By Chris Myson
For all the names Manchester United have been linked with over the course of the summer transfer window, Alexander Buttner is not one who has featured high on their reported list of targets.
The 23-year-old former Vitesse Arnhem defender completed his switch to Old Trafford for a fee of around €5 million (£3.9m) and put pen to paper on a five-year contract.
With Fabio out on loan at QPR, Patrice Evra is United’s only remaining left-back and throughout the summer Sir Alex Ferguson has been linked with a swoop for Everton's England international Leighton Baines as he chases cover in the full-back position.
The Goodison Park club’s price-tag persuaded the Red Devils away from moving for the England international and that has led Sir Alex to Buttner, a relatively unknown figure on British shores.
Buttner almost joined Southampton in the summer only for a move to fall through due to a dispute over a proportion of the transfer fee being paid to a third party. QPR and Fulham were also credited with an interest in the player, but a move to United does come as a surprise.
Born in Doetinchem, the player joined Vitesse's youth academy from Ajax’s youth system in 2005. He made his first-team debut in 2008 and has gone on to make over 100 Eredivisie appearances since.
It was only last season where he really rose to prominence, producing impressive performances down the left-hand side for Vitesse and then starring as his side won the end-of-season play-offs to qualify for the Europa League.
Those displays saw him named as one of nine uncapped players called up to the Netherlands’ preliminary squad for Euro 2012, although he did not make the final cut as the Oranje plumped for starlet Jetro Willems and experienced campaigner Wilfred Bouma.
A pacey and attacking left-back, he can also play in midfield and did so on occasions last season when Patrick van Aanholt, on loan from Chelsea, filled the left-back spot. Last season he successfully took on penalty-taking duty for Vitesse and became known for his powerful spot-kicks.
Buttner loves to get forward and can provide assists from out wide. Defensively his technique is sound but, worryingly - like many modern full-backs - he often gets too carried away with his rampages forward and caught out as a result. In addition, there are doubts over his ability to perform consistently week in, week out.
Goal.com Netherlands expert Floris Koekenbier believes that despite his progress, the move may be too big a step for Buttner at this stage of his career because he is simply unproven at the highest levels of the game.
He said: “I think Manchester United is a very big step for him, maybe too big because he has only had one very good season in the Eredivisie.
“Although he would certainly have the skills to play at top Dutch clubs like Ajax or PSV, I don’t think Ferguson will choose to use regularly in the United first team, because when Evra is fit, there is no way Buttner can keep the French defender out of the starting XI.
“A move to Southampton would have fit better in his career, and really nobody saw this transfer coming.
“In the future he could be playing for the Dutch team, but that depends on how well Willems will develop.”
It is clear Buttner has been brought in as cover for Evra and to fill a squad role at Old Trafford. With a low transfer fee and no real expectations, there will not be a huge amount of pressure on him early on.
However, Sir Alex clearly has high hopes for the defender in giving him a long-term deal and if he does not show signs of progress and provide a realistic challenge to Evra, a longer-term Old Trafford career may prove difficult, especially with Fabio due to come back into the mix.
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