Blog: Buttner’s Cover Story
Like most United fans, I suspect, I’ve not watched much Dutch football over the last few years.
PSV Eindhoven? The odd glimpse in a highlights package. Ajax? Well, we played them in last season’s Europa League. But Vitesse Arnhem, former club of United’s new signing Alexander Buttner? Not a jot.
Consequently, I’ve never seen the 23-year-old play, so I can only assume reports claiming Sir Alex has signed a tricky left-back with blistering pace and an eye for goal (he used to be a winger) are correct.
Buttner definitely isn’t a superstar. And perhaps that’s why some fans have taken to social media and online forums to decry his arrival. But just because he’s not already established on the global stage – or even one of the Eredivisie’s big guns (see Ajax’s Christian Eriksson and Jan Vertonghen or Herenveen’s Bas Dost) – it doesn’t mean he can’t have a big future at Manchester United.
Nemanja Vidic was hardly a household name when he arrived in January 2006. Neither was Patrice Evra. And both of them have turned out to be pretty decent defensive signings.
Evra, of course, will find himself in direct competition with Buttner for the left-back spot, a scenario that should get the best out of the Frenchman. After all, there’s no greater motivator for a footballer than the threat of losing your place in the starting XI.
Over time, Buttner may well edge past Evra (now 31) in the pecking order and make the left-back spot his own. But just as beneficial is the cover he offers in the short-term. And it is an area where the Reds need cover.
Somehow, like the solitary house that miraculously remains standing in a hurricane that wipes out all else around it, Patrice Evra has been almost ever-present in a United defence that’s been consistently ravaged by injury. Indeed, Evra’s missed just three league games in the last three seasons and hasn’t played fewer than 47 matches in a single campaign since 2006/07 when left-back duties were shared with Gabriel Heinze.
It’s an incredible record, but Lady Luck won’t smile on the Frenchman forever. And surely that much football (with internationals tacked on as well, remember) must be taking its toll on Evra’s body. At the very least, then, Buttner’s arrival should allow Patrice vital time to rest and recover at strategic points throughout the season. That alone is enough to justify his signing.
Of course, there’s also the possibility the Dutchman will grab the opportunities he’s granted, play like a world-beater and force the manager to keep picking him. Sir Alex certainly wouldn’t have signed Buttner on a five-year deal unless he thought very highly of the player.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How can we? It’s still early days and he’s not yet kicked a football in a United shirt. First and foremost, I’m just looking forward to seeing the boy play.