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  • Manchester United isn’t Desperate for a Playmaking Midfielder

    29. June 2011

    Wayne Rooney may be the answer to United's perceived lack of playmaking in the midfield (photo: Gordon Flood)

    With the retirement of central midfielder Paul Scholes and the looming retirement of an equally crafty veteran Ryan Giggs, the club’s long tenured creative forces in the middle, Manchester United has been actively searching for new playmakers to fill the deepening void in their midfield. Indeed the 2010-2011 Premier league champions seemed to have  tripped the panic alarm following their defeat to Barcelona in UEFA Champions League final this year, and are desperately seeking the likes of Xavi and Iniesta in order to add creativity, poise, and control in the midfield.  

    However Manchester United’s need for a playmaking midfielder isn’t as desperate as it may seem. Current players Nani and Rooney both proved to be capable playmakers last season. Nani led the entire league in assists with eighteen, although he plays exclusively on the wings and not behind strikers, which is the area Manchester is trying to address. Nonetheless his ability to deliver accurate passes may allow manager Alex Ferguson to employ him in the middle, especially with the addition of capable winger Ashley Young to the team. Likewise, Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia has shown signs of brilliance with his passing and creativity, however his season was derailed by injuries. Moreover, both Young and Valencia can be employed behind Hernandez and Berbatov as facilitators next season.

    The arrival of potent Mexican striker Javier Hernandez has resulted in Rooney dropping deep in several matches and effectively assuming the role of a deep lying foward capable of spraying long and accurate passes. Indeed Rooney’s early season struggles may have been a blessing in disguise, as they prompted Ferguson to play Rooney behind Hernandez, where the English striker has thrived. There is no reason why Sir Alex Ferguson shouldn’t continue employing this strategy come next season and United fans can expect to see the versatile Rooney employed as a midfielder more often than not.  

    Many forget that Manchester United finished atop last year’s Premier League table, nine points clear of runners up Chelsea. They did so with injuries to midfielders Nani and Valencia, seldom use of now departed Scholes, and early season inconsistency from Rooney. It’s clear that United’s search for a playmaking midfielder is to address future challenges from the likes of Barcelona, a team which now has beaten the Red Devils in two of the last three Champions League finals. 

    While a pick up like Dutchman Wesley Sneijder would undoubtebly provide United with an edge in their midfield, the Red Devils won’t be at a loss if they fail to sign a player of his caliber. Ferguson still has a tremendous arsenal of playmaking talent at his hands, spearheaded by Nani and Rooney both of whom can be employed in the middle. This underlooked versatility and flexibility in the midfield will allow United to continue thriving as the top team in the Premiership and possibly get over the Barcelonian hump.

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    Written by Rockefeller David

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    Enes Kanter, Turkey’s Newest Addition to the NBA

    28. June 2011

    Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter made NBA history when he became the first Turkish player to be taken as a top ten selection during this year’s NBA draft. Kanter, projected by many basketball analysts as a top 5 college prospect, was drafted 3rd by the Utah Jazz. Kanter now joins Orlando Magic’s Hedo Turkoglu, Milwaukee Bucks’ Ersan Ilyasova, Chicago Bulls’ Omer Asik, Boston Celtics’ Semih Erden, and Utah Jazz teammate Mehmet Okur as NBA’s sixth active Turkish player.  

    Born in Switzerland to Turkish citizens, Kanter has represented the Turkish national basketball team at the international level since 2008, in addition to being a sparingly used reserve for Turkish club team Fenerbahche Ulker during 2008-2009.  He was named the MVP of the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship, in which Turkey finished third. Kanter’s stock increased dramatically following his impressive performance at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit, where he scored 34 points and pulled down 13 rebounds. His point total broke the previous record set by current NBA superstar Dirk Nowitzki in1998.

    Kanter was recruited to play for University of Kentucky during the 2010-2011 NCAA season, however was ruled ineligible when it was revealed that he received $33,000 in excess benefits from his club team Fenerbahche Ulker. Despite the ineligibility to play in inter-collegiate games, Kanter stayed at Kentucky where he served as a player-coach and actively participated in team practices, thus allowing his development to continue. This was amply illustrated during the draft workouts preceding this year’s draft, where Kanter impressed several scouts with his skill set and potential and got projected as a top five prospect. Kanter’s strengths include his inside scoring, back-to-the-basket game, rebounding ability, and toughness, qualities vital for today’s NBA big man. He also possesses a reliable jump-shot, making him a perfect pick-n-roll and pick-n-pop player and thus an ideal fit for Utah’s offense, known for utilizing those offensive schemes.   

    Kanter will be a welcome addition for the Jazz, who suffered from underwhelming team performances and chemistry issues during second half of the 2010-2011 season,  missing the playoffs as a result. The departure of long tenured, successful coach Jerry Sloan and soon after the trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams both proved to be massive blows to the team. The season was salvaged when the team won the third pick of the 2011 draft during the NBA draft lottery, which they used on Kanter.

    The presence of fellow Turkish native Mehmet Okur on Utah’s roster should help smoothen the 19 year old Kanter’s transition into the NBA, although ironically his selection will likely result in reduced playing time and possible departure for Okur, who missed the bulk of the last season with injuries. The Jazz currently has somewhat of a jam at the center and power forward positions, with fellow bigs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap commanding significant minutes last year. Thus it’s hard to imagine the team holding on to all four bigs and Jazz fans should expect a trade from their management, with inconsistent Jefferson and injury-plagued Okur being the likely targets. Kanter’s selection has given the team tremendous flexibility in that regard and the Utah Jazz will be in a much better position at the start of the next season than they were at the end of the previous.

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    Written by Rockefeller David

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