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Manchester United

Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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John Brewin profile picture  By John Brewin

Is Radamel Falcao the answer to Manchester United's problems?

The Manchester United mystery continues. Is the club's shock loan for Radamel Falcao an answer to their problems or another piece of retail therapy, an expensive trinket that cannot hide the shapeless form on which it is draped?

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United's trip to Burnley on Saturday was the latest chastening experience. Uncertain in defence, one-paced in midfield and impotent in attack, they looked a team in need of an overhaul in each department as a 0-0 draw was played out.

Striker, though, looked the least of Louis van Gaal's many worries. Though Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney laboured, surely both were playing themselves into form. And when Danny Welbeck came on, there was at last some decent movement.

Falcao's arrival is another rogue element added to the team that just refuses to jell. Who did this deal? Van Gaal has made pointed mention of wanting players like Arturo Vidal and Mats Hummels, to play in the other departments that so lack cohesion. AC Milan's Nigel de Jong seemed better suited to his needs. Has Van Gaal come up with another solution that nobody else can see?

Falcao signed for Monaco from Atletico Madrid in 2013.

Or has executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward sniffed out a bargain and then left it to his manager to fit the pieces together? Woodward's ambitions of making marquee signings are not particularly well hidden. There is a whiff of a Juan Mata about this deal. A player that Woodward could get, but who might not fit into the team's make-up, Mata continues to look the little boy lost at United. Burnley was another example of his fading cachet.

Falcao is not a new target for United. When Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to be rid of Rooney two years back, the Colombian was considered, only for Van Persie to arrive. The new arrival -- at his Atletico Madrid and Porto best -- offered an explosiveness that neither of that pair can offer. His finishing is thunderous, his aerial power best demonstrated by the header that won the 2011 Europa League final for Porto against Braga.

The deal's status as a loan rings definite alarm bells: Falcao is just returning from a cruciate rupture from which he rushed to recover to play at the World Cup, only to miss out through a lack of readiness. His role in Brazil was to well-wish his colleagues in the tunnel before matches. Monaco's willingness to sell follows a costly divorce for owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.

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United are beneficiaries, and now look to be back on the books of Jorge Mendes, the Portuguese uber-agent. Woodward probably feels he needs to be moving in such circles.

Meanwhile, Rooney and Van Persie, for whom Van Gaal's 3-5-2- is widely believed to be set up to service, do not now look so untouchable now. Welbeck, surely for the off, looks a casualty, along with Javier Hernandez, but the senior strikers may be the next. Rooney, club captain, may have to give more to the cause than playing up front. Van Gaal may wish him to drop deeper. Mata's position may become yet more perilous as a result.

Can Falcao play midfield or defence? Certainly not. In adding him, United's transition picture just got more confused.

John Brewin

Based in London, from where he covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. He reported from the 2010 and 2014 World Cups and was formerly a senior editor of ESPNsoccernet.

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