How do you solve a problem like Manchester United’s midfield?



The drubbing handed out by Manuel Pellegrini’s fast and muscular band is seen as a final confirmation of the summer folly of purchasing only Marouane Fellaini, who was left appearing off the pace and possessing questionable positional sense, which is hardly what £27.5m should buy.

The drab 0-0 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford, the 1-0 defeat at Liverpool and now the humiliation at City mean that against two title contenders and a top-four pretender United have managed only a point, illustrating why Moyes wanted to recruit Cesc Fábregas from Barcelona.

The opening of the great void at United’s centre can be traced back to Roy Keane’s departure in 2005, with Owen Hargreaves’s infirmity (summer 2008) and the need for Paul Scholes to come out of retirement (January 2011) staging posts in what is a perennial topic for fans.

Hargreaves and Scholes are name-checked because since Keane left they were the two prime candidates identified by Sir Alex Ferguson for the role of midfield lynchpin that had also been occupied with distinction by Bryan Robson, Paul Ince and Nicky Butt.

As City’s attack posse of Touré, Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Nasri, Sergio Agüero and Alvaro Negredo terrorised United, Young and Valencia went missing in action. Yet Nani, who is erratic, and the callow Wilfried Zaha, are no bankers as better replacements.

With Carrick and Fellaini too similar for a central pair – each are instinctive holding operators – Moyes gazes at his alternatives and sees the 39-year-old Giggs, Cleverley, who is still to prove he can be a midfield don, and the often disappointing Anderson. Another is Jones, but both player and manager are minded he is best in defence.

Kagawa is the most intriguing of Moyes’s alternatives. Yet as a No10 by choice, who so far has not been fancied by the Scot, there appears little chance of him dislodging a Rooney now recast as the main man following the sparkling form that continued against City.

Might Kagawa prosper further back? Alongside Carrick in a two, or in a midfield trio if Moyes was to realign the shape to 4-3-3? These are some of the considerations that may cross the manager’s mind as he decides how best to recover from a beginning that has yielded only seven points from his first five matches.

Those goals (vs City) were shipped because of a United midfield that waved City on to David de Gea’s goal.

In the resource deficit Moyes faces here, he sees why Ferguson would field Rooney further back.

The ploy harvested match-winning performances, as with last season’s 2-0 victory at Stoke City where, alongside Carrick, Rooney beat him 81 to 75 in completed passes, while again illustrating the requisite zest and vision.

Yet the 27-year-old’s disquiet at being played out of position by Ferguson means he can be no solution for Moyes, and that encapsulates the manager’s problem: as he seeks to stop United being overrun again, from where – and how fast – can he find one?

Source: ESPN 

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3 Comments on “How do you solve a problem like Manchester United’s midfield?”

  1. Martin Cooney September 24, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    All good points but I really think people are reading WAY too much into this one result. OK, United have yet to really get going this season but we all know what they are capable of once they begin going through the gears. Also, let’s not forget that everyone was pointing fingers City’s way before this result. Early days yet… early days.

    • Omer September 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Of course. You never write United off however how many of United’s CM’s: Fellaini, Carrick, Cleverly, Anderson would get into the following teams: Bayern, Dortmund, Madrid, Barca, City, Chelsea or even Arsenal.

      While RvP, Rooney, Ferdinand, Vidic, de Gea, Evra could have a good shout – the midfield has no world class talent. Carrick perhaps but the rest are not what comes to mind when ones thinks of United level.

      Kagawa would but then he cant get into Uniteds team at the moment…..

      • Martin Cooney October 2, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

        Well, things just seem to be going from bad to worse at Old Trafford. I must admit to being quite shocked at Moyes’s appointment but I never dreamed United would play as bad as they have.
        The problem as I see it is that the 26 years of stability at the club has left them a little lethargic – so much so that they seem incapable of reacting to change.
        Still, a de-fanged Man U may just open the way for a change at the top of table, and more excitement as a result. How great it would be so see Spurs, Liverpool, Everton…. or Southampton in the race for a Champion League spot. (Perhaps even Villa – now, that would be something to shout about).

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