Radamel Falcao's Chelsea move would give Man United fans mixed feelings
Manchester United fans have mixed feelings about the departure of Radamel Falcao from Old Trafford. They supported him throughout his season-long loan from Monaco, even when things were clearly not working out as hoped, and sang his name and bounced around to the "Lolololo" chant first popularised by Atletico Madrid fans.
However, those fans hardly held protests to keep him. They kept hoping he'd come good, but it just didn't work out -- four goals in 29 games is nowhere near good enough.
United knew in February that they weren't going to exercise the purchase clause in his contract and it seemed the Colombian knew it too. Falcao had just one shot on target in his last 12 Premier League games, although he was playing for a team that scored fewer goals than the previous season under David Moyes.
Falcao kept his counsel, trained hard and said the right things -- guided by his agent Jorge Mendes, that amounted to almost nothing -- and was so inoffensive that he'll likely get a decent reception should he return to Old Trafford as a Chelsea player.
The prospect of him playing for the champions does unnerve some United fans though, especially if he starts scoring as he has done at every other club in his career.
"I like Falcao and you can't write him off just because he had a very average season at United," says former United striker Dwight Yorke. "He may be a success. Judge him on the chances and opportunities he has got in games and I think the creativity at Chelsea will create the opportunity for him to score goals."
Alternatively, Falcao could be like the last big-name South American to leave United for Chelsea -- Juan Sebastian Veron -- who moved in 2003 but faded away at Stamford Bridge after life hadn't worked out at Old Trafford.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, who also has Mendes as his agent, is convinced he can get Falcao back to his best. He doesn't think United played to the Colombian's strengths, that there were a lot of long-ball passes and that he was used slightly out of position.
Mourinho sees Falcao as best being played as a centre-forward and remains convinced that the 29-year-old is one of the great strikers in world football. The Portuguese also thinks Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar and Diego Costa are better suited to Falcao's strengths than were the players around him at United.
Chelsea want to cap their highest earner -- currently Eden Hazard -- on £200,000 per week. Falcao will be paid in the bracket below, which still means he'll earn more than £150,000, but for the player the move is more about restoring reputation than reinforcing bank reserves.
Like Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho has belief in his own psychological powers of revival and would take great delight in proving others wrong. He has claimed to be hurt that people have not seen the real Falcao in England and he'll work with a player who wants to prove that he is anything but finished.
Chelsea captain John Terry, who missed the 2012 UEFA Super Cup in which Falcao scored a hat trick for Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea, believes he is the best striker he's come up against in the last five years, telling friends that you never know where he is, that you're always looking around to try and see him and that, if you don't concentrate all the time, you'll lose him. Terry added that his pace was deceptively quick.
"Falcao is a very good striker when a team is doing well," says former Portugal international Luis Boa Morte. "He has to see the ball and the team has to play for him. We didn't see the best of him at United but I'm certain Mourinho will get the best out of him. Chelsea play from the back, like Porto and Atletico Madrid did. He gets in great positions and even the top defenders struggle to keep an eye on him, even when they think they have him under control. He moves away from them to end up in the right place at the right time.
"He and Diego Costa could be very difficult to play against. Costa is more aggressive. He wants to get on the ball and attack the defenders one on one. Falcao is about arriving in the right place at the right time, but both have a great record scoring.
"Falcao has an effective partnership for Colombia with Jackson Martinez because they're so different, but I actually prefer Jackson. With Falcao, the team needs to be playing. With Jackson, he can lift a team when they are down and change a game."
Former Premier League striker Stan Collymore also believes Falcao will come good.
"Going from Monaco in the French league to Old Trafford where the pressure is massively on would test any fit, motivated and in-form striker," says the former Liverpool and Aston Villa striker.
"When he went to United he didn't have any of those things. The French league is nowhere near the standard of the Premier League. And expectations are far higher at United than any of his previous clubs.
"At Chelsea, he'll benefit from lower expectations. They'll think more of a [Didier] Drogba returning and not expect the standards of Diego Costa. Living in London, where he can get lost a little bit, could be to his advantage. He knows Mourinho and I wouldn't be surprised if, after 10-15 games, he has a proper purple spell."
Falcao will be watched closely, and not just by the defenders who try to mark him. For United fans, it will be bittersweet however he does.
Andy Mitten is a freelance writer and the founder and editor of United We Stand. Follow him on Twitter: @AndyMitten.