Why Christian Pulisic on Manchester United Is Great for the United States
Captain America might be heading to Old Trafford. That's a good thing.
In the United States, Christian Pulisic is hailed as the savior of American soccer. In the United Kingdom, he struggles to find playing time.
The 23-year-old forward has played just 30 minutes in Chelsea’s first two fixtures this year (a win over Everton and a fiercely-contested draw with Tottenham), and came on as a late substitution in each appearance. This morning, The Athletic broke some news that EPL experts have anticipated since early summer — a transfer to another club is imminent.
And that club could be the embattled Manchester United, which is off to potentially the very worst start of its illustrious history. United sits at the bottom of the relegation zone after a loss to Brighton and a 4-0 thrashing on the road at Brentford. The team is in desperate need of…pretty much everything, but it could definitely make some use of the energetic American, who tied for fourth on Chelsea with six goals lasts season, despite nursing injuries and weathering limited playing time.
Pulisic is reportedly “frustrated” with that playing time, and prefers a transfer to United. Simply put, any American with even a casual rooting interest in US Soccer performing well at the World Cup should be rooting for this deal to happen.
The United States plays its first match in Qatar on November 21st, against Wales. They’ll play England that Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), and then Iran the following Tuesday. If Pulisic gets his wish, and becomes a Red Devil before the transfer window closes on September 1st, he’ll likely get to start at least a dozen matches before playing in the World Cup.
In a sport that so often relies on a combination of accrued form and confidence, such a run of experience would prove critical. Despite his youth, Pulisic is the de facto leader of US Soccer. He displays it on the field — he has 21 international goals in 51 appearances since 2016 — and off the field, too. When attendance was light at a friendly versus the Moroccan side in June, Pulisic urged Americans to up their support. Wouldn’t it be odd, then, if Captain America comes to Qatar having logged fewer professional minutes in 2022 then all of his teammates?
Of course, the fact that we’re even writing about this sort of an issue is rarefied air for an American soccer player. Pulisic is from a small town in Pennsylvania. No male from this side of the pond — for all of our nation’s youth leagues, tournaments and collegiate powerhouses — has ever made it this far before. Pulisic has now been a productive piece in the German Bundesliga and the English Premier League. He’s the highest-paid North American ever. He’s competing for playing time with the fastest, hardest-working, most technical footballers in the world.
The best case scenario for Pulisic, and the American fans counting on him, would be a loan to United. It’s one of the most important clubs on the planet, no matter its goal differential at the moment, and helping the team climb out of this muck would only further elevate his profile. (This move would also allow Premier League-subscribed Americans to continue to watch him on Peacock…if he ended up at Atletico Madrid and Juventus, which are also rumored to be interested in his services, Pulisic’s day-to-day relevance would likely fade a bit — and he might still have to compete for playing time.)
Could he return to Chelsea once that loan is complete? It’s definitely possible. The London side will have plenty of questions to answer in the meantime, though, most of them hinging on German gaffer Thomas Tuchel’s vision for the club. The Guardian reported last week that Tuchel “doesn’t trust” Pulisic on the pitch in big moments, which would suggest that if Pulisic finds success elsewhere, the club will sell him and officially move on.
Regardless of where he ends up, Pulisic’s difficulty in finding consistent starts puts into perspective the enormous mountain US Soccer still needs to climb to be truly competitive on the global stage. While the national team now has players competing all over the world (there are six others across the EPL), our chosen son is being asked to lead the Americans against all his superstar European teammates — many of whom struggle to find playing time on their international teams.
The best way to prepare for that task? By not sitting on the bench every Sunday afternoon. Oh, and regular training with Cristiano Ronaldo should help, too.
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