Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has pointed to injury as the primary reason for the limited playing time of Radamel Falcao, but stories are emerging which point to the possibility of another agenda on the part of the Old Trafford boss. Despite sources close to the player saying that he has been fit for weeks, van Gaal continued to point to a “new” injury as the source of his hesitation in playing the star. A statement made in a recent interview indicating that Falcao needed to follow van Gaal’s program has sparked talk of tensions between the two related to game play rather than fitness. With the transfer window approaching, an avalanche of theories about his future with the club have come to the forefront.
Hints of at least something being off began before the Arsenal match, when van Gaal declared him unfit for play due to this “new” injury, and on the same day Falcao was quoted as saying he was nearly fit and looking forward to returning to the pitch for United. It was played off, but reports continue to show up from people quoted as being “close to Falcao” that indicate the player has been fit for some time and that there may be another motive to keeping him off the field. Falcao has only seen 62 minutes of play the entire season. Given the number of injuries to multiple players on the United squad this season, the failure to use such a talented player does appear suspicious on the face of it.
With the January break coming up, most believe that it is van Gaal’s intention to position Falcao to be sold on the transfer market. Whether that decision is prompted by a conflict of styles or personalities with the player or not is a matter of much discussion. Falcao has come out in interviews being very cautious with his words, saying that he sincerely desires to remain with United, that he is hopeful that his contract will be picked up, and that he has spoken with van Gaal often. He says that he “respects” the manager’s philosophy and is willing to be patient. He has received praise for his professional handling of his lack of play by peers and press alike, most recently by teammate Juan Mata, who arrived last season and has had his own battles with maintaining a starting spot.
Despite his desire to remain with the team, it is unlikely that the board will approve keeping him if he remains on the bench, given the size of his contract. Given that Falcao has struggled to mesh well when playing on the attack together with Robin van Persie, many have perceived Falcao’s lack of playing time a conscious decision on the part of van Gaal to put van Persie first and sacrifice the Colombian. Regardless of what the actual agenda is, the injury to Falcao and his fitness does not seem to be a valid reason any more for him to be on the bench, and points to the strong possibility that he will be making an exit from the Manchester United fold come January.
Commentary By Jim Malone
Image courtesy of Beto Durán – Flickr License