Alex Ferguson: “Chieck please!”

Firstly, let me apologise for the awful pun.
Secondly, if you have arrived on this page just because of that awful pun please stop reading. You don’t deserve it, and we’ve already got the pageview hit – just leave.
Newcastle midfielder Chieck Tiote has been scouted by a number of clubs including Manchester United. His stock has risen phenomenally since his arrival from FC Twente in the summer of 2010 for £3.5 million. If any move is to take place in January, rest assured the fee would be a lot more than that. Factor in Tiote’s recently signed SIX AND A HALF YEAR contract, and Magpie’s owner Mike Ashley is considering a Golden Goose dilemma. To cash in, or not to cash in?

Both of Newcastles central midfielders have tasted success with their former clubs. Tiote was part of Schteve McLaren’s (Yes it is necessary to keep calling him that) Eredivisie winning FC Twente side. Alongside classy midfield partner Yohan Cabaye they form a formidable unit at the heart of Newcastle’s team, and are a big part of the surprising form exhibited by the Football League Championship winners of 2009/10. No difficult second season symptoms for the Toon. Cabaye, although apparently not known by the pundits on Match of the Day, was part of Lille’s fantastic Ligue 1 winning side containing Eden Hazard, Gervinho and Moussa Sow.The two of them outplayed Manchester United’s central defence and Tiote in particular got amongst his opponents and ruffled a few feathers; Cabaye of course scored a wonderful free kick goal. Neither Cabaye nor Tiote will be getting nosebleeds this high up the league table, but Alan Pardew faces a real fight to keep them at the club – especially Tiote, who has been compared to Manchester United legend Roy Keane.

Tiote is flattered by such comparisons at this stage of his career and they’re probably not helpful, but any more performances like in the 3-0 victory over Manchester United and he’ll really start to earn that high praise. He snuffed out Wayne Rooney on a number of occasions – whenever the forward dropped deep to find space, instead he found Chieck Tiote tackling, blocking, intercepting and harrying him and his team mates.

Would he fit in at Manchester United? I’m sure he would. United under Ferguson have undergone many evolutions over the 25 years, several great teams have been put together and disassembled, but one thing Sir Alex has quite often struggled to do is replace certain players. Schmeichel is probably the most notable “irreplaceable” United stars. Several men tried to fill the huge void left between the sticks by the great Dane; In no particular order Taibi, Bosnich, Carroll, Mickey Mouse and Mr Bean have all had a go. It took 6 years before Fergie got it right with Van der Sar. Roy Keane is another one of those players that hasn’t really been replaced. And there have been perhaps even more candidates, some of them even more laughable than Massimo Taibi (Djemba Djemba anyone?). Owen Hargreaves was probably the closest fit to Keane’s role, not just a classy player able to pick a pass, but a tenacious battler too. Sadly his entire body was made is blasa wood and glass stuck together with beeswax, and he just couldn’t string successive minutes together on the pitch, let alone a run of games. Tiote seems to have the edge on Hargreaves when it comes to influence or presence, still some way of Roy Keane in that regard, although to be fair almost everyone in the world who ever kicked a football plays second fiddle to the Irishman when it comes to on pitch presence.

Fergie is still a big fan of the 4-4-2. He seems almost a defiant tactician, relying on his players being better than their opposites, but against Newcastle, Giggs and Carrick were outplayed, outmuscled and surprisingly outclassed by Cabaye and Tiote. It’s not an uncommon thing for Fergie to buy a player that has performed well against his team. Obviously there’s a lot more scouting that goes on beforehand and after, but a man as confident in his teams abilities cannot help but be impressed when someone does real damage to them.
If Sir Alex does decide to have a go at prising Chieck Tiote away from Tyneside, he’ll need a whole lot of money. Not only is he in outstanding form, not only is he the right sort of player, not only is he on a massively long contract – he’s also had that all important acclimatising period in the Premier League. Much like Keane himself did at Nottingham Forest under Cloughie.
Manchester United have suffered horribly with injuries this season. But even with all of their midfielders fit and ready, they don’t have a player in Tiote’s mould. Someone who will not allow himself or team mates to be bullied, which at times this season United have succumbed to. It’s a very strange sensation watching an Alex Ferguson team get bullied, and what they need is an enforcer. Rumours of a Wesley Schneider transfer went on all summer, but Manchester United already have creative midfielders, Tom Cleverley looked like being a homegrown Scholes replacement until his injury halted his progression, but there’s no Roy Keane in that squad. Phil jones has been used in midfield, but is perhaps too young and good-natured to be the hard man. Tiote looks like he’d be comfortable in that role.

Written by Tom Nash @ffootballer
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