I sat down last night to watch the first half of our reserve match against Everton. I then planned to watch Fulham’s Europa league match against Shakhtar Donetsk in the hope of watching our new signing Chris Smalling.
What I saw during the first half of our reserve match got me very excited. I saw a player with ability and a potential star at Manchester United. The player’s name was Gabriel Obertan. As it happens, Smalling was not selected for Fulham which allowed me to watch the full reserve match.
As most of you will be aware, we signed Obertan for £3million from Bordeaux in the summer of 2009. Unfortunately Obertan arrived with a slight back injury which required a three month layoff.
Obertan eventually made his reserve debut (against Oldham Athletic) in October which I was eagerly awaiting. I’d watched YouTube video’s of Obertan and I was very impressed. I know you can’t fully judge a player via YouTube videos, but still… My impressions of Obertan that night were of someone with natural ability. A player armed with flair & skills and passing ability. He could become a good impact substitute this season. If required he is the player that can come off the bench for the last twenty minutes or so to change a game. I greatly anticipated his full debut for United.
Obertan’s first team debut came in United’s Carling Cup encounter against Barnsley. His performance that night did nothing to change my mind regarding his abilities. However, let’s say his Old Trafford debut wasn’t exactly the best… With virtually his first touch he ran the ball out of play and then later missed a real sitter, an open goal. I think nerves got the better of Obertan that night, he looked extremely nervous which is understandable when playing in front of 76, 000 fans for the first time. Some players take playing in front of large stadiums like a duck to water whilst other s struggle. Obviously you would prefer a player not to be affected, but I have no problem with a player initially showing nerves as long as it’s only a game or two.
Signing Obertan raised a few question marks from his former manager at Bordeaux (and ex-United player and perhaps a future United manager when Fergie retirees… but that is another matter) Laurent Blanc. Blanc’s suggestion was that Obertan must overcome physiological and mental challenges to fulfil his true potential at United. I wonder whether Blanc is referring to Obertan’s nerves and composure… This is where Sir Alex Ferguson steps in. Fergie is a great man manager and will cajole Obertan to express himself without fear.
Since his first team debut, as with any young player we have seen Obertan be inconsistent. We’ve seen brilliant moments against Wolfsburg and shocking performances against Leeds United.
Obertan possesses the stepovers of a Ronaldo or a Nani. I think he has a good footballing brain – knows when to pass and when to dribble. His passing is also incisive in and around the penalty area. I feel he needs to work on his crossing and perhaps improve his work rate when the opposition have the ball. Obertan is very raw and is by no means the finished article; training with top players at United on a daily basis will no doubt aid and improve Obertan.
Obertan is a bright lad and he speaks good English. He was sensational against Everton last night in front of a watching Sir Alex Ferguson and is obviously above reserve level. Hopefully the performance will give Fergie a nudge to select Obertan as a substitute again.
Obertan may become a cheap signing done good.