Signing Owen Hargreaves in January could be a mistake by Manchester United
With the opening of the January transfer window, United have inevitably again been linked with a big money move for Bayern's Owen Hargreaves. This does not appear to be just press speculation either, as Sir Alex Ferguson has repeatedly made clear his desire to bring Hargreaves to Old Trafford and as Hargreaves says in his own column on the BBC website, the speculation is "concrete".
However, Uli Hoeness has recently reiterated that Bayern will not sell Hargreaves in January and will only consider a sale at the end of the season. Whilst I have always maintained that Hargreaves is a exceptional energetic midfielder, I think that this in fact could be beneficial for United this season for a few reasons:
Prices are always inflated in the January transfer window. The limited time to buy means that selling clubs alway have buying clubs over the barrel in terms of demands. £15 million is too much for Hargreaves and anything above that would be ridiculous.
2. Champions League - Cup tied
Before Hargreaves broke his leg, he played for Bayern in the Champions League against Spartak Moscow. So, he would be ineligible to play for United for the rest of the CL campaign.
3. Recover from injury
Hargreaves is just on his way back from a serious injury. It will take him time to regain match fitness and optimum form. Coming to a new club with title aspirations with huge expectations on his shoulders would not, in my opinion, aid his recovery or be of substantial benefit to United in the short term this season. If United do sign him, it would be much better to do so at the end of the season when he will have trained and played for Bayern regularly and would be fit to start the new season with a full pre-season campaign behind him.
4. Disruption to the current settled United team
One of the major factors to United exceptional domestic form this season which Ferguson has not openly acknowledged is that he has gone "back to basics" with the United formation. 4-4-2. The unsuccessful forays into 4-5-1/4-3-3 have been ditched as Ferguson has realised that United are at their most penetrative with a four man midfield with two wide men and two strikers.
Central to this formation has been the partnership of Carrick and Scholes. Carrick has been unspectacular but solid, especially in his retention of possession - and Scholes has been rolling back the clock in putting in some exceptional displays with his link play.
Signing Hargreaves for an inevitably large fee will, I feel, give Ferguson too much scope to tinker with the successful formula he has embarked upon this season. The temptation will be for Ferguson to revert to a 5 man midfield and I think that would be a mistake in United's hunt for Trophies this season.
Hargreaves will be a very good signing for United, but the fruits of that signing will only be seen when Scholes ends his Indian summer of great form and is replaced by Carrick as a slightly different but still creative force and Hargreaves steps into the "Keane" role of box-to-box midfielder.
Yes, United's squad will be stretched this season if injuries occur, but I think that signing Hargreaves in January will be gamble that could backfire for United.