Sunday, 6 November 2011

United need a central midfielder

Although I am loath to criticise Sir Alex Ferguson, especially after celebrating 25 years at Manchester United, I am going to do so. The current United side seriously lack a decent central midfielder and they need to find one if they are to win major titles in the next couple of years.

It seems strange criticising United after the world and his wife waxed lyrical over the side at the start of the season; ‘Fergie does it again’ read most of the headlines. However, it could be a false dawn if they don’t improve in this area. Yesterday, United ended up having to deploy their most potent striker, Wayne Rooney, in midfield because the other squad members are not hitting the heights required.

Currently Sir Alex has the following first team players to select in central midfield: Anderson, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverly, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs. Those options are not good enough when compared to Barcelona who possess: Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Seydou Keita and Thiago. The comparative midfields of last seasons Champions League finalists could not be more of a contrast; one is blessed with some of the best players in the world and the other is distinctly average.

The time has come to make Anderson a squad player and leave him out of big games. Two years ago he looked like he would be dominating the United midfield for the foreseeable future but he is simply too inconsistent. In an ideal midfield you need a player who is going to be consistently rated at seven out of ten. Whilst the Brazilian is capable of producing eight/nine of ten performances he then follows it up with a three in the following game which is simply not good enough.

I am not even going to comment on Michael Carrick as everyone has seen him play recently and must surely have no future at the club! There is no doubt that Tom Cleverly will be a good central midfielder but he is two to three years away from being able to go toe to toe with a Bastian Schweinsteiger or Xavi Hernandez. Darren Fletcher is the closest United have to a consistent central midfielder but does he really have the ability to take United forward? I don’t think so.

One player I feel United should be seriously considering is Javi Martinez of Athletic Bilbao, although he would not come cheap. The Basque midfielder captained the Spanish Under 21s to glory this summer in Denmark, and looked quite simply outstanding. Although he is still only 23 years old he has been a first team regular for five years at Bilbao. He is blessed with an incredible technique, like many of his countryman, and has very good positional sense. It would be beneficial to United to have a good ball playing defensive midfielder to begin their attacks and to sure up their defence.

There have been some quite staggering stats about the number of shots United have conceded so far this season and a fair amount of this must be down to their lack of a holding player to screen the back four. There is no doubt that United will be competing for the major honours this season but with their rivals improving by the year they need to strengthen their midfield. However, who am I to criticise Sir Alex and his methods, he hasn’t done too badly.

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