United's Bebe may not be all he is cracked up to be


WHEN MANCHESTER United made Bebe the most improbable signing of the summer Alex Ferguson argued there was no risk attached, explaining that “sometimes you just have to go with instinct”. Yet a fortnight on, the striker’s career at Old Trafford has got off to a false start, his performances in training deemed so poor he was not even considered for a reserve fixture last night.

Bebe, signed from the Portuguese club Vitoria de Guimaraes for €7.4 million, was conspicuously absent when United’s second team took on the Elite Squad – Manchester City’s new name for their reserves – in Hyde. This was supposed to be the first chance for Ferguson to see the 20-year-old in match action but the United manager reconsidered after discussion with the reserves’ coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The first disappointment for Bebe may not be entirely unexpected given the strange circumstances of the transfer. After an undistinguished spell at the Portuguese Third Division club Estrala da Amadora he was available on a free transfer seven weeks ago, but United did not sign the player, affiliated to the influential agent Jorge Mendes, until after he had joined Guimaraes, paying the full €9 million buy-out clause.

On top of that, Ferguson subsequently admitted Bebe was the first player he had signed in 24 years as manager at Old Trafford without seeing him play or watching him on video. Instead, the Scot said he had taken the word of scouts as well as Portugal’s manager, Carlos Queiroz, formerly his assistant at Old Trafford. “It was one of those decisions that had to be made quickly, so I made it quickly,” Ferguson said. “I don’t think it’s a risk.”

According to the United manager, Real Madrid and Benfica were also interested in the striker but after the big build-up, the Guardian has established that the first impressions of Bebe have been below expectations. In particular, his touch and control has not been of the standard the club demands – hence his absence from a reserve fixture that saw Anderson make his comeback after six months out with a knee injury. It is understood there have been meetings in which the coaches have expressed misgivings about how long it might be before Bebe can challenge for a first-team place consistently.

The hope at Old Trafford is that he will improve once he is fitter and more confident. Bebe was always identified as a player for the future and Ferguson already has Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen, Javier Hernandez and Federico Macheda in attack.

Ironically, Bebe has been lined up to make his first appearance for his country against England in an Under-21 European Championship qualifier on September 3rd.

Guardian Service