, or a hefty sale. As things stands, if Chelsea sell, no-one is buying.
The Blues will rightly insist upon a reasonable loan fee and that United cover his wages. But this would be a daft time for Chelsea to start talking tough. Everyone – United, Chelsea and Cucurella – needs this deal.
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