Manchester United went up against Jack Grealish at the weekend for the first time since his summer transfer links.
United shied away from paying £80 million fee Villa were demanding in the summer after they survived relegation [The Times].
Villa and Grealish have come back stronger, and while he did not score at Old Trafford like he did last season, he put in a dangerous performance which showed what an asset he is.
Double edged threat
Grealish poses a double edged threat to defenders. You can’t get too close to him, because you risk fouling him in a dangerous area. He can then make you pay with a free-kick due to the quality of his deliveries.
He created four chances against United and his set pieces caused problems all night.
The second part of the dilemma with Grealish for defenders is that if they back off him and give him space, then he will make them pay.
By the end of the game as the match got frenetic, United’s backline had become nervous to pressure Grealish in case he won a free-kick in the final third, but this only opened up more space for him to impact the game.
It is not a surprise to see Grealish has scored five goals and provided seven assists this season already. He is averaging 3.7 key passes per game, the highest in the Premier League this season.
Worth the money?
Whether Grealish is worth the money being asked is ultimately an issue United and Villa must align on, if a future deal is to be done. At the end of last season he had just one goal contribution after the lockdown, which did not help sway United.
United paid up for Donny van de Beek instead at half the price which appeared shrewd judgement, if a bigger move for Jadon Sancho was forthcoming.
But no big money winger move materialised, and United may regret not paying more for Grealish, with Van de Beek struggling to get into the team despite his ability.
One of the reasons Grealish appeared to be a superior option was his ability to play in wide areas as well as centrally.
Grealish showed against United what an asset he could be at Old Trafford. His trickery and ability to draw fouls could result in more penalties, while the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Alex Telles, Juan Mata and even Grealish himself could also benefit from his free-kicks won in key areas.
With a striker like Edinson Cavani among United’s options, who has a strong ability in the air, a player with Grealish’s traits would see his game changing traits magnified.
The prospect of having him in the team alongside Fernandes seems like a missed opportunity.
Grealish, 25, signed a new long term contract in the summer, and there is no danger of relegation for Villa. He won’t pressure his boyhood club into a sale.
£80 million may seem steep, but there are many who would prefer a fee like this to be spent on Grealish’s proven Premier League quality than the unknown factor of what Jadon Sancho might or might not bring.
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