Fumbling Falcao endures fall from grace at Manchester United

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Updated: March 14, 2015 12:26:47 PM

Colombia international Radamel Falcao was one of the most sought-after strikers in world football just a few months ago.

Falcao, Manchester United, EPLColombian striker Falcao’s loan move to play for Manchester United has turned sour. (Reuters)

As Radamel Falcao toiled in a youth-team game for Manchester United this week, it was hard to imagine that the Colombia international was one of the most sought-after strikers in world football just a few months ago.

With the transfer deadline looming last summer, Falcao – then at Monaco – appeared as though he’d clinched his big move to Spanish giant and European champion Real Madrid. ”(hashtag)HalaMadrid Dream come true’ came a post on Falcao’s official Twitter account that was soon deleted.

Manchester City and Arsenal were also linked with the striker, who eventually chose to join United – adding another high-profile name to the team’s star-studded attack.

But the loan move to Old Trafford has turned sour. Falcao has scored only four goals this season, and has been an unused substitute in United’s last two games despite Robin van Persie being out injured. On Tuesday, he played 71 minutes for United’s under-21 team in front of few spectators, with the Guardian newspaper reporting that he was sluggish and twice blocked goalbound shots from a teammate.

United manager Louis van Gaal has talked up the influence of Falcao on the rest of the squad. And he denied Friday that playing the Colombian for what was basically United’s reserve team was humiliating.

”I have read that it was a humiliation, but I don’t think so,” Van Gaal said. ”It is not a humiliation. It is a professional attitude of the management, the club but especially also for the player.”

It still remains some fall from grace for a player whose absence from Colombia’s World Cup squad last year because of injury plunged the South American nation into mourning. Such was the regard for Falcao that Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, checked in to see the striker after a knee operation, which he failed to recover from in time to make the tournament in Brazil.

”Every player needs match rhythm,” Van Gaal said, defending his choice to put Falcao in the under-21 team. ”That is why we pay a lot for the players, so I think it’s normal that they play football also for us. That can be also in the second team.

”Falcao did not play his best match in the second team but he has tried his utmost best.”

Falcao has shown glimpses of his class for United, but is a long way short of the player who terrorized Chelsea’s defense in scoring a hat trick for Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup in 2012. He left Atletico in the summer of 2013 and joined Monaco for a reported 60 million euros ($78 million).

At Atletico, Falcao scored 70 goals in 91 appearances, and before then netted 72 in 87 Porto games.

Falcao isn’t the only big name struggling at United.

Angel di Maria has faded after an encouraging start to his career at Old Trafford and after being substituted to back-to-back games, he was sent off late in a 2-1 loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Monday.

The Argentina midfielder will miss Sunday’s Premier League match against Tottenham, which is a tussle between two teams looking for a top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League.

United is currently fourth, two points ahead of Liverpool and three clear of Spurs.

Van Persie is missing again because of his ankle injury and Van Gaal said defender Marcos Rojo is a doubt with a groin problem.

”Rojo is a little bit injured and you have to take care of the health of players,” Van Gaal said. ”He has a minor problem. Maybe I take him out of the game against Tottenham but I have to decide.”

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