Sir Alex springs surprise with Stoke swoop
Posted by nickogs20 on January 9, 2009
United have followed up the acquisition of Serbian starlets Zoran Tosic and Adem Ljajic with a surprise move for Stoke City’s 20 year-old right-back Ritchie de Laet on an initial free transfer.
The Belgian right-back didn’t make a single first-team appearance in his 18 months at the Britannia Stadium but has today signed a short-team contract with the Reds, who are believed to have negotiated a deal whereby they will only pay the Potters a transfer fee if certain performance clauses are met – de Laet making a first-team appearance for example, or perhaps signing a new contract.
De Laet arrived at Stoke in the summer of 2007 from United’s feeder club in Belgium, Royal Antwerp, in a deal worth roughly £100,000. The Antwerp native came through the youth ranks at his hometown club and made his debut in the 2006-07 season, making nine appearances in the league and playing alongside (among others) then United loanee Ryan Shawcross, who he would of course go on to team up with at Stoke. The young defender, capable anywhere in a back four but most at home in the right-back berth, clearly did enough to impress Stoke boss Tony Pulis and secure a move to England, but spent most of the 2007/08 season in the reserves. Loan spells at Bournemouth and Wrexham followed in the first half of this season, the latter being cut short so de Laet could undergo a hernia operation.
It’s fair to say that that’s not the sort of CV you’d perhaps expect from a United signing, even one so young. So why have we bought him? I guess the answer to that ultimately is that there’s nothing to lose. De Laet will start life at Old Trafford in the reserve side, where defenders are somewhat thin on the ground at the moment – if nothing else, he’s an extra body for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to call upon in what promises to be a busy second half of the campaign. There is also a connection between de Laet and Solskjaer’s assistant, Warren Joyce – Joyce was manager at Antwerp back in 2006/07 and it was he who gave the youngster his breakthrough at Bosuil.
With that in mind, it’s likely there has been a recommendation of sorts from the Reds’ assistant reserve coach, enough to prompt Sir Alex to take a chance on de Laet. The deal United appear to have in place with Stoke ensures that if de Laet fails to make the grade – which has to be the most likely scenario – they won’t be out of pocket, whilst being presumably only too happy to make certain payments to Stoke if the young Belgian surprises everyone and makes a name for himself in Manchester.
One to watch with interest, with a possible debut being pencilled in for the January 19th reserve clash with Stockport County in the Manchester Senior Cup.
RITCHIE DE LAET PROFILE
Born: 28th November 1988
In: Antwerp, Belgium
Height: 6′ 1″ (186cm)
Weight: 12st 2lbs (77.0kg)
Previous Clubs: Stoke City, Royal Antwerp, Wrexham (loan), Bournemouth (loan)