Last summer, Manchester United held conversations with Real Madrid about a prospective transfer for Eduardo Camavinga, but the player ultimately chose to join the Spanish giants.
When Eduardo Camavinga came off the bench to inspire Real Madrid to a dramatic Champions League comeback against Manchester City in midweek, there was a natural sense of ‘what could have been?’ for Manchester United fans.
Ancelotti’s team seemed defeated and devoid of ideas before the introduction of the French teenager, who once again transformed match dynamics and secured a place in yet another championship showdown final.
Camavinga was the one who sent the ball to Karim Benzema, who in turn helped Rodrygo for the first goal of the game. For the second, he was the one who won the ball back to launch the counter-attack, and for the third, it was the former Rennes midfielder who delivered the key ball into the box that resulted in Federico Valverde being fouled and awarded a penalty to the visitors.
The fact that he had already done this in the previous two rounds is even more astonishing. Camavinga’s performance in the second leg of the round of 16 contest against Paris Saint-Germain turned the game around for Real Madrid. It was the same in the quarter-final against Chelsea as well, when the French sensation propelled his team into yet another spectacular last-gasp finish.
Because he was born in an Angolan migrant camp and has spent the majority of his life in Paris, Camavinga’s adolescence will likely culminate in Paris later this month, the city that has played host to him since he was two years old.
So where does Manchester United fit into all of this?
Prior to the midfielder’s transfer to Real Madrid, United held discussions with his representatives in order to assess the likelihood of him joining them at Old Trafford.
One of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s earliest conversations was with Real Madrid, who made it clear to him that the teenager had always preferred a move abroad.
As a result, United never pursued their interest in signing the Rennes talent, and he finalized a €30 million transfer to Real Madrid by signing a six-year contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.
During his formal unveiling, the France international stated that “honestly, the first factor is not money, it is the pleasure of realizing a dream I’ve had since I was a child.” “When I found out that I had been offered a contract by Real Madrid, I didn’t give it much thought.”
When United never made an official offer to sign Camavinga, it’s natural why some fans imagine an alternate universe where he wore their renowned kit.
While his success in Real Madrid is encouraging, it does not necessarily imply that United are doing everything right in terms of identifying high-potential prospects, even if they are not currently able to persuade them that their club is the best place for them to hone those skills.
There is a problem with Manchester United’s present transfer policy in that it is simply too wide, and their bespoke database is so large that it is impossible to ever fully distinguish between wheat and chaff. Aaron Wan-Bissaka was the clear choice for the right-back position after the team looked at 804 candidates. It’s also difficult to figure out which midfielders are the greatest because there are so many to choose from.
Often, by the time United narrow down their search, it is too late to persuade them to join the club, and it is difficult to adequately sell a long-term picture of where they fit into the team.
Similarly, when Manchester United recognized Jude Bellingham as a player of interest a year earlier, they were unable to provide him with the certainties and clear advancement track that Borussia Dortmund could.
Similar to Camavinga, Bellingham established himself immediately at his new club and has already established himself as a fully fledged international in his teenage years. It’s clear that neither one’s youth nor experience should limit their ability to make an effect on the most prestigious platform of them all.
It is inevitable that United will be criticized for failing to sign either of the top teenage prospects, but they should instead use their subsequent success as extra motivation to continue their quest for the next great thing, and use those two as examples of why taking a transfer chance on an unknown prospect is still a worthwhile risk.
While club sources believe that the midfield is the area of the squad that need the most improvement, Erik ten Hag will make it his top goal this summer to completely restructure his group of players. At the very least, Manchester United will look to sign a new central midfielder, though with the departures of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, there is a compelling case for them to sign two.
While it is important to sign those who have achieved success elsewhere, it is also important to consider which diamonds in the rough may be able to be honed under their supervision.
United must take a proactive rather than a reactive approach.