Croatia’s success at the 2018 World Cup was a relief for many. A side with bags of potential over the last decade had finally lived up to it – and then some.
With the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, and more among their ranks, they were certainly well-equipped to do as well as they did. Being pitted against France in their first World Cup final is an achievement that will go down in history for Croatian foobtall.
The side scored 14 goals across seven games in the tournament, maintaining an average of 55.4% possession. Croatia were a well-drilled team, particularly in midfield and defence.
With such breakout success comes, of course, reports linking them with a big-money move away. Manchester United have found themselves among the clubs linked with moves for a number of Croatian players. In particular, Ivan Perisic and Ante Rebic.
Having been linked with a number of wingers in the transfer window so far, it’s no secret that the right flank is a position United need reinforcements in.
The physical presence of the Croatian players would suit the Premier League – and Jose Mourinho – to a tee. However, let’s have a look at seeing whether the Red Devils should or shouldn’t go in for two of the World Cup’s standout players.
— Mirror Football (@MirrorFootball) July 21, 2018
Prior to this summer’s World Cup, Ivan Perisic already made himself known after two successful seasons for Inter Milan. United fans will be familiar with the name, considering the club were linked with a move for the winger last summer.
However, despite the move not coming to fruition, Perisic continued to improve. the 29-year-old is very much known for being the complete winger. Last season, he proved he had the finishing ability, tallying 11 goals and nine assists in 37 appearances.
At 6″2 tall, Perisic poses as much of a threat getting on the end of crosses as whipping them in himself. If Mourinho’s signings so far have indicated anything, it’s that the Chosen One loves a player who can win aerial duels and muscle his opponents off the ball.
Perisic was Croatia’s joint-top goalscorer at the World Cup alongside Mario Mandzukic. Both players netted three goals while Perisic also bagged an assist.
In terms of the kind of player Perisic is, he could be exactly the kind Manchester United are looking for.
He’s quick, strong, has a rocket of a right foot and plays just as well with his left. More importantly, he’s not afraid to track back and get stuck in. He even covered ran 72km across all games he played at the World Cup, the most of any player.
Croatia played with patience, waiting to pounce on their opponents before spurring a deadly counter-attack from midfield. Perisic was a key in the success of this.
As he won the ball, his distribution to his team-mates in the final third was rapid. As the full-backs over-lapped him – whether it be on the left or right flank – he would slot the ball through and wait for the return to deliver a delightful cross to Mandzukic.
With Lukaku in the side, this presence in the box would make for an easier target for Perisic to hit. While on the flip side, Perisic’s sublime delivery will make it easier for Lukaku to get on the scoresheet.
Perisic is also a very versatile player, playing on either flank as well as through the middle. His versatility, work-rate, and technical ability as both a finisher and supplier of goals makes him the complete winger. One that would only benefit the United side.
However, as the Inter player nears 30 years of age, the longevity of his form comes under question. The main factor causing fans to be hesitant at the potential signings of Gareth Bale and Willian has been their age.
United already have an experienced attacker out wide in Alexis Sanchez, so another on the other flank at a similar age may not be sustainable.
Also, Perisic has mainly featured on the left as an inverted winger, cutting in onto his stronger right foot to take shots and make crosses. United already have an abundance of these kinds of threats out wide, so if Perisic were to sign for United it would on the right wing in a more traditional role.
However, with the next candidate, these factors are less of an issue.
Rebic’s game by numbers vs. England:
4 ball recoveries
Most dribbles completed (3/4)
Most tackles won (4/4)
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) July 11, 2018
There’s no denying that Croatia’s breakout star at this World Cup was Eintracht Frankfurt winger, Ante Rebic.
The 24-year-old completed the strong and pacey Croatian attack out on the right-hand side, offering pace, trickery, and an unmatched defensive work ethic.
Rebic only scored one goal in the tournament but ended the World cup on 13 tackles and 2.7 headers won per game.
Much like with Perisic, Rebic is a very versatile player. For Frankfurt, he has featured on the left as an inverted winger, on the right in a more traditional role, as well as even up front.
For Croatia, Rebic was at his deadliest bombing down the right-hand side. Rarely does Rebic find himself in the central channels of the field. Instead, he stays close to the by-line, always looking to beat his man and get into a crossing position.
Another strength of Rebic’s game is his link-up play with his own full-back. He constantly looks for his team-mate on the overlap to play him through, moving into the inner channels on the edge of the box, waiting for a cut-back or the return ball to deliver the cross into the penalty area.
Who would suit United better?
A traditional winger is something United is sorely missing. Instead, the position has been occupied by either a failed striker or failed number ten in recent seasons.
For me, signing Rebic would suit the needs of the team a lot more than Perisic. He has experience on the right flank, his defensive capabilities are remarkable for an attacker, he’s younger, and crucially, he would likely cost a lot less.
Given the World Cup Ivan Perisic just had, it would be hard to pry him away from Inter’s grasps for less than £60+million. Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine Frankfurt not being tempted by a bid of £40million for their man.
A major fault in United’s transfer dealings over the last few years has been their tendency to sign big-name players who don’t suit the needs of the team.
Hopefully, this won’t be the case.
How United would line up