New summer buys for Man U’s midfield?

Sir Alex Ferguson is continually refining the role of midfield general and who the manager will sign in this key area is the big question for the Premier League champions-elect.

(Getty)

(Getty)

At the start of the season many United followers looked at the central midfield department and felt concern. A potentially fatal lack of depth was the charge. Michael Carrick apart, this group was either yet to convince (Tom Cleverley and Anderson), had questionable fitness (Darren Fletcher), or were too creaky (Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes) to allow United to prosper in the two-pronged assault on domestic and European soil.

Fast forward to the second week of April and with seven games left Ferguson’s band are 12 points clear of Manchester City and a 20th championship is all but secured. Yet United were eliminated from the Champions League at the last-16 stage by Real Madrid, started last week by being knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea and on Monday evening went down 2-1 to City at Old Trafford, with the 39-year-old Giggs toiling at the heart of the midfield.

The reverse to Madrid hinged on Nani’s sending off in the second leg so United count themselves hard done by then. But the defeats at Stamford Bridge and to the champions in particular opened up the old debate about midfield and the particular kind of operator needed.

Ferguson may have to consider up to three new additions for the position in the close season.

Here are some options:

1. Midfield general

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ideal: Bastian Schweinsteiger

Realistic: Daniele De Rossi

At 28, Schweinsteiger has 98 Germany caps, 23 goals and more than 300 appearances for Bayern Munich where he is the vice-captain, and his contract is up in summer 2014. Another potential candidate would be Roma’s De Rossi, whom City tried and failed to sign last summer.

2. Creative type

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ideal: Luka Modric

Realistic: Luka Modric

Shinji Kagawa was bought to fill this situation vacant in Ferguson’s squad and, though the manager is clear the Japanese will be better next term, he must be tempted by Modric. José Mourinho appears likely to leave Real Madrid, with Modric wondering about his own future having failed to be a regular starter under the man who brought him to Spain last summer. Ferguson is a known admirer of the Croatian so Modric will receive serious thought, as might Newcastle’s Yohan Cabaye and, possibly, also Barcelona’s 21-year old Thiago Alcântara.

3. Pivot

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ideal: Sergio Busquets

Realistic: Sandro

…But contracted until 2015 and with a £150m buy-out clause he is not an option, so Ferguson may care to consider Tottenham’s Sandro, the Brazilian who has made 22 league starts this season.

4. Wise hand (yet younger than Giggs)

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ideal: Frank Lampard

Realistic: Frank Lampard

…– 19 goals in 45 appearances this season, 200 career Chelsea goals – and think with him turning “only” 35 in June the midfielder represents a heck of a bargain. An alternative would be Tottenham’s Scott Parker, who has two years remaining on his deal and turns 33 in the autumn.

5. The spoiler

(Getty)

(Getty)

Ideal: Javier Mascherano

Realistic: Victor Wanyama

…Mascherano excelled in the Premier League during periods at West Ham and Liverpool and, currently deployed (mostly) as a central defender at Barcelona despite standing at 5ft 9in, his “stopping” skills are honed. Celtic’s Wanyama and Newcastle’s Cheik Tioté are other players who can bite into a tackle.

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