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Manchester United Hope Nuture Will Build On Obertan’s Natural Talent

Well regarded in France, if hardly lauded as one of their finest prospects. Nevertheless, Manchester United have seen enough in Gabriel Obertan to persuade them their coaching methods can bring out the best in their new £3m signing…

Obertan's natural ability could do with some refinement (Photo: TEAMSHOOT)

Obertan's natural ability could do with some refinement (Photo: Teamshoot)

With the summer signings of Michael Owen, Luis Antonio Valencia, and now Gabriel Obertan, Manchester United have hardly captured the imagination of their worldwide fanbase.
£17 million Valencia, a star performer in a solid Wigan Athletic team last season, has been viewed as a decent, if unspectacular signing to offset the loss of the irreplaceable Cristiano Ronaldo.
Michael Owen was undoubtedly one of the world’s best strikers once upon a time, but many supporters remain to be convinced that the 29-year-old, arguably 11 years removed from his finest hour as a player, will be able to replace the effort, goals and overall contribution that Carlos Tevez brought to the club.
And as for the £3 million Obertan; while 80,000 Madrid fans turned out to see Cristiano Ronaldo’s unveiling at Real Madrid, it is perhaps doubtful that even that many United fans had ever heard of the former Bordeaux winger.
Nevertheless, Sir Alex Ferguson has done his homework in scouting the wideman, and has seen enough to lead him to believe he has the potential to succeed at the club.
“Gabriel is a player we have tracked for a few years now, but because of his educational programme [at the famed Clairefontaine academy] our efforts to get him here have always been delayed,” Ferguson said. “We are delighted to get him now, as he is an exciting prospect.”
The 20-year-old had long known of United’s observation of him, but admitted ahead of his move to England that he thought the opportunity for him to join the former European champions had passed.
“I knew they had been following me for a few years but I did not think it was going to happen this season,” Obertan told French radio station RMC.
“We had no longer been in too much contact until the England U-21 game where I played well for France and scored a goal. That helped things along. We spoke again, and I ended up signing.”
For pundits and fans alike, however, the Obertan signing is not one that has been greatly celebrated. Partly this is a result of Obertan’s relative obscurity, but it is also a result of the Frenchman’s fairly uninspiring CV.
After all, as former club Bordeaux chased a first league title in ten years last season, manager Laurent Blanc deemed Obertan expendable enough to be allowed out on loan to lowly Lorient for the second half of the campaign.
While his teammates went on to clinch the title, Obertan managed a meager one goal in 15 appearances with the Ligue 1 mid-table side.
But Blanc, if not a confidante then certainly a close acquaintance of Sir Alex (having played under the Scot at Old Trafford during the later part of his career), will not have sold his former manager a complete dud, and Obertan does have pedigree at youth level.
He won the most valuable player award at last month’s international Toulon tournament, and Ireland fans will remember him as a player who tore apart their U21 side in a friendly last year. As United witnessed, he was also instrumental as France beat England at U21 level earlier this year.
The French World Cup winner is more than aware of his former charge’s promise, but realistic enough to realise that the French club (especially with the likes of Yoann Gourcuff reducing first team opportunities) might not be best environment for him to progress.
“I was surprised [when United came in with a bid], but it is an unexpected chance for him to play with one of the best clubs in the world,” Blanc said recently.
“Manchester United certainly hope to advance him, something that Bordeaux and Lorient have failed to do. He has the potential, but he must overcome psychological and mental challenges so he can express his true value.”
United will be confident they can help Obertan overcome such obstacles, and that their coaching methods will prove more productive than Bordeaux’s.
Signing a player for £12.25 million and selling him five years later for £80 million will give a club great faith in the training methods they employ, and that is exactly what United achieved with Cristiano Ronaldo.
When the Portuguese winger arrived at Old Trafford, he was a young player with great athletic ability and natural skill, but lacking any sort of end product—something his former club Sporting Lisbon were struggling to address.
Much like Obertan.
Under United’s tutelage, however, Ronaldo is now one of the finest players in the world, with a goalscoring (and assist) record that compares with the very best.
United’s back-room staff must take a lot of credit for that.
While calling Obertan Ronaldo’s heir might be overly optimistic, a prolonged stay at Old Trafford will undoubtedly develop his talents to a level he could previously only aspire to.
At 6’2″, Obertan has the physical presence to survive in the Premier League. Like Ronaldo, he has already demonstrated the sort of trickery and natural speed that cannot be taught, no matter who the coach is.
It is his positioning, awareness and technique—among other things—that need work. These are all aspects that United’s coaching team, led by Mike Phelan, will be confident they can address.
“We like to get young players and develop them, and we will see that in Gabriel over the next two years,” Ferguson said.
Before signing the 20-year-old, Ferguson will no doubt have sat the winger down and underlined to him exactly how he sees him progressing, and how much effort he will have to put in in order to succeed. Ferguson will have wanted assurances that such a commitment will be made before finalizing a deal.
Publicly at least, Obertan seems to have taken that message on board.
“This is a big opportunity for me to play at such a great club,” Obertan said. “It’s my potential that interests him [Ferguson]. He has confidence in me. It is flattering and surprising—but I know I still have a lot of work to do.”
Obertan joins Zoran Tosic, Nani, Valencia, and Adem Ljajic (currently on loan at Partizan Belgrade) as the naturally-talented young attackers on United’s books.
And with the quality of nuturing available to them from United’s world-class staff, Sir Alex Ferguson will be confident that in the near future at least one of them, if not more, will develop into able successors for the departed Ronaldo.

With the summer signings of Michael Owen, Luis Antonio Valencia, and now Gabriel Obertan, Manchester United have hardly captured the imagination of their worldwide fanbase.

£17 million Valencia, a star performer in a solid Wigan Athletic team last season, has been viewed as a decent, if unspectacular signing to offset the loss of the irreplaceable Cristiano Ronaldo.

Michael Owen was undoubtedly one of the world’s best strikers once upon a time, but many supporters remain to be convinced that the 29-year-old, arguably 11 years removed from his finest hour as a player, will be able to replace the effort, goals and overall contribution that Carlos Tevez brought to the club.

And as for the £3 million Obertan; while 80,000 Madrid fans turned out to see Cristiano Ronaldo’s unveiling at Real Madrid, it is perhaps doubtful that even that many United fans had ever heard of the former Bordeaux winger.

Nevertheless, Sir Alex Ferguson has done his homework in scouting the wideman, and has seen enough to lead him to believe he has the potential to succeed at the club.

“Gabriel is a player we have tracked for a few years now, but because of his educational programme [at the famed Clairefontaine academy] our efforts to get him here have always been delayed,” Ferguson said. “We are delighted to get him now, as he is an exciting prospect.”

The 20-year-old had long known of United’s observation of him, but admitted ahead of his move to England that he thought the opportunity for him to join the former European champions had passed.

“I knew they had been following me for a few years but I did not think it was going to happen this season,” Obertan told French radio station RMC.

“We had no longer been in too much contact until the England U-21 game where I played well for France and scored a goal. That helped things along. We spoke again, and I ended up signing.”

For pundits and fans alike, however, the Obertan signing is not one that has been greatly celebrated. Partly this is a result of Obertan’s relative obscurity, but it is also a result of the Frenchman’s fairly uninspiring CV.

After all, as former club Bordeaux chased a first league title in ten years last season, manager Laurent Blanc deemed Obertan expendable enough to be allowed out on loan to lowly Lorient for the second half of the campaign.

While his teammates went on to clinch the title, Obertan managed a meager one goal in 15 appearances with the Ligue 1 mid-table side.

But Blanc, if not a confidante then certainly a close acquaintance of Sir Alex (having played under the Scot at Old Trafford during the later part of his career), will not have sold his former manager a complete dud, and Obertan does have pedigree at youth level.

He won the most valuable player award at last month’s international Toulon tournament, and Ireland fans will remember him as a player who tore apart their U21 side in a friendly last year. As United witnessed, he was also instrumental as France beat England at U21 level earlier this year.

The French World Cup winner is more than aware of his former charge’s promise, but realistic enough to realise that the French club (especially with the likes of Yoann Gourcuff reducing first team opportunities) might not be best environment for him to progress.

“I was surprised [when United came in with a bid], but it is an unexpected chance for him to play with one of the best clubs in the world,” Blanc said recently.

“Manchester United certainly hope to advance him, something that Bordeaux and Lorient have failed to do. He has the potential, but he must overcome psychological and mental challenges so he can express his true value.”

Obertan's performance against England U21s was critical to the transfer (Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty)

Obertan's performance against England U21s was critical to the transfer (Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

United will be confident they can help Obertan overcome such obstacles, and that their coaching methods will prove more productive than Bordeaux’s.

Signing a player for £12.25 million and selling him five years later for £80 million will give a club great faith in the training methods they employ, and that is exactly what United achieved with Cristiano Ronaldo.

When the Portuguese winger arrived at Old Trafford, he was a young player with great athletic ability and natural skill, but lacking any sort of end product — something his former club Sporting Lisbon were struggling to address.

Much like Obertan.

Under United’s tutelage, however, Ronaldo is now one of the finest players in the world, with a goalscoring (and assist) record that compares with the very best.

United’s back-room staff must take a lot of credit for that.

While calling Obertan Ronaldo’s heir might be overly optimistic, a prolonged stay at Old Trafford will undoubtedly develop his talents to a level he could previously only aspire to.

At 6’2″, Obertan has the physical presence to survive in the Premier League. Like Ronaldo, he has already demonstrated the sort of trickery and natural speed that cannot be taught, no matter who the coach is.

It is his positioning, awareness and technique — among other things — that need work. These are all aspects that United’s coaching team, led by Mike Phelan, will be confident they can address.

“We like to get young players and develop them, and we will see that in Gabriel over the next two years,” Ferguson said.

Before signing the 20-year-old, Ferguson will no doubt have sat the winger down and underlined to him exactly how he sees him progressing, and how much effort he will have to put in in order to succeed. Ferguson will have wanted assurances that such a commitment will be made before finalizing a deal.

Publicly at least, Obertan seems to have taken that message on board.

“This is a big opportunity for me to play at such a great club,” Obertan said. “It’s my potential that interests him [Ferguson]. He has confidence in me. It is flattering and surprising — but I know I still have a lot of work to do.”

Obertan joins Zoran Tosic, Nani, Valencia, and Adem Ljajic (currently on loan at Partizan Belgrade) as the naturally-talented young attackers on United’s books.

And with the quality of nuturing available to them from United’s world-class staff, Sir Alex Ferguson will be confident that in the near future at least one of them, if not more, will develop into able successors for the departed Ronaldo.


This article also appeared on Fox Sports.

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July 9, 2009 - Posted by | Sport, World Football | , ,

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