Naturally, there was a thought of ‘what could it have been?’ for manchester united fans like Eduardo Camavinga he came off the bench to inspire Real Madrid to an impressive Champions League comeback against Man City in midweek.
Just when Carlo Ancelotti’s side seemed beaten and short of ideas against a stubborn City, the French teenager’s introduction once again changed the course of the match and secured a place in another grand final.
For the first goal, it was Camavinga who passed the ball to Karim Benzema before he assisted Rodrygo. In the second, it was he who recovered the ball to trigger the counterattack, and in the third, it was the former Rennes midfielder who slammed the crucial ball into the area that saw Federico Valverde fouled from the penalty spot.
However, what is more remarkable is that he had already done so in the previous two rounds. Madrid were second best to Paris Saint-Germain for most of the round of 16 tie before Camavinga turned the game around in the second leg. The same thing happened in the quarter-final against Chelsea, as the French phenom led his team to another dramatic late show.
It is quite appropriate then that the climax of Camavinga’s adolescence could well come later this month in Paris, the capital of the country where he has lived most of his life since he was two years old, having been born in a refugee camp. in Angola.
So where does United come into all of this?
Prior to his signing for Madrid, United held talks with the midfielder’s representatives to assess the possibility of signing for Old Trafford.
During those exploratory talks a year ago, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side realized that the teenager’s preference had always been to move to Spain and that Madrid were keen to move as well.
As such, United never followed through on their interest in signing the Rennes star, sealing a €30m move to the Santiago Bernabéu by signing a six-year deal.
“Honestly, the first factor is not money, it is the pleasure of fulfilling a dream that I had since I was little,” said the French international in his official presentation. “When I found out that I could sign for Madrid, I didn’t think about it.”
It would be misleading to suggest that United missed out on Camavinga when they were never officially approached to sign him, although it is understandable why some supporters will imagine an alternate universe in which he donned his famous kit.
However, his success in Madrid suggests that United are at least doing things right with regard to identifying who could be high-potential prospects, even if they currently cannot convince them that their club is the best place to hone those skills.
The problem with United’s current transfer policy is that it’s simply too broad, and their custom database is so vast that it’s hard to really separate the wheat from the chaff. The club boasted of bravado when they noted that they had looked at 804 right-backs before settling on the most obvious one in Aaron Wan-Bissaka. It also makes identifying the best midfield signings difficult when there are simply so many under the microscope.
By the time United narrow down their search, it can often be too late to convince them to join the club and it’s hard to properly sell a long-term vision of where they fit in the squad.
It was a similar situation a year earlier when United identified Jude Bellingham as a player of interest but were unable to offer him the guarantees and clear path of progression as Borussia Dortmund.
Like Camavinga, Bellingham has been an instant success at his new club and is a full-fledged international in his teens. Both are exceptional talents, and both are proving that age is just a number that won’t stop them from making an impact on the biggest stage of all.
United will no doubt take flak for failing to land any of the top teenage talent, but instead, they should use their subsequent success as yet another reason to continue their quest for the next big thing, and use those two as evidence of why. what a transfer bet. in an untested perspective it is still worth the risk.
Erik ten Hag’s priority this summer will be to revamp his midfield, and club sources agree this is the area of the team that needs the most attention. At least one new central midfielder will be signed on, although with the departures of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, there’s a clear reason why they might need two.
The focus should not be solely on signing those who have excelled elsewhere, but on carefully evaluating which diamond in the rough could be refined under their guidance.
United need to be proactive, not reactive.