Newcastle playmaker Yohan Cabaye was linked heavily to Manchester United at the end of the 2011/12 season after he was instrumental in Newcastle’s fifth-placed finish. He was thought to be an upgrade on Michael Carrick, who had plateaued and had been a key player for France and Lille in the role. 12 months on and this time Cabaye is having to link himself. His own form this season wasn’t bad but was by no means as good as the previous campaign and as the key playmaker and midfield fulcrum, Newcastle’s poor season reflects badly on him. Still, in an interview with Canal+ he was asked whether a move to Man United would interest him and he said ‘Yes of course, I like this club for a long time…They are always well placed amongst the big clubs, yes for sure it could be an interesting challenge but like I said for the moment, there is nothing concrete and I am still at Newcastle.’ So he is clearly interested, but are Man United, and should they be?
Cabaye’s debut season at Newcastle saw him score four and assist eight from his deep playmaking position. His metronomic passing, excellent set piece delivery and hard running, pressurising defensive game marked him out as one of the elite midfielders of his type in the Premier League. He had shown the same qualities at Lille where he led the team to the French title before Newcastle caught everyone napping to sign him. This meant that last summer, as rumours of a Man United midfield search abounded, he was right up at the top of the list. People with bored with Michael Carrick, they didn’t know what to expect of Tom Cleverley or Anderson, and weren’t sure if Phil Jones could play the role. Cabaye made great sense. But, as we know, Sir Alex Ferguson trusted his midfield and Michael Carrick ended up having the season of his career. Cabaye on the other hand, fared less well.
The main reason for the drop in Cabaye’s performances were his own injury issues and misdeployment by Alan Pardew. Cabaye struggled for full fitness through a lot of the season, which meant that he was a step slower, marginally less accurate than before, and couldn’t impose himself on a Newcastle team that struggled before being flooded with his countrymen in January. In this essentially new team he struggled to exert himself in an alien position. This is because Pardew played him in a far more advanced role for much of the season to little gain. Cabaye can get goals and see a pass from deep but he doesn’t have the fleet feet and inventiveness needed further forward. It’s not that he is suddenly a bad player though, considering the constant turnover of players at Newcastle his drop in form is understandable. It’s not really this that means he is perhaps ill suited to United though.
If United played a 4-2-3-1 system, Cabaye would be a good partner for Michael Carrick. They would be able to move the ball and maintain possession smoothly whilst also offering a strong defensive shield. However, if David Moyes uses his preferred 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 system, a midfield of Carrick and Cabaye would lack for something. Neither of them would be the ideal deep driving engine midfielder. United have also been linked to Thiago Alcantara, Cesc Fabregas and Marouane Fellaini, who would all make better compliments to Carrick in that system. Cabaye is solid when getting forward but if that is how he is used he wouldn’t be being bought for the right reasons. However, if Moyes does want two deep possession midfielders then Cabaye would be ideal. United could get him at a reasonable price compared to the others on this list too.
Cabaye can be a success at Old Trafford is used properly and bought for a specific purpose. If David Moyes used the correct tactical set up he could be excellent. However, if the new United manager keeps his usual preferred method then Cabaye should not be first choice ahead of the more thrusting options United could look at.