One of the most telling signs of Manchester United's season so far, is that we need a defensive ball-winning midfielder. That was first evident for me to see in the game against Arsenal strangely enough.
For a short 10 minute spell Arsenal had the ball and were in control slowly threading balls through the United midfield crisply and it made for uneasy times for fans. There was no will to try to stop them playing or get tight to them. In Europe United will get punished more so if they fail to break up play and stop teams playing. Thankfully United ran out 8-2 winners that day.
There have been gaps in the static unenergetic Cleverley-less midfield which has been exploited in games hence the reason for Ferguson having to put a 5 man midfield at Anfield. It was torn apart at Old Trafford by David Silva with the assurances of the hard working Gareth Barry behind him and the power horse of Yaya Toure as City romped to a staggering 6-1 win at the home of the champions. Wayne Rooney was even put in midfield for the trip to Everton highlighting Ferguson’s concern which the fans share.
There isn’t a shortage of creativity with Nani, Young, Cleverley and Rooney all capable of a key ball to open up defences it’s to close space fill the gaps and win the ball which is where United falter. Dismiss all the talk that Manchester United need to buy Luka Modric Wesley Sneijder or Mario Gotze the clear indication is that United need a defensive ball winning midfielder. In hindsight Paul Scholes hasn’t been relied on for the past few seasons at Old Trafford and with the surgence of Tom Cleverley a creative midfielder isn’t needed.
The only problem is there is a shortage of candidates for this who would be deemed good enough for Manchester United.
Danielle De Rossi is ideally the man who fits the bill to add tenacity and a bullish mentality to the United midfield. He is a presence, fierce in the tackle, refuses to be bullied and a leader on the pitch. The transfer is unlikely to happen with Danielle De Rossi set to sign a new deal with Roma in the coming weeks.
Yann M’Vila is the other name spouted out as the man for the job but only recently signing a new deal with Rennes would increase his value. He is only 21 years of age but the potential for the French international is huge. If he was to be bought in January (hugely unlikely) he would also be available for the Champions League ties seeing as Rennes are in the Europa League. Again a hugely unlikely scenario nonetheless.
Currently the midfield has huge pressure to produce performances in the quality of Xavi and Iniesta which just isn’t going to happen. That sort of quality and talent isn’t there at present and with players being put in roles their not working best in it even worsens the situation.
What Manchester United need is a real powerhouse tough tackling midfielder snapping at the oppositions heels forcing them into a mistake. Someone who can win the ball and urge the team forward. A leader. Failure to address this issue eventually will see Anderson have a typical Anderson season, Fletcher to have unnoticed average performances and Carrick to come into the side and be criticized for a disciplined good performance. Hoping they all prove me wrong but that’s my prediction.
The fact is Manchester United have arguably replaced Scholes they just haven’t replaced Owen Hargreaves, which is something strange considering the latter’s final three seasons at the club were largely spent on the treatment table.
By Darren Hickey @DHick92