Leighton Baines (C) celebrates scoring his second goal during the English Premier League match between West Ham United and Everton on September 21, 2013. (Getty Images)
Manchester United manager David Moyes might yet rue the fact that he failed to sign Leighton Baines, after the England full-back, put in yet another impressive shift for Everton. The 28-year-old also scored two sublime free-kicks as the Merseyside club beat West Ham 3-2 on Saturday.
Although Patrice Evra’s performances so far have meant that Englishman would likely have been surplus to requirements at Old Trafford, there is still a growing feeling that United might live to regret not signing Baines, who is four years the Frenchman’s junior.
United’s summer dealings were far from ideal, and their pursuit of the Evertonian is one that left most fans looking bemused. The fact was that Baines favoured a move to United, but a doomed joint bid for Marouane Fellaini and him meant that they finally had to split their bids at the last minute and ended up paying £4.5m more for the Belgian midfielder.
Although Moyes said “I just felt we needed to make sure we had good cover for Patrice (Evra),” his move for Baines or Fabio Coentrão, says otherwise, as neither of them, would have played as a backup.
After Moyes conceded that the chances of Baines pulling on a United shirt were highly unlikely, it suggested that Fabio, who was out on loan to QPR last year, and Dutchman Alexander Büttner would provide competition to the first-choice Evra.
Only last season there were those who said that Evra was “past it”. But if there’s one thing that you must never do, when discussing most United players, is to refer to them in the past tense. And on the evidence of the last 12 months, it looks like Evra is finally back, and with a bang.
Over the past year, Evra has arguably been one of the first names on the team sheet, and only Michael Carrick and Robin Van Persie have a legitimate claim to that. Evra forays into the attacking third has certainly increased since the arrival of Moyes and his cross for Wayne Rooney’s first against Bayer Leverkusen in midweek, was reminiscent of his good old days.
Having started 146 of United’s last 156 Premier League games, Evra is undoubtedly the first-choice left-back, but the fact is that, he just turned 32 over the summer and is susceptible to pace. Whilst Evra’s attacking ability has certainly improved, having added goal scoring to his repertoire, his defensive play isn’t one of the best and that is precisely where Baines comes in.
Not only is the Englishman, an accomplished crosser of the ball (he has had the most successful crosses, so far this season), the defensive side of his game and his set-piece ability mean that he would have been a welcome addition to the United squad.
Baines’s free-kicks against West Ham on Saturday were a thing of beauty and showed just what he might have added to this United squad, who, apart from Rooney and van Persie, don’t really have a designated set-piece taker.
Evra is probably United’s joint-most creative player alongside Rooney, but Baines’s all-round play means that he might have certainly been an upgrade on the ageing Frenchman. And whilst the jury is still out on Moyes and his summer transfer dealings, he might as well have missed a trick by not signing Baines in the summer.