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Sunday 24 September 2017

John Giles: Old Trafford looks a perfect fit for Ireland

Ferguson's the man to get troubled star's head right with Corkman at crossroads

MANCHESTER City haven't wasted any time. A wheel of big money transfer stories now revolves around Eastlands and there's no doubt that they will spend, and spend big, this summer.

This time last year Joleon Lescott was the man in Manchester City's sights and, although it took them some time to execute, their plan to sign a player who was at that time one of England's brightest defensive prospect eventually worked.

David Moyes was at the wrong end of the Lescott drama, and this summer it looks like Martin O'Neill will have to sit and suffer while Manchester City throw their financial weight around.

In football terms, Manchester City's focus on Milner as a target is fair enough. He's a great lad with many fine qualities, and maybe he's even worth the £24m which has apparently been offered.

But it signals an intention on the part of Manchester City's owners to throw some serious money at the team again. The other big transfer story doing the rounds suggests that they are ready to outbid Real Madrid for David Luiz.

All of this tells us that the notion of moderation in transfer fees and wages is certainly not on the agenda at the moment, and that will come as a major source of frustration for Alex Ferguson in particular, who might find himself frozen out of the English market by bids like the £24m Manchester City are prepared to pay for Milner.

One of the big questions any manager must ask when he's ready to spend money is whether the player will improve his team, but I'm not so sure Milner would have that kind of impact.

As I said, he a very good and honest player, and he's been playing in central midfield this season. He can play up front or even out wide, which makes him adaptable.

But what Manchester City need more than anything else is Paul Scholes when he was 10 years younger. Even the current vintage would vastly improve their team. Milner is no Paul Scholes and never will be.

Funnily enough, Stephen Ireland has a much better chance of stepping into those kind of boots. If Mancini can figure out how to manage him, he could become the type of player who might even get you to a Champions League final.



unfolded

I don't know Stephen Ireland and, like everyone else, I've seen the way his career has unfolded and the numerous scrapes he's had with managers along the way.

There's no doubt he's a singular young lad who has some odd ideas about the world, but he wouldn't be the first, and he won't be the last, to make his personal habits irrelevant because he's such a good footballer.

I noticed that Ireland was in the newspapers talking about his future at Eastlands, and this is part of a clear pattern with the lad. He has fallen out with virtually every manager he's worked with, and the oddest example of that was when he had a big go at Mark Hughes, months after the Welshman had departed.

If he has problems then they always seem to be someone else's fault, and Mancini is on the record saying that Ireland has a great future if he can get his head right.

During the spell last season when Ireland looked world class, it struck me that there was still another 40pc in him -- plenty of room to refine his skills and learn his trade.

He showed signs of a distinct change in his attitude and looked committed to getting the most out of his talent. He worked on his own fitness in his own time and seemed very settled and comfortable with his lot.

A few more seasons in the same vein with a manager who knows how to handle him and I've little doubt that we would see Ireland emerge as a really significant player.

But he's at a crossroads now. If Manchester City chose to sell him, and the speculation suggests that Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger might both be interested, it would place another question mark over his long-term worth.



presence

I've always thought that Old Trafford would be the right place for Ireland and Manchester United the team that would benefit most from his presence.

All managers believe they can cure a maverick of bad habits and channel his energy onto a football pitch, but Ferguson is one of the very few who can actually do it.

I think a few years under the careful guidance of Ferguson would be the perfect answer to the ongoing issues Ireland seems to have with his managers.

For Ferguson, successful man-management would deliver a player who could have as big an impact as Scholes on his team -- and maybe even a new beginning for Ireland as an Irish international.

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