Young Eagle Clyne set to soar at Old Trafford
Manchester United’s impressive group of young English talent is set to grow this summer with the acquisition of Crystal Palace full back Nathaniel Clyne.
At the start of the current campaign, Sir Alex Ferguson considered himself well-stocked in the right-back area, with Rafael, Chris Smalling and new signing Phil Jones all competing for that spot, but also armed with an experimental plan to deploy winger Antonio Valencia in an unfamiliar role.
While the Ecuadorian never looked comfortable in five appearances out of position, the experienced Scot also decided that Smalling and Jones are both more suited to the centre, forcing Ferguson back in the market for a player to slot into the right of his back four.
Despite recent rumours of the club’s interest in Lille’s French international Mathieu Debuchy, the deal for England under-21 Clyne was first struck way back in January, when a fee in the region of £3m was agreed with Crystal Palace.
With the Eagles’ academy product out of contract in the summer, the club were willing to accept a sum slightly above what they expected to receive from a tribunal if he were to see out his deal – around £2.5m – until Clyne’s agent pulled the plug on the deal.
Insiders at Selhurst Park have said that there has been no contact from the Manchester club since the January deal fell through. Instead, United have tied up the promising youngster in a pre-contract arrangement, with Ferguson confident that Clyne will be a success, and not simply based on the part he played in the south London side’s shock victory at Old Trafford in November.
Palace have been resigned to his departure for some time, but the player is held in high esteem by Eagles fans for rejecting a Premier League move out of hand when the club was in the financial mire and a derisory offer from Wolves was accepted by administrators in January 2010.
Since making his debut at 17, the quiet, unassuming full back has gone on to make over 100 first-team appearances despite being only 20 years old. While his main attributes are pace and his defensive reading of the game, his abilities going forward should not be underestimated.
The traditional English full back will go beyond their winger and swing in a cross, but this is not Clyne’s game. He is far more at home advancing via slick passing interchanges and marauding into the box with the ball on the deck, much more in the style of a Micah Richards than a Gary Neville.
The real question over the signing of Clyne is how soon he will be in the Manchester United starting XI. Rafael has had an up-and-down season since recovering from injury, drawing plaudits for his great patrolling of Gareth Bale, but being slammed for his nightmarish showing against Athletic Bilbao. Clyne is capable of that high level of performance, with some of his best Palace performances coming in cup ties where he kept a lid on Robinho and Ashley Young.
With the full back confirmed as being on the shortlist for the GB Olympic football team, a move to Manchester United will only boost his international prospects, and under the stewardship of Ferguson, this young Eagle looks set to soar.
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