The never ending talk of a new central midfielder coming simply helps highlight the thin midfield Manchester United have at the moment, with Michael Carrick being the only trustworthy option on it, joined by Anderson, Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley and Nick Powell.
That is not a midfield that wins a championship, although it did seem United didn’t have a problem finishing the job last season with an impressive gap between them and Manchester City. But it’s impossible to ignore the absurdity of last season, and how it’s hard to believe Manchester City and Chelsea will be so weak for a second straight season. United don’t participate in the “big buys” game as well as the others, but at some point money has to be spent.
Paul Scholes was no longer effective or influential as he was in the past, and the same goes for Ryan Giggs. Sure, there are the matches in which he sheds years and years off his body, while his passing ability and decision making seems like it’s just getting better with age. And yet it’s hard to count on Giggs putting in a decent performance for two consecutive matches, and his deployment in the middle of the pitch is a defensive hazard against quick and aggressive opposition units.
For speed there’s Tom Cleverley. Before his injury at the beginning of the 2011-2012 season, it looked like United hit the jackpot with the player, who needed quite a lot of time on loans with other clubs before finally finding his way into the United lineup and rotation. Yes his inconsistency on offense and softness when trying to keep teams away from his team’s box have made him another player who comes on the pitch bringing a lot of negativity.
Anderson? Despite everything, he’s still here, but it’s hard to find anyone considering him as an important piece of the United machine next season. His form, his tactical discipline and his participation in the defensive game are all lacking at best. He does bring out a wonderful pass for an assist here and there, once in a while, but it doesn’t make his other inclusions seem worthwhile.
There’s Michael Carrick, and the rest. Carrick has just turned 32, but it doesn’t seem like the defensive midfielder is going to wane in importance for the club, be it in his commanding presence in the middle of the pitch or his ability to fill in for a defense that simply can’t keep healthy, season after season.
There are other answers – Nick Powell might get more playing time this season to show he’s more than a long range shooting machine. Wayne Rooney, if he remains, will play a lot of midfield duties, and he probably does it better than anyone else on the team but carries a lot of anger with him anytime he steps on the pitch for the last 12 months. Phil Jones is as versatile as they come and can do a good job in being a wrecking man in the middle of the pitch, but his offensive qualities are limited, at best.
United need more quality and depth, that’s something anyone knows. The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and Marouane Fellaini potentially arriving is an expensive solution to only part of the problem, leaving United with a strong side for the Premier League, but once again light years away from the competition in the Champions League.