28/10/2009 12:11, Report by Ben Hibbs
High hopes for Obertan
I don't want to go overboard after one game, but Gabriel Obertan's debut in the Carling Cup victory over Barnsley was full of promise.
United’s fans took to him; his sharp touch, speed of movement and willingness to attack defenders from either flank bodes well. Reporters after the game neglected to ask Sir Alex for his views on the Frenchman’s bow, but I’m sure he'll be mightily pleased. Obertan’s summer on the sidelines was due to a back problem that went undetected at Bordeaux, an injury that hampered his development in the last 18 months.
United don't jump into signings blindly. In fact, Brian McClair - in charge of United’s Academy - told me he’d seen Gabby aged 17, was very impressed and the Reds kept tabs on him from then on. His transfer surprised a few people in France who thought he wasn't ready for a big move. But if his injury problems are now behind him he can really kick on - all the signs are he's ready to step up. He’s still only 20, so it'll take time and he’ll need to learn – fast – about the demands of the Premier League, but physically he looks up to it.
His recent re-emergence is very well-timed because there'll be ample opportunities to impress. Antonio Valencia has shone in recent weeks and is possibly first-choice winger. But he won’t play every week. Nani hasn’t nailed down the other wide position, Ryan Giggs will be rested and used centrally, while Ji-sung Park is injured.
Obertan has looked good in the Reserves, but his fast-tracking to the first-team indicates he’s too good for that level. With his mostly steady, occasionally eye-catching performance at Oakwell, he’s given the boss plenty to think about. And, personally, the speed and directness of Valencia and Obertan on either flank, to me, has an exciting ring to it.