When I joined Manchester United, I believed I could emulate Thierry Henry, but I ended up in the reserves.”At Cristiano’s request – who has again expressed his desire to leave – and after discussions with the player’s representatives, United have agreed to give Real Madrid permission to talk to the player.”
On the morning of 11 June 2009, it was the news that each and every Manchester United supporter averted from their newsstands. United was coping with the departure of an extraterrestrial talent two weeks after they had been defeated by Barcelona in the Champions League final, a team inspired by the virtuosity of Lionel Messi.
Throughout the season, Cristiano Ronaldo had been linked with a move away from Old Trafford. However, on the eve of the Champions League final, David Gill, United’s then-CEO, unequivocally stated that the club would not consider such a proposal.Ronaldo was one of the top two players in the world at the time of his departure from United; it was impossible to replace him. With a remarkable 118 goals in 292 appearances, the Portuguese international concluded his final campaign in English football as the Ballon d’Or laurel.
Nevertheless, Ferguson was somewhat encouraged by the £80 million record fee he received for his superstar; the challenge would be in how to spend the money.
Ferguson desired a group effort as opposed to a single player to replace their charismatic wideman, considering summer acquisition Antonio Valencia to be the driving force behind a rebuild.
Michael Owen, who arrived without cost, assumed the No.7 uniform and became the first of several individuals to occupy that illustrious number after Ronaldo, but failed to live up to its reputation. Mame Biram Diouf was an unidentified quantity when he was introduced to an attacking side that had lost two of its primary attacking threats in Carlos Tevez and Ronaldo, both of whom were about to depart.As was customary, Sir Alex Ferguson had declared months prior that he “would not sell that mob a virus.”After that, Gabriel Obertan emerged.
The French winger arrived from Bordeaux less than a month after Ferguson authorized the sale of Ronaldo. Ferguson took a risk, albeit a minor one considering the £3 million transfer fee, on a raw talent who was also under consideration by Arsenal, AC Milan, and Inter Milan.
Although retrospect and revisionism may suggest that Obertan was destined for failure at United, the French winger was named the most valuable player at the prestigious Toulon international youth tournament the same month Ronaldo departed for Spain.
Ferguson was captivated by the player’s immense potential, and his former Ligue 1 club manager at the time, Laurent Blanc, lavished him with glowing recommendations.
Two clubs reached an agreement on a four-year contract for then-20-year-old Obertan, a player who possessed every single natural quality required to more than recoup that transfer fee.Ferguson has restored my composure. He informed me that he is aware of my advantages and disadvantages. He finds my potential to be of interest. He places his trust in me. It is unexpected and flattering.”Gabriel is a player we have tracked for a few years now,” according to Ferguson. “However, our endeavors to fetch him have been postponed due to his academic schedule.” We are ecstatic to have him at this time, as he represents a promising future.”
Rather than joining United at a time when the team was in transition, Obertan was eventually tasked with attempting to fill the void left by the greatest player in the world.
“I knew they had been following me for a few years but I did not think it was going to happen this season,” he commented at the time.”However, I am well aware that I have much more progress to make before I can reach Ronaldo’s level.”
Under such conditions, an immediate commencement is critical. A precarious start to the season for the French winger was impeded by an injury that prohibited him from accompanying the first-team squad on their preseason tour of Asia.
Obertan, who subsequently developed spinal issues, would be sidelined for a matter of months, and it would not be until October, when he faced Oldham in the Manchester Senior Cup, that he would make his return to action.
Three more matches were spent with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve squad before the Frenchman was eventually given a taste of first-team action in a League Cup victory at Barnsley, where he was named man of the match.The two highlights of his début season in England occurred one month later: assisting Michael Owen in converting the second goal during a 3-1 victory at Wolfsburg, and commencing his inaugural league match the following week in a triumph over Wolves.Four days later, he made his Premier League debut off the bench in a 2-0 victory over Blackburn, but he was unable to convert a straightforward tap-in attempt for the club’s fantasy first goal.
“I eagerly await my next score,” he declared. “It is conceivable. While there is still room for improvement in my refining skills, I remain optimistic that they will develop in due course.”
Ferguson acknowledged that Obertan was “a little anxious” when he entered the game, but he was ecstatic to see how frustrated the substitute was at having missed a simple opportunity to score.Obertan’s self-assurance was increasing, but once more, an injury would impede his progress. In his first season as a senior, he appeared in just thirteen games.
“I was quite pleased with my first season in the end,” he commented. “The most challenging aspect for me was that I was injured when I arrived at the club.” Due to a back condition, I was essentially sidelined for five months.
“I have demonstrated a small amount in competitions, but I do not believe it is sufficient. “I intend to establish my worth during this campaign.”
Although there was some relief for the young winger regarding his sluggish start in the North West, the sale of Zoran Tosic, who had also joined the club in January 2009, served as a constant reminder of the burden on him to perform. Tosic had been with the club for more than a year prior to his arrival.Announced disaster ensued. Obertan sustained another injury setback in the middle of the first half of the MLS All-Star Game one week later. It would be until the last few weeks of September before he would return.In an effort to establish his value, Obertan discussed with Ferguson the necessity for him to enhance his performance in the final third. In an effort to gain weight, he collaborated closely with a nutritionist and implemented a new diet consisting predominantly of vegetables and pasta.
One year subsequent to his exclusion from the Asia tour, he was included in the squad for a journey to North America, where he scored the club’s inaugural goal against Philadelphia Union in a 1-0 victory.
Motivated by the summer acquisition of fellow winger Bebe, Obertan sought to recoup time lost and understood he needed to establish an early understanding.Prior to his transfer the previous year, his former coach at Lorient, Christian Gourcuff, had cautioned, “He certainly possesses some talent, but there are also some gaps in his game.” “While I hold out hope for his success, he will need to mentally prepare himself for the upcoming challenge.”
This mental fortitude was being rigorously tested as Obertan labored to maintain consistency. After recovering for the League Cup victory at Scunthorpe, Obertan resumed his training in the weeks that followed.
On a November evening in Turkey, the winger scored his first competitive goal for Manchester United in a 3-0 Champions League victory over Bursaspor. This would be his recompense.
He expressed his desire to be selected by the coach at full-time. “We have a good group of 25 players now and even if nine of them are out, we can still do a job.”Obertan received his desired start in the following match against Wolves, participating in the entire 2-1 victory for United. However, he was a benchwarmer in the following two contests.Beginning in November, he would start United’s final league match, which they won 2-0 over Wigan. A week later, in the League Cup quarterfinals, United would be defeated 4-0 by West Ham. That loss brought to light the enormous caliber gap between United’s starting lineup and their reserves.
Although Ferguson was losing faith in Obertan, the adolescent maintained confidence in himself, citing the struggles of fellow countryman Thierry Henry upon his initial arrival at Arsenal as an example of what is possible despite a slow start.
“I am trying to take something from his game,” he commented. “Henry, similar to myself, began his career as a winger. He subsequently switched positions to striker because he delighted in scoring. My objective is to improve my efficiency in front of the goal and score more.Obertan had only one in 26 appearances prior to his conversion to a striker, while Henry had scored just twice in 17 appearances. Despite his valid argument, Ferguson was unable to allocate the necessary time to undertake such a risky course of action.
Obertan was demoted to the reserves at the beginning of the year; he would appear thirteen times, accumulating six goals and four assists.
His outstanding performances earned him starting roles in FA Cup victories against Southampton and Crawley, the latter of which marked his final appearance as a senior for United.
As United closed in on their nineteenth Premier League title, Obertan was not even included in matchday squads, while fellow winger Nani found his stride and was named to the PFA Team of the Year.United appeared to have supplanted Ronaldo for a time, but that was with Nani, not the French youth they had purchased with the proceeds from his sale.
The introduction of Ashley Young, a winger for Aston Villa, nearly brought an end to Obertan’s tenure in Manchester, but the opportunity for a new beginning presented by Newcastle was too good to pass up.
“It wasn’t really a difficult decision to come here,” he maintained. “I enjoyed two fruitful years in Manchester; however, the competition made things a little challenging, and I was in dire need of a club where I could play more games. “I desire a new beginning in the sport of football.”
His Premier League aspirations with Newcastle were dashed by a series of unfavorable injuries, inconsistent play, and subsequent transfers to Anzhi, Wigan, Levski Sofia, and Erzurumspor. Presently 34 years old, he is a player in the AmericanOr perhaps his transfer to United was premature, or perhaps it was always going to be too difficult for him to make the cut at Old Trafford, but perhaps Obertan’s experience at United could have been different with a little piece of luck. However, he never had the ability to replace Ronaldo; nobody ever could.
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