Could this signing be exactly what United need?

Question mark

AUTHOR: – Doron

Are Manchester United lacking a midfield spark? – It was a question posed by a BBC tactical blog after the defeat against Wolves last month. The idea of a spark, or creative midfielder in the United side has been something that’s bugged me for a while. I’ve never been convinced it’s what we need and with that in mind I plan to make a potentially surprising transfer suggestion.

For me there are two reasons as to why United’s central midfield area has been talked about with grave concern this year. The first, put simply is a lack of goals scored from this part of the team – only 7 in total. In reality, this isn’t something that’s suddenly just happened. That is a lower total than past years but since the 2004/05 season and the days where the Paul Scholes my lord he scores goals chant was regularly sung, no central midfielder has come close to double figures with Fletcher and Carrick both averaging a goal every 13 games in their Manchester United career (NB Gibson so far averages a goal every 6 games – the closest of the current CMs to Scholes’ a goal every 4.5 games).

The second reason, I believe, lies in our competitors. Arsenal have Nasri, Wilshere and Fabregas; Chelsea have Lampard; Man City have Silva; Liverpool have Meireles and Spurs have Modric and Van der Vaart. United have, erm, Carrick? I don’t have a problem with that. However, the media have United constantly linked to attacking midfielders, creative players who also score goals. The perception therefore is that due to the links and the fact our opponents have a certain type of player, United must also have this kind of player.

It doesn’t bother me though. United don’t have to conform to a certain trend in football. All of those teams have a common theme – they don’t play a 4-4-2. By contrast, United’s preferred formation is and has almost always been a 4-4-2 or a variant of that formation. I should add – formations written down by a series of numbers are somewhat overrated; in reality on a pitch they’re so fluid and versatile that they never quite turn out to be exactly as the numbers represent. That said, it’s safe to say that United like to play with four midfielders and two strikers.

Unlike many fans, I don’t think that an attacking midfielder needs to be signed. United have always relied on flair and goals from their wingers – it’s a proven formula at our club. What I do think needs to happen, is the release of some of our more creative players. Namely, Michael Carrick.

Oddly, despite wishing to see Carrick removed from his deeper role at present, I’ve praised it before. I think Carrick has done a very solid job for United this year – he isn’t a player who should be put in a defensive role with the duty of winning the ball and shifting it on accurately to the next player. The ‘old’ Carrick of 4 years ago played higher up the pitch as a player who would create chances, get within shooting distance (and shoot), and be a reliable retainer of possession.

The change in his role is strikingly obvious. Showing his passing from a game against Watford four seasons ago and comparing it with him against Aston Villa this year just shows how much higher he used to play for most of the game:

Carrick passing vs. Watford in 2006/07

Carrick passing vs. Aston Villa in 2010/11

It’s very clear to see the cluster of passes made in the final 40 yards of the opposition half in 2006/07 – whereas against Villa this season there is no such pattern or regularity of passing that high up the pitch.

Few would argue against the fact that Carrick can be a very good creative midfielder. The only other player in the squad who could do this defensive role is Owen Hargreaves; and with him injured and the club not spending any money on a Hargreaves-esqe player the responsibility has been handed to Carrick. Despite doing a decent enough job, Carrick is better with more freedom – with the license to roam and pick out the cutting passes.

I’m not aware of an occasion this blog has pinpointed a specific player to sign – rather it has always backed our current squad, and will continue to do so. I though, am going to break from tradition and suggest who I would like the club to sign. My suggestion is a replacement for Carrick in the defensive role; someone who can tackle and pass; someone who would free-up Carrick to play higher up the pitch as well as potentially helping other players such as Anderson to settle into a higher position (he too has been asked to play deep far too often).

For me, any signing who has to come in and play in the first team immediately really needs to have Premier League experience. There are lots of examples of central midfielders (and players in other positions) joining from abroad and taking time to settle and learn the game. My other concern with any central midfield signing is age. I would be disappointed if United spent big money on a central midfielder aged 21-15 as I would much rather see a product of our Academy given an opportunity first. I don’t want any signing hindering or stunting their progress. In Cleverley, Pogba, Morrison, Tunnicliffe and to a lesser extent, Matty James, United have some very talented young central midfielders. Arguably none of them are ready to be a fixture in the starting XI however they all have a big 18-24 months coming up where hopefully they’ll start to push towards the first team.

With that in mind, my suggested signing is now at the peak of his career. I’m suggesting him with only a couple of years at the club in mind – a bit like the signing of Laurent Blanc (however my suggestion is younger). The player would be perfect to do a disciplined defensive role and wouldn’t hinder the progress of our younger players – in actual fact they could probably learn from him. For me, he’s one of the few true box-to-box midfielders in the league today and is often credited with being a very strong leader.

My suggestion is Scott Parker.

I’ve been impressed with Parker for some time and have long believed he moved to Chelsea too early in his career. His flop at Chelsea has lead many to believe he can’t hack it at a big club although considering he was only there for one season, that seems like an unfair judgement. When Keane was finishing his career, Parker was one of the names being mentioned as his replacement but nothing materialised. Unlike other names being mooted, I don’t think he’d cost a lot of money. He did sign a new five year deal this season but West Ham could still get relegated and a sale would seem likely anyway. Even if West Ham survive, they may be tempted to part company with Parker for a not-so extraordinary fee. Certainly if United came calling, Parker would be unlikely to want West Ham to reject a bid.

I don’t believe that a United signing has to necessarily be a big-name. I’ve written recently about just how tough it is to find the right central midfielder to sign – I used the jigsaw analogy whereby pointed out that the players have to fit next to the ones around them. Simply picking a name out at random doesn’t necessarily work and doesn’t mean that because big famous-named player “x” was fantastic at club “y” that he’ll be equally as good, if not better at United.

Aside from his age, value and the fact I think he’d free up Carrick & Co, Parker’s a very complete midfielder. His goals to games ratio isn’t great but that’s not what his game is about. He’s a very good passer and rarely gives the ball away. To show this, I’ve picked his passing from two losing games this season, away at Arsenal and United this season – games where you’d expect his passing to be poorer than average.

Parker passing vs. Arsenal

Parker passing vs. Man United

His passing success rate of 89% vs. Arsenal and 93% vs. Man United is mightily impressive. These two games show him playing in a restrictive defensive role much like Carrick has been playing this season. Parker, is however as I mentioned able to be versatile and go box-to-box too.

Parker passing vs. Tottenham

Parker passing vs. Wigan

These further two examples from this season show a player comfortable playing all over the pitch and someone who looks for a positive forward pass. The other side to Parker’s game is his grit and desire to win the ball back. He reads the game well and is an excellent tackler.

Parker tackling vs. Wigan

Parker tackling vs. Tottenham

It doesn’t matter who the opposition are, Parker in an almost old-fashioned but controlled style is always looking to engage in physical contact in order to win the ball back. I believe he represents everything we’ve been missing in Owen Hargreaves and would as I’ve said a few times help some of our other players to rediscover their creative touch.

Every signing is a gamble. However, I don’t think United are in a position to take huge risks at the moment. Changes will happen when Messrs Scholes and Giggs do eventually bring their phenomenal careers to a close. The changes however don’t necessarily all have to come from outside the club. United are a team with a proud history of youth football and therefore in my opinion it only needs a small short-term change or addition to prepare for the arrival of some of the new young stars at the club. Scott Parker, would, for me be that perfect player to help the side rediscover some creativity whilst slotting right into our jigsaw and completing the puzzle for now.

Please do share your thoughts, suggest alternative signings, agree with me or tell me I’m bonkers in the comments section below!

AUTHOR: – Doron

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14 Comments on Could this signing be exactly what United need?

  1. Another interesting article; and I think you may have convinced me about Parker. The biggest point you’re making here is the ‘stop-gap’ argument; i.e. finding someone to fill the 24 month void between Scholes’ retirement and the new trio of Pogba, Tunnicliffe and Morrisson becoming regulars in the first team squad.

    I’ve admired Parker this season, and I’ve been interested in watching him play since Redknapp started talking about him during last summer’s break. His recent form as been fantastic, largely because of the reintroduction of Hitsperger as his partner-in-crime in the midfield, and I also think it shows how well he plays when properly ‘paired’ in midfield, ala your jig-saw theory. I could see him working well with any of the current CMs at United, playing a holding role for 2 years and thereafter becoming a ‘squad player’, or in the slim possibility that Hargreaves finds his pre-injury form over the next 12 months, competing with him for the deeper CM position.

    The problem I see with this is that his new 5-year deal will make him pricey if West Ham stay up. Furthermore, I think Fergie may decide to play Cleverley in a deeper role next season when needed, in the same vein that Jack Wilshere has been fielded for Arsenal in the absense of Song. I don’t see the need for Ashley Cole but I have a feeling that he’ll be United’s signing instead of a deep-lying midfielder.

  2. Suprising to see not many has mentioned Parker is rather injury prone.

    I’m absolutely fine with it if we do sign Parker though.

    Adept at passing and great in tackling. Probably not world class but nevertheless a valuable addition to our squad.

    Since we have virtually lost Hargo (not the same player as Parker I know).

    Would even say he’s slightly better than Fletch, in terms of quality.

    Fingers crossed we can get Schweinsteiger . Am a huge fan. And he can play in so many different positions.

    And honestly, I do not think he would find it hard to play in the EPL.

    Physique: Check.
    Speed of thought: Check.
    Abilities are what United are looking for: Check.

    As for contracts?
    Hopefully, the contract extension is just for Bayern to get a fee.

    Whatever happens or whoever comes, I’m sure we’ll have a much improved squad next season.

    Current squad’s quality is of domestic quality, not European/ International quality.

  3. I think an idea of a defensive central midfielder would tick the box in the way that united play. Using their attacking strengths in the wide areas of the pitch with two ball playing (passing) midfielders.

    One name that has not been touted around is a certain national captain, with premier league expereince whom was rumoured with united when he previously played for West Ham.

    Scott Parker moved from Chelsea to fill his boots. Even though Parker is a genuine shout Mascherano even though he’s an ex l’fool player would provide that world class option for approx 20 mill.

  4. @DJ

    I think that’s somewhat unrealistic – Welbeck and Cleverley both deserve a shot at the first team next year especially if Owen is set to leave. Morrison shouldn’t go out on loan at all due to his personality, it’s in our interests to keep him close. Tunnicliffe could do with a short championship loan though. I don’t think there’ll be such a drastic clear out this summer really and I would only sell Gibson if he’s replace – the squad numbers are vital

  5. @DJ this is like reading something off Football Manager! I’d be amazed to see potentially four new faces in the starting XI next year. I guess it’s possible but the team really doesn’t need such an overhaul and in reality that just tends not to happen!

  6. @Coolidge, Durban

    I’m not saying that Pogba, Tunnicliffe and Morrison will become regulars but they are heading towards pushing the first team and with that in mind a stop-gap signing is what I’d like to see. All three may never make it, in which case a stop-gap would be a risk – something I actually failed to acknowledge in the blog.

    I agree that Parker’s new deal could see him deemed pricey if WHUFC stay up but if United came calling Parker would be unlikely to say know and WHUFC probably wouldn’t stand in his way.

    Cleverley in a deeper role is interesting, I think his versatility would be a big bonus for our midfield – much like we’ve seen Park this year.

    I presume you meant Ashley Young as opposed to Ashley Cole and actually for the right price (£10-15m) I would like Young. I think he’d be a good squad player and certainly depth/competition on the wings is needed

  7. agree 100% parker is fantastic player, and i was thinking about him for a while now too. he’s exactly what we need, all these people who posturing about sneijder and kaka is forgetting veron.

  8. @mancunian red – do you really would like to have such a cunt like fabregas?? what player maybe good but his personality is out of order and defenetly not for us. cmmon man

  9. We need a midfielder with good goals per games ratio. Passing is not our problem, buying scott parker would mean another in a list of players who can pass but lack creative spark, either trust anderson or a younger player to do the job or sign someone new. Carrick is not creative enough. Scholes can’t stay on top for 90mins, fletcher is a holding midfielder. Parker offers very little more than the afformentioned

  10. Doron u are fukin obsest with Parker and I have absolutely no idea why!?!?!?!? I don’t get it! He’s old as Fuck and imo not the player we need and why even talk about Parker when he’s just signed 4 Spurs. He’s not United class simple as! I’m sick of hearing all this Parker bollox! Carrick is a great player and there is nothing wrong with him! We have Kids coming through in the form of Tunnicliffe, Ravel, Pogba, Larnell, Oli Norwood, Robbie Brady, Davide Petrucii so why even bring up Parker! Fucking hell man! Sick of this Parker talk! BORE OFFFFFFFFFFF! He’s soooooooooo fukin AVERAGE!!!!!! BORING as FUCK AS WELL!!!!!

  11. @Max without going into details, we need a stop-gap solid midfielder. He’s been nothing short of outstanding at Spurs and would have brought some much needed “balls” that our midfield lacks at the moment.

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