The T, sadly some might add, does not stand for Tiberius but news that Darron Thomas Gibson has agreed terms on a £5 million move to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland will leave not a dry eye in the house all the same. Maybe. Sort of. Well, perhaps not at all but it will bring to a close a chapter in recent Manchester United history with Gibson the subject of many a supporter debate over recent seasons.
Gibson, 24 in October, will join former Reds Frazier Campbell, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson on Wearside after five years at United in which the Derry-born midfielder made less than 60 appearances for the club. Despite a thunderous shot Gibson failed to seal a consistent place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. With neither the technique, pace, nor all round game for the very top-level Gibson’s departure can hardly surprise, even though Ferguson has shown years of patience in the player.
Despite Gibson’s limitations the Irishman has never lacked confidence; a certain arrogance that is required of all United players. Gibson repeatedly rebuffed Irish manager Giovanni Trappatoni’s assertion that the midfielder should move to a lesser club in search of more time on the pitch.
Gibson will finally achieve his national manager’s goal at the Stadium of Light, replacing £20 million England under-21 international Jordan Henderson who departed for Liverpool in the past week. It was a week in which Gibson admitted for the first time that his future may lie elsewhere after Sunderland bid £12 million for the player together with United colleagues Wes Brown and John O’Shea.
“It wouldn’t faze me one bit to leave, all I want is what’s best for me,” admitted Gibson, who has 16 caps for the Republic of Ireland.
“So if the best thing for me is to leave and go somewhere that I’ll play every week then so be it. I haven’t sat down with Sir Alex to talk but if it comes to me not playing as much as I’d like next season I’ll have to move. I’m nearly 24. I’m going to have to go somewhere else if I don’t start playing regularly. Steve Bruce has played under Sir Alex Ferguson and I think he bases his managerial style on Sir Alex. If it came to it, I would love to play for Steve Bruce.”
Despite Paul Scholes’ retirement, and Owen Hargreaves’ departure, Gibson is behind Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Fletcher for a place in the United side. With Ferguson expected to bid for a leading central midfielder in the summer, Gibson is no closer to claiming a regular place in the United engine room than at any point in his Old Trafford career.
Gibson spent two seasons away from Manchester in a bid to further his chances, moving first to Royal Antwerp in Belgium and then to Wolverhampton Wanderers a year later for the 2007/8 season. Although popular in Antwerp, Gibson’s time coincided with a downturn in the club’s fortunes, with relegation to the Second Division providing a poor grounding for United’s youngsters.
Yet, as a past winner of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, Gibson has not fulfilled the promise of youth. There have only been fleeting moments in an Old Trafford career that has lasted longer than many expected; the 25-yard-strike, for example, against Hull City on the last day of the 2008/9 campaign, the clean hit against Bayern Munich in last season’s Champions League quarter-final.
At nearly 24 the time is clearly now right is right for both club and player to move on, with word that United is not prepared to offer Gibson an extension on a contract that runs to June 2012. Meanwhile, Gibson has seemingly accepted that his chances at Old Trafford will be forever limited, not that the old self-confidence has diminished despite the limited opportunities.
“There are four teams every year that play in the Champions League from the Premiership so there’s not many other teams in the Premiership that would have that experience within their team,” adds the Irishman.
“So even though I am young, no matter where I go, experience-wise, I’m going to be a big help. Obviously playing International and Champions League football is going to be a big help to wherever I go. So if I do leave it will be a big help to which ever team I go to and it will obviously be a big help to me too if I’m playing every week.”
Depsite Gibson’s many failings the midfielder’s departure adds £5 million to Ferguson’s supposedly hefty transfer budget while freeing up a space in the Scot’s squad. Tom Cleverley returns after a successful year at Wigan Athletic, while supporters continue to dream that a player of genuine midfield quality will arrive in the summer transfer window.
Gibson was never that.