Mesut Özil followed up an electrifying World Cup by replacing Kaká, the second most expensive signing ever, in Real Madrid’s first XI. Moreover, the German midfielder moved to Madrid for a paltry €15 million – quite probably the best deal of the window. The former Werder Bremen player was heavily linked with Manchester United and many fans were understandably disappointed that Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t bid for the playmaker, given the need for a creative central midfielder.
Ironically, it was the low transfer fee that prevented the Reds from going for the player. Last summer Özil had just a year left on his contract and Werder was eager to cash him in before the Bosman ruling kicked in. The low asking price brought about strong competition for the German – Barcelona, Chelsea and Madrid competed with United for his signature. Given the financial constraints placed on each of these clubs it seems probable that a higher asking fee would have scared them away.
Dwight Yorke was bought in 1998 because Ferguson “felt we [United] had reached a stage where we needed a forward player capable of changing a game on his own, someone with the ability and confidence to take on an opponent and beat him. I looked around and the two best players in that area in my view are Ronaldo and Dwight Yorke.”
Ronaldo, whose agent had offered the player to United, wanted outlandish wages and the Scot opted instead for the former Aston Villa forward. Indeed, Ferguson has always maintained a clear and rigid wage structure. Ronaldo isn’t the only player that United missed out on because of the club’s wage structure but it has ensured a harmonious dressing room – financially at least.
With relatively meager sums being mooted by Bremen, Özil and his agents were in position to demand high wages – more than €100,000 per week net. By comparison, Wayne Rooney was on £90,000 pounds gross, with United ready to negotiate a contract – subsequently rejected – for the former Everton player. It left very little room to maneuver vis-à-vis German’s wages.
While Rooney complained about the lack of class signings in his now infamous post-transfer request press release, ironically, it could very well have been his own greed that prevented United from signing Özil.
The German’s eventual salary is perhaps even reasonable though, considering that Joe Cole earns not far short. Had United really wanted him, the Reds probably could have forced the transfer. So why didn’t United bother with the Turkish-German?
Tactically it would have been very hard to assimilate Özil. He is a classic trequartista who floats between the lines and has never played deeper or more disciplined role. Arguably the former Bremen player would have found it very hard to fit into the 4-4-2 based systems Ferguson has always used. The Scot has never experimented with central systems like 4-3-1-2 and 4-1-2-1-2.
Indeed, 4-2-3-1 is probably the only formation that United could deploy to fit in Özil and existing players. Even then, it would have been very difficult to play the system consistently and keep the squad happy with so many strikers on the books.
That isn’t to say Özil would not have fitted in at United at all. There is a long history of trequartisti playing as a second forward – Maradona the most famous example of all. Özil has also played closer to the strikers than to central midfielders at Madrid, and nominally despite lining up as a 4-2-3-1, Germany resembled 4-2-4 in the 2010 World Cup.
Özil can get away with that in German national team and at Madrid because of the strong midfield behind him. Whether United can put out a midfield duo as strong as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira or Xabi Alonso and Khedira is a doubtful.
Özil remains an inconsistent player though. He had his best game in World Cup against Australia, where the Aussies played to his strengths by deploying a ludicrously high line. England also gave Özil a hand by playing a rigid 4-4-2 that left a gaping hole for the 21-year-old to exploit.
However, in games against Serbia, Argentina and Spain, Özil was quiet. The midfielder’s weaknesses were also found out in November’s Classico, where the German was deployed little deeper to pick up Xavi Hernández. Özil fumbled the defensive task and was unceremoniously substituted at half-time.
Indeed, there is an argument that classic trequartisti, although they continue to exist, are less influential due to more organised defenses. These players contribute little defensively while putting a great burden on others. Against the minnows, trequartisti can get away with doing little harrying; not so against the proper giants.
This remains a perennial problem with recruiting South American playmakers. For example, 4-3-1-2 remains the formation du jour in Argentina, where there is a sense of artistry about the game. Teams are built around playmakers and they are given ample room and time to strut their stuff.
South American playmakers find Europe, where players are more robust in closing them down and tactics are much less homogenous, extremely difficult. A long line of “next Maradonas,” such as Juan Roman Riquelme and Javier Saviola, who failed to make big impact shows just how difficult it is being trequartisti in Europe.
However, Cesc Fabregas and Luka Modric epitomise the newer breed of playmakers. The core of these players’ attributes remains similar to their cousins – excellent technique, passing, movement and reading of the game – but modern playmakers tend to be much more mobile, who do not shirk their defensive duties. Instead of floating, modern playmakers remain more central and often attack the box rather than work the channels.
Crucially, modern playmakers are just as comfortable playing a little deeper alongside other central midfielders. In fact some, like Modric, find deeper roles more comfortable since it affords him more time and space to dictate the game.
However, 4-4-2 remains a valuable tactic for United; it is a great shape to press and deploy a high line. Moreover, United will always face sides looking to sit deep and must execute a plan B to deal with these tactics. It suggests that Paul Scholes’ heir must be comfortable playing in Ferguson’s preferred system. Modern playmakers fit into such systems comfortably, where trequartisti struggle.
Arguably, that makes Javier Pastore – rather than Özil – the best candidate to replace Scholes. He’s very much a modern playmaker.
52 thoughts on “United didn’t go for Özil – here’s why”
€100,000 a week net, works out at about £190,000 a week gross.
Ridiculous logic by the club, if true. Wouldn’t surprise me if this scared United off signing other players who were available, affordable and United quality.
They’re quite happy to offer £250,000 a week to Rooney but baulk at wages for a midfielder when our midfield is crying out for improvement. The reason we’ve been so reliant on Rooney (in the past, anyway) is precisely because our midfield is so utterly crap.
Not a mention of the fact that Ozil didnt want to move to England. But hey, dont let that get in the way of a good story eh!
Keano 16 –
July 2nd 2010 – “To the top players the Premier League is attractive. You look at what Manchester United and Chelsea have achieved over the last five years and you see it would be easy to be successful at two clubs like that. I see what Michael Ballack achieved at Chelsea and the quality of players he played with and the temptation becomes obvious.”
August 1st 2010 – “There are four or five clubs in Europe that you would have to say as a player would be a dream to play for. Manchester United and Chelsea are very much two of them. It’s impossible not to pay attention to the Premier League and even more impossible not to pay attention to Manchester United and Chelsea.”
But hey, don’t let that get in the way of a cynical bastard eh!
Read in a German Football Magazine Interview that he wouldn’t mind going “to the best league in the World”…but hey, what do I know?, right, fuck all!
What Keano 16 said, wages my fucking arse.
This tactical analysis is very good, goes to show that there is thought put into player purchases. “sheesh”, I agree we need help in the MF, but we need the right sort of MF player, and Jay clearly points out why Ozil isn’t.
In my opinion, Fergie hates germans. (and probly the Dutch too, Stam, nistelrooy)
believe me, Fergie will never buy pastore. why?
1. it will not come cheap.
2. He cant speak english.
3. bad exprience with the argentines. (heinze, tevez, veron)
4. It seems that fergie hates Argentines too.
Well you cant really use that as a valid point..as Van Der Sar is dutch and he gets on with him great??
What a load of nonsense. The lad wanted to go to Real Madrid and his agent told us they’d only speak to us if the Madrid deal fell through. Saying that the price was too cheap is just making thangs up.
Yet another player escapes ( be it wages, fee etc that prevent us signing them). But what I can’t understand is that United tracked Ozil for ages and if he wasn’t going to fit in in any of our systems then why waste time when there are many fine players out there that fit the bill. Maybe its this cautious approach that allows other clubs to come in and sign players before we can decide to put in an offer. Anyway I can see United signing Ozil in the future but having to pay a massive transfer fee for him.
Don’t forget we signed Berbatov from Spurs for £30+M when we coukd have bought him when he moved from Germany to Spurs for about £10+M. Just got to love the logic
I got the truth to why we didnt move for Ozil – we didnt want him. Barca could of got him for €7.5m but pulled outof the deal before Madrid anded him for €15m. ManUtd did not want Ozil so get over it, Anderson is the guy who will replace Paul Scholes.
Am not sure what to make of this to be honest. Sir Alex did say that Ozil was the one player he wanted from the summer but the “lad chose not come here and went to Spain instead” He said this before the Charity Shield or whatever it is called these days and before our home game with Newcastle.
For me that probably means that tactics was not the issue. If really it was tactics then again I have to say we are well and truly stuffed with Phelan beside our manager. I have lost faith in Anderson completely hence why I keep mentioning Charlie Adam who is going to be much better than Anderson has been thus far. Now, I also mention the Scot because we have been crying out for a midfielder that will play further in a trio so we can have Carrick and Fletcher doing the donkey work. Berbatov is totally useless. Am sorry the Bulgarian just too lazy to play in between the lines. Another thought is to have Rooney play in that role with Hernandez ahead of him. At the Mexican will offer us plenty of movement.
Apart from our midfield, our biggest problem at the moment is the presence of Berbatov and his ridiculous transfer fee!!
Berba Useless Lol another 2 goals for him against B’ham useless ha ha ha
presence of berba? did he not score another 3 today? nob
Well, I’ve watched every united and madrid match since the beginning of the season – and I personally think Ozil would have fit in like a glove. Barring the performance of el clasico, Ozil has definitely been one of the brightest spark in madrid. He’s merely 22 years old – so there’s heaps of time for improvement – and I think most people have already seen that he has improved in these past couple of months. Anyway, I’m digressing. United definitely needs a new creative midfielder to replace our over 35s – we let VdV get away and now Spurs have two of the most exciting midfield players in the league (Modric was the other). I wish we got our replacement this season.
1) As I said in the piece, United couldn’t really make Ozil the better compensated player than Rooney… because that would have pissed off Rooney or Stretford.
United couldn’t bring Ozil in as the highest paid player in United’s squad because…
a) Ozil, although he had great potential and a good WC, really wasn’t at the same level reputation wise as Rooney and couldn’t justifiably be paid more than the Englishman.
b) Rooney would have argued for and probably would have gotten better wages than the German which would of course piss the German off.
It has since been revealed that Rooney more or less indicated a willingness to leave as early as August. I suspect United was keeping the German in sight in casethe talks with Rooney really broke down.
Jay – yep, 14th August is when Rooney told David Gill he wouldn’t sign a new contract
yeah it really is Gill’s (and to lesser extent Ferguson’s) fault for not wrapping up the situation earlier but I half sympathize with them – from their perspective they really can’t tell to what extent that was gamesmanship on Rooney and Stretford’s part.
Signing Ozil at wages higher than Rooney’s would have been the straw that broke camel’s back.
Sounds like a lot of excuses to me.
And are we this desperate to find reasons to demonize Rooney? Now he’s at fault for Ozil not coming, too? Cripes.
Look, great managers find a way to make players shine within the system. It’s one thing to buy a shelf full of players and try to figure out a system (like, say City have done), and quite another to get one attacker and make him work for you. Ozil would have been an excellent addition to a boring and workman-like team that often lacks that attacking edge. Period.
This is a fantastic read, is the author on twitter?
There is however much more analysis to be had in the Pastore v Oezil debate; They are more similar than most presume; both trequartistas and the ability to play attacking ‘8’; ’10 or “inside winger” – Indeed I think Pastore the more penetrative, perhaps more of a ’10’ in the mould of van der Vaart – who perhaps warranted a mention in this discussion given that he was FAR from the player Utd needed – meaning that Oezil in my eyes, was still the one that got away in terms of finding a replacement at ‘8’ for Scholes in the longer term.
Despite not playing fantastically well for Madrid, his neat possession play, astute positional acumen and running off the ball has been superb. A return of 5+ assists is no mean feat, and it has surprised me how much of the field he actually covers starting from that favoured central-left position, arriving late in the box but often allowing CR to finish moves.
Of course, Pastore would be a fantastic acquisition but in truth Oezil – with attributes of Pirlo, Giggs and Scholes, and talent to burn (Fergie would relish) – is ultimately the one that got away, despite the finance debacle which the author details.
Yes there is more to be had in the Pastore v Ozil debate.
I think it is grossly unfair to Pastore to just argue that he is the “more penetrative” of the two. He is at his best as a trequartista but he is almost as good a lot deeper. Something that can’t be said of Ozil.
Ozil on the other hand is much better than Pastore at playing on the wing or playing as a “false 9,”
Ozil is much more of a forward than a midfielder. The frequency with which he runs the channel drives me nuts when watching Madrid games. He really lives to play the final ball and only reason he gets away with it is because Madrid is such a strong team. I would bet good money that Madrid’s possession stats goes up by at least 10 percent if Ozil stays more central.
And yes he covers a lot of grounds but he actually does very little defensively. His insistence on staying upfield has caused numerous problems for Madrid… most acutely in recent game against Villarreal.
I think he would have been a fantastic signing had Rooney left. He could have just replaced Rooney as the creative presence in the final third.
Fitting him and Rooney would have been doable, although bit harder – Ozil would have been shifted wide in big games given Fergie’s conservatism (play the role that Giggs plays nowadays) or Ozil and Rooney would pair up with a very conservative midfield. Either way Ozil+Rooney would have probably required another creative midfield signing.
Yep — Another hattrick from that useless Berbatov — I must have imagined him tackling back and winning the ball while on the ground to set up a goal.
What does the guy have to do?
Either Berbatov is useless or you’re a friggning retard. I know where my money is, mate.
Interesting article. Fergie has played more 4-4-2 this season than other recent seasons. In a 4-5-1 Ozil would have been less of a luxury.
I tell you who I think the retard is: YOU and most of you brainless lot on here who are quick to jump on the bandwagon without as much as thinkingfor yourselves. So he scores a hattrick against Blackburn and Birmingham along with the three against Liverpool. Great. Ok. We are away at Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal later this season, how many of you will bet he will start let alone score the goals we need to get a win or even salvage a draw? Morons! It is so easy to look the bees knees when the whole team is playing well; how about pulling the team out of trouble away from home. He played at Spurs last weekend did he not? And did he score or finish the game?
Ozil strikes me as one of those players who can’t see past Real so long as they are offering the same money as he can find elsewhere. We would have had to offer him a lot more than Real to come to United. And fair enough, it would simply be bad management to throw a huge salary at a young player who’s achieved nothing, completely wrecking your wage structure and wrecking the team’s morale. That’s why Real is a fucking soap opera, and why we’re winning the league despite being pretty shite; morale and team spirit.
Berba played well against Spurs when he got the ball, the problem is that he didn’t get it very much. He’s much improved this season, and the reason why he “goes missing” against better teams or when we’re playing away is because our midfield is shite and he gets no decent delivery or support to work with. He’s just not the right type of player when we aren’t getting a decent share of possession.
This article should be a lot shorter.
Ozil wanted to go to Real Madrid. Ozil’s father wanted to his son to play at Real Madrid. Those quotes you used Ed hardly show his desire to move to United. I’ve heard Messi say similar things, the EPL is a top league, with some top clubs, it’d be great to play for United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Blackpool etc. – but let’s be honest, I don’t see him moving to England anytime soon.
I’m sure financial considerations came into the equation too, but Ozil had the final word, not United.
“From within the article whose agent had offered the player to United, wanted outlandish wages and the Scot opted instead for the former Aston Villa forward. Indeed, Ferguson has always maintained a clear and rigid wage structure”.
So I take it from this Sir Alex was okay with the deal and wage that was squeezed out of United bye Stretford?
Are we now saying all players that United are interested in have to be on a wage rate similar to Rooney, or is that the new wage structure? As you imply Ozil and his agent were seeking this obscene wage demand! Is this the Bar?
“However, in games against Serbia, Argentina and Spain, Özil was quiet. The midfielder’s weaknesses were also found out in November’s Classico, where the German was deployed little deeper to pick up Xavi Hernández. Özil fumbled the defensive task and was unceremoniously substituted at half-time.”
Do you have more detail regards the World cup games you highlight and direct us to the same?
Are you again implying the evening of the mauling that Madrid took at the hands of a magnificent Barcelona side widely recognised by many as a football exhibition was this Mesut Ozil’s sole fault?.
I am sorry but a Club of Manchester uniteds size should be capable and right in there for a player like Mesut Ozil.He was a steal.
You can discuss tatics and formations all you want and the rigid formations you describe in your article.
We should be able to flow from plan A to Plan B to Plan C.
Mesut Ozil was an opportunity lost!To enable a seamless flow from one style of play to another.
a) Sir Alex has maintained a clear and rigid wage structure at the club. That’s a fact to quote an old friend of ours. With Rooney’s future on the line, United couldn’t just make Ozil the higher paid player than Rooney in fear of irreparably damaging the relationship b/ the club and Rooney. And even if United bit the bullet and brought in Ozil, I am sure he would have been real chuffed to because the second highest paid player once the Rooney contract was sorted out.
Ozil earns 100,000 euros per week NET. To match that United needed to offer at least about 150,000 pounds – almost 50% more than the wage of highest paid player at the time, Ferdinand. Certainly doable but carries a significant risk of alienating other squad members in addition to Rooney.
b) “formations are neutral” as Jonathan Wilson is so fond of saying. Most coaches and commentators, including myself, are talking about the postions that players take up in the defensive phase when referring to formations. Once in possession, the interpretation of that formation differs wildly. United’s 4-5-1 differs wildly from City’s 4-5-1 for example.
The shape/formation is an extremely important part of tactics because it heavily influences how effective a team is defensively. To simply claim that a team ought to be able to “flow from plan A to… plan C” is extremely naive – it is to say that defense doesn’t matter. Well defense does matter. Even the greatest of teams loses possession and one needs the ball to attack.
Fluidity is extremely hard to pull off – that’s why United started so poorly in 07/08, the season in which United was at its fluid best. Buying a player, no matter how good he is, doesn’t just bring about fluidity.
I dont Mean to be pedantic but as I am Scottish and a Dog with a bone that is waggy tailed Dog and all loveable.Till i see a Bastard i want to bite 🙂 “Sir Alex has maintained a clear and rigid wage structure at the club. That’s a fact to quote an old friend of ours”
Who is this imaginary Friend of united?
I am sorry Jay i cant see the point of the article! its thought provoking.
I hate it when I ask a question which i did, and or three and you wont answer! You wrote the article Sir
Your are the Boss. I am the student! How can I learn?
I will repeat and stand bye it Rooney and his henchman have fucked Uniteds wage policy and Sir Alex in the same movement?
We should have gone for Ozil, he was what United needed to beat class in Europe. AYe will be found out.
Anyways. time for a few pints down the boozer.
God Bless. Bring on the 19th.
Cmon You reds.
Oh dear Calvinho
LOL united did go for him, it was confirmed by Werder, but he didn’t want to play in a team with Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick LOL
Excellent article Jay. An example of the Rant at it’s best. I personally feel missing out on Ozil is at least equivalent to our missing out on Essien all those years ago. It was the same situation then, we had a glaring need and an ideal player who was at least open to the idea of playing for United and we couldn’t close the deal. That said, we’ll never really know how much Ozil wanted to go to Spain or how much his pro-Premiership quotations were posturing. I feel we would have gotten the tactics right eventually， An Ozil signing would have been great for another reason as the eventual Rooney contract standoff would have been exposed for what it was–naked greed and not what Roon tried to pass it off as, some principled reflection on the club’s lack of ambition. The boy’s working his socks off now despite his lack of goals so all is almost forgiven for me but that pathetic attempt to justify his actions still irks me.
Nice article,it is better to play Rooney in the midfield with Chico and Berba upfront rather than signing him.
its not rocket science
So,according to your argument United chose not to go for Ozil because his wages would have been higher than Rooney,which would have invariably pissed Rooney off?
Could not this same argument not be applied to any other player whom United wants/wanted to buy?
Then why bother to look for any quality players for that matter?I mean,in our efforts to strengthen the squad,we’ll end up pissing off some of the highest earners in the club like Rooney and Rio….we might aswell not buy any player at all.
Are there many top quality players in Europe whose wages are not going to be sky high?Of course there are.
But it’s clear that Fergie wants players with reasonable wage demands…….the only trouble is that,in this world of “instant this and instant that” I doubt whether we’ll find many players with their agents who will make reasonable wage demands in accordance with the clubs policy.
You’ve hit the nail on the head.
When Fergie cries his famous line that there is “no value in the market,” he is really referring to the ridiculous wages being paid nowadays.
With players from continental Europe traditionally preferring to deal in net terms, it is extremely hard for United to buy any decent player without completely destroying the existing wage structure.
In this sense, Rooney’s strop had a benefit of raising the “salary cap” and allowing United to compete in the market.
Jay you obviously study the game and have some valid points to make. However one thing though – if you are on this board its defence not defense. Good defending or good defence, not good defense! I love the NFL and they play defense in that – not in this type of football. Thanks!
Defense vs. Defence; elevator vs. lift; to-may-to vs. to-mah-to……
Let’s not get involved in a frankly pointless pissing contest about differences that are minor at best!
You guys invented the language hence the nomenclature – after all, the language is called English not American. No point flogging that particular dead horse.
Looking at our stock I suggest that a holding midfielder is probably our main priority not an attacking one.
Anderson, Fletcher and from the summer Cleverley seem to fill that role.
More important is a holding midfielder with Scholes coming to an end, Carrick inconsistent and Hargreaves too injury prone. Gibson doesn’t quite reach the standard for either.
Jack Rodwell could be a good long term bet with Scholes/Carrick holding the fort in the meantime.
I don’t know about Rodwell. I have only seen him play once and I defer to regular viewers of Everton games to make that call.
I think a midfield holder is needed but a playmaker remains the priority. As things stand (and as you hint in the last line), Carrick/Scholes can play the anchoring role while Fletcher/Anderson can play the ball winning role.
Anderson remains inconsistent and, despite his ability to play killer balls, he is far more defen”s”ive than most United fans, myself firmly included, are prepared to admit.
Fletcher has played an aggressive box-to-box role a few times this season but he remains far too workmanlike to be the main central creative presence at a club of United’s stature. I think his best role is to play in a 3 man midfield as a “harrier” someone who has the freedom to close down players at will and to make runs from deep when the team has possession.
Gibson will probably moved on. I am genuinely baffled by his presence in the United squad – and I am the guy who though Richardson deserved the first team berth. I suspect Matt James will take his place as the obligatory long shot merchant.
Currently we its generally regarded we play a 4-4-2, but Rooney at the moment is playing a little deeper than last season. Hence it may be more of a 4-4-1-1.
Rooney for me is the one player with the playmaking and passing range close to Scholes, so it is a possibility that Rooney will fill that attacking role in the long term. If he does he could save SAF from paying big for a replacement.
Of course the media are saying we aren’t playing well as we can, and the same goes for Rooney. Perhaps we and Rooney are becoming a more rounded, effective defensively as well as in the attack, but not quite as spectacular as in previous years.
One thing is for certain, the teamwork and spirit with the dressing room looks the best its been for a while.
Although Gibson has his merits, with his contract being up in 2012 (he is 23) I can see him being shipped out. Eikrem and James could replace him as the next homegrown midfield project to be tried out.
Im with Twisted Blood and cant agree that Rooney and Oezil couldn’t compliment each other in a United starting lineup…Not least because when dropping too deep, Rooney causes the team more problems than he solves. Granted, sharing the false 9 position with Berbatov this season has enabled the latter to play closer to goal and increase his goals tally, but Im sure that with Oezil in the team (maybe to the left as you say in tandem with Carrick Fletcher Nani and Berba-Roo), United would have been at their dazzling best this term…
Nope, but you manage to make it sound that way.
Look, he didn’t want to sign for us. Some players prefer the Spanish league which is more technical and less physical and some prefer the English league. Ozil is a fairly slight guy who doesn’t like the physical side. He’s Turkish\German and has no connection with England or Manchester and might fear anti-Muslim feeling in England. He was NEVER going to sign for us and we very quickly found that out.
Best deal of the summer was Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa.
ozil silva sneijder and vdv types aint right for us, we need bollocks midfielders not fancy dan ‘in the hole’ types, thats rooneys position, fergies spot on in turning his nose up at that lot, fucking ginsoak horse rimming bacon face gimpshit
fucking shitehouse lying fat cockend pillock tossface scottish tyranny bastard
I think we need at least one of each (one midfielder creating, another offering more defensively). Carrick, Fletcher, Gibson, don’t offer us enough protection defensively nor do they offer us anything going forward. Scholes will probably retire at the end of the season. Anderson’s looks better going forward. Then there’s Cleverley – we don’t know how many chances he will get in first team or how Fergie will fit him in.
in the hole types need to be accmoadated, meaning a fucking up of our formation, we need a proper midfielder who can pass and do other stuff so we wont have to deviate from 442, im basically describing schweinsteiger