United’s central midfield – is a signing really needed?

Author: Doron

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It seems that this will be the fifth summer in a row that United have failed to invest in arguably the most crucial area of any team, central midfield. Not since Anderson and Hargreaves were brought in have additions been made – Cleverley has emerged and Giggs has redefined his role but otherwise the personnel remain unchanged. For many United fans, this has been something of an ongoing problem and going into the summer, once again, the hope was that we’d strengthen. Having spent close to £40m so far, a central midfield signing seems unlikely, but why?

Whether you think United don’t use the ball well enough or that United get bullied, one thing a lot of United fans agree on is that central midfield needs a signing. Someone who does something different to what we already have. There’s been this problem for a while, but it truly got highlighted when Hargreaves got injured. I’m in the ‘get me a dominant figure’ category but plenty think that we need someone a bit more creative in a deeper role.

The central midfield problem is that there have been too many instances where United’s midfield are unable to control a game, notably the bigger games. When facing a three man central midfield, our two are often overrun but yet when we’ve switched to a three, the balance just isn’t there, we haven’t had the players to make it work.

Scholes’ retirement last year should have seen United go into the market to find a replacement. It didn’t have to be a like-for-like but another body was needed. Luck would see those who remained get injured and eventually, United’s midfield took a turn for the better when the Ginger Prince returned. United will, one day need to replace Scholes and the longer we prolong that, the longer it’ll take for a replacement to settle and work with those around him.

This summer, United have bought a ‘number 10’, a striker and a promising all-rounder who we’re going to try and convert into a central midfielder. As in the past, no sign of a central midfielder. Yet, when you look at the squad going into the season, you can almost understand why. Whilst quality in depth is questionable, the numbers are alright with at least 6 or 7 central midfield options:

Anderson – entering season six it says a lot that he’s not yet first choice. However, a full pre-season’s been completed without any injury, a promising sign. Whispers that his knee(s) aren’t ever going to be alright will be put to bed for now and he’ll hope to rekindle the excellent partnership he had with Cleverley a year ago. Another year of injuries and/or mediocrity could well see the end of his United career.

Carrick – the most dependable of players. Like a metronome he sets the tempo for what goes on around him. Still, people fail to appreciate that passing both backwards and sideways is better than unnecessary risky balls forwards. His job is neither to score nor intimidate, he’ll quietly get on with intercepting the ball and making well-timed challenges before distributing it on to a teammate with license to take more risks. He remains vital for both club and country.

Scholes – the grand old master. Turns 38 this year and won’t play ever game but still adds touches of brilliance and uses a ball like no one else can. He and Carrick worked together superbly last season, both freeing the other up at times and ensured that United rarely gave the ball away. Keeping him fresh will be important.

Cleverley – so much promise and talent. Tom gives hope to all late-blooming footballers that with patience and hard work you can do it. He’ll want to avoid the injury-plagued tag that has been associated with him since Kevin Davies decided to crunch him (or even further back if you remember his Watford loan). He’s looked sharp at the Olympics, in pre-season and for England. This is a big year for Tom and it wouldn’t be surprising if he plays a big part now he’s fit again.

Fletcher – poor Fletch. He’s lost a lot of weight and despite 30 minutes at Aberdeen suggesting he’s on the road to recovery, it’ll be a while before he’s ready for the first team in competitive games, if ever.

Giggs – reformed as a central midfielder, he tries to be a calming, creative type. The bursts of pace and trickery remain but something hasn’t felt right for a year. He still provides assists and influences key moments but the consistency is no longer there and at times he’s a liability. Like Scholes, to get the best out of him, he needs managing.

Kagawa and Jones – neither naturally a central midfielder but both might be asked to play there. Already in pre-season we’ve seen Kagawa in a central midfield two and he did ok, but he seems wasted there as he comes to life in the final third. Jones as something of a destroyer is something that intrigues people but we’ve only seen it a few times – notably with Carrick, and it worked.

Tunnicliffe, Powell, Lingard, Cole and Petrucci – all talented kids who may be around this season. Ideally the four would go on loan but should they stay, they’ll probably get Capital One Cup action. Hard to predict how Powell will be used but he’s shown he’s not intimidated by the move to United and at 18 his development will be interesting to watch. The others have been around the first team for a while and some went on tour – Cole, Lingard and Petrucci are good technical players whilst Tunnicliffe is a brute – he’s different and that excites me.

As you can see, numbers-wise, the club are well stocked. The issue is that two of them need managing; one may not play again; and a further two have missed a lot of football due to a variety of injuries. When it comes down to it, Carrick’s the only one you’d say with some certainty could play every game next season, based on the past.

The issue I have is that they’re all a bit too similar and nice. The trend in world football right now is to have possession players but still every team needs a ball winner who’s a bit mean or a player who simply dominates. Barcelona have Busquets and Mascherano; City have Yaya Toure; Chelsea had (they still have him but he’s lost something) Essien; Arsenal have Song… etc. I’m perfectly happy with the numbers but I’d like someone different, someone at their peak, and someone who’d allow us to play a three man midfield with balance.

Entering into the new season, I can understand why we’ve not added to this part of the pitch. I’m not happy about it because I don’t think we have the quality-quantity-variety balance right but you can see why other areas have been addressed first. Ferguson and the club’s failure to address a central midfield issue will not go away but in a year, when Scholes and Giggs are likely retired, they’ll have no choice but to make a move for someone, albeit a few seasons too late.

Having done some brilliant summer business so far it would be amazing to think that it might be capped off by a central midfielder but once again we’re going to try and get away with what we have. Needs and wants get mixed up a lot but providing those who’ve been unlucky with injuries finally have some luck, the need for a central midfielder right now but just become a want.

13 Comments on United’s central midfield – is a signing really needed?

  1. I think everyone is missing a biiiiiiiig point about our midfield. Manchester united does not need another central midfielder. central midfield (Tom, Ando, Shinji and Fletch if he gts better). Attacking mid (Shinji). Deep lying creative midfield ( Paul, and Carrick to a certain extent). Defensive midfield (None)

  2. We have to assume that Rooney and RVP will play up front. So Kagawa would presumably play jst behind them as an attacking midfielder. If we continue to play 2 wingers this would leave only one place between Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson, Scholes, Giggs and hopefully Fletcher. There are also 2 or 3 excellent prospects in the reserves for when Giggs and Scholes go. Unless an absolutely world class midfielder becomes available we should leave well alone.

  3. Man.united need lad like,tiote or cabaye from Newcastle to play our blocking 4. just like Yaya toure did for man shitty against chelsea last sunday and make them to triumph.also oviedo or cissokho in the left back.all this players has two or three years left on their contract.so united what waitin for not only RvP can do it all along but with the assist from other new lads.like the time of,van nisterooy,ronaldo and so many past legend.

  4. I think we have failed to strengthen our weakest area LB and LM evra and young are inconsistant as they come really hope we bring in a new signing in these areas since Fabio, Brady, Petrucci etc. are not first team yet.

  5. i think united school go for tony kroos becose he is young and a central midfielder who can play as scholes play

  6. I totaly agree that united lack a warrior in the centre of the park in a simular molde to Hargreaves. I have watched a lot of Daniele De Rossi throughout his career and would love to see him in a United shirt. Sadly however I fear that like a cetain Francesco Totti he will ramain at Roma for the rest of his career. Looking at other options Javi Martinez has gone to Bayern which leaves Tiote however we have already enquired about him and Newcastle are reported to have quoted us £25 million, he is not worth that amount of money. Other options such as Vidal and Marchisio are unrealistic and after seeing Yann M’vila play on a number of occasion I cannot for the life of me see what the big fuss is about with him, he’s lazy and not much of a difference in quality with Anderson. So the only other player I can think of is Alex Song and if Arsenal are willing to let him go for £15 million all I can say is Fergie Fergie sign him up.

  7. Yes we do realy need a Central Midfielder because everyone knows that Carrick isn’t just good enough and we need a strong person who can carry out the duty, then we will also have enough as substitute and also in case of any emergency .

  8. Doran please elaborate on “brute” about Tunnicliff.

    I thought it was very interesting the Gary Neville starting line up which was about this morning on twitter. Im sure it was RT by his brother…….anyways it had Rooney as mid field and you know what there could be some mileage in this. I know its been tried but not with a Kagawa type player around him and I cant remember if the times this has been tried whether Cleverley was playing as well.

  9. @steve davies – sure, and thanks for the comment, Steve.

    Ryan’s a rough player and a tad reckless. He likes to impose himself on games, make crunching tackles and is very much the antithesis of what coaches are teaching these days. That’s not to say he’s rubbish on the ball but he does a lot of his best work when the opposition have it.

    This was something I wrote about Ryan for another blog – http://www.byfarthegreatestteam.com/posts/ryan-tunnicliffe/

  10. I’d love to see a midfield 3
    There are 12 positions in my table below but that is so you can choose to go with a 3 man midfield with a central attacking or defensive player.

    Van Persie/Hernandez

    Young/Welbeck Kagawa/Rooney Nani/Valencia

    Giggs/Anderson Cleverley/Scholes

    Evra Evans/Vidic Ferdinand/Smalling Rafael

  11. I find the CM problems quite puzzling along with SAF choice of formations contradictory.
    Without picking out the short fallings people see in individuals the formation contradicts the personnel.
    In the last few seasons we have migrated back to 442 from the 433/451 implemented (especially in big games & Europe) between 2001-2010.
    In my eye for 442 to work you need a couple of powerful or dominant players who can not only win the ball back but cover the space and support the front men, therefore it isn’t surprising when at times we are out muscled in the middle of the park especially against 3 man midfields.
    For my money the players available would be ideal in a 3 man midfield, Carrick, Scholes or Jones holding with more mobile attacking players like Anderson, Cleverly, Valencia Giggs & Kagawa playing either side taking up the other 2 berths.
    I also find SAF comments about not needing CM players who can tackle a little odd considering we are going give Fletcher every chance to get back & why bother nurturing Tunnicliffe if his main attribute is not required.
    If we are to persist with 442 which is evident with purchase of Van Persie then we really are going to need a Bryan Robson, Roy Keane or at least a Paul Ince in the team.
    If we switch to the 433/451 system then we will be OK as we are injury permitting.
    Right now though I cannot fathom the direction of the team either personnel wise or tactics wise. We acquire Kagawa and assume 433 is on the way then we sign RVP.
    Options are good but can anyone actually name our best team, i don’t reckon SAF can either which is probably why we are losing more and more big games.

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