David Moyes' first Manchester United signing needs to set a precedent for the future.
The incoming boss—who spent 11 years turning tiny transfer funds into successful teams at Everton—has finally got the luxury of playing the game with an expansive budget. With greater cash comes greater responsibility, and inevitably, links to many world-class players who could fit the bill at Old Trafford.
According to The Daily Mirror, Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines may follow Moyes to Manchester United. Spanish newspaper Marca say the Red Devils are ready to drop €18 million on Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara, while The Daily Express reports United could invite PSV Eindhoven destroyer Kevin Strootman into their ranks.
Despite the need for a combative midfielder, Moyes would be best placed to give this decision plenty of time before making a call. United have been linked with numerous midfielders across the past year and Moyes must not let this influence his decision. He will arrive with his own ideas and preferred style, so the left-back position should become his first area of focus.
While the aforementioned rumours may excite United fans, The Daily Mail's suggestion that Moyes is considering a bid for 17-year-old Southampton left-back Luke Shaw is perhaps the most interesting of all. As a first signing, the Englishman's arrival would not only fit straight into United's current plans, it would signal the beginning of an exciting future.
The Premier League champions have considered purchasing a new left-back for quite sometime. Leighton Baines' link to the club has been ongoing since 2011, but as documented here, is no longer the most viable option for a team that is currently shifting towards younger players.
Everton's 28-year-old defender is an excellent player, and would certainly be an asset to United's team, but he is not a long-term replacement for Patrice Evra. The £20 million man would be well into his 30s after one average length contract and doesn't represent great value for money unless he is going to play with the same ferocity until the end of his career.
Despite an improved performance during the 2012-13 season, Evra's positional discipline and concentration levels have diminished across the past few years. The full-back has relied on athletic ability to rescue him from trouble throughout his career, but now the 32-year-old's body has slowed, his weaknesses are amplified.
The Frenchman's attacking prowess is still a key weapon for United, especially when you consider he produced four goals and five assists during 32 Premier League appearances last season. He is an important figure at the club who will take on greater responsibility now Sir Alex Ferguson has moved upstairs.
Even so, it's time Evra receives real competition for his place in the starting lineup. Alexander Buttner's handful of displays have shown decent quality, but once again, mainly in attacking areas. Although the 24-year-old is a strong tackler and offers endless energy down the left, Buttner's defensive responsibilities are secondary to a player who wants to attack at every opportunity.
Realistically, the Dutchman is not the answer to United's left-back position after Evra's power is overcome. Although Fabio continues to mature as a player, he will also need time to regularly challenge. For Moyes, the long-term answer could rest with a teenager who currently resides in the South of England.
What would Luke Shaw offer Manchester United? The 17-year-old made 25 appearances in Southampton's 2012-13 Premier League season, helping the side to excellent results against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. He is a speedy, technically gifted dribbler who delivers a wicked cross and loves to get stuck into the opposition with dogged tackling.
As we have seen with his play at Southampton, Shaw is a bright spark whose ability to cover ground often opens up opportunities for his teammates in vital moments of play. He certainly has improving to do, namely holding onto possession and converting his attacks into goals and assists, but the 6'1" defender has everything in place to strengthen United's defence in years to come.
Moyes' appointment suggests the Old Trafford board is looking for an era after Ferguson. The new boss must prioritise the long-term and sustained success of the club over an immediate run of trophies. Although Baines is a complete player who would contribute straight-from-the-box, the Scotsman will make a bigger statement by landing the young talents of Luke Shaw.
As a first signing, this acquisition couldn't fulfill the Manchester United criteria any better.
All statistics in this article are courtesy of Who Scored.
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