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Wanted: Creative Midfielder At Man Utd to Replace Paul Scholes

When Wayne Rooney expressed his desire to leave Manchester United in October due to a perceived lack of ambition at the club, the forward came under immense pressure. But judging by his team’s performance this past Saturday in the Champions League Final, maybe he was right after all?

Against Barcelona, Rooney was one of the few players wearing a white shirt who seemed comfortable with the ball at his feet. His hunger for wanting the ball delivered to him was clearly evident. And you could see by the way he was playing that his frustration levels were increasing as wayward passes failed to reach him, or he had to try to control passes that came at him near his head instead of to his feet.

The gap in talent between Rooney and his teammates was on display Saturday night at Wembley. At times during the 90 minutes, I felt sorry for the lad. There he was trying to change nothing into something, but he couldn’t do it alone and his teammates really let him down.

And now that Paul Scholes has announced his retirement from Manchester United with immediate effect, Manchester United has a lot of soul searching it needs to do to find an adequate replacement.

The feeling I got after watching Barcelona defeat Manchester United was similar to the one after witnessing Germany thrash England in the 2010 World Cup. One of deep disappointment. How in this day in age are foreign teams so far more advanced than England and Manchester United? The gulf in talent was immense. Both Barcelona and Germany were far more comfortable with the ball at their feet, running circles around the opposition. England and Manchester United appeared one-dimensional, with little confidence and most criminally of all, lacking ideas and creativity on the football pitch.

But if you look at Manchester United’s starting line-up against Barcelona from Saturday, only three of players are English (Rooney, Ferdinand and Carrick). The other players represent (or have represented) their countries at national level including Holland, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Serbia, France and other countries. These are national sides that are obviously not lacking in the skill or self confidence department (other than France, but that’s a entirely different story), so you would expect them to have the talent to be more comfortable with the ball.

On Saturday, Manchester United’s inability to keep possession of the ball was, I believe, a combination of their players feeling overawed by Barcelona and, more importantly, United lacking the creative midfielders to keep a hold of the ball and do something with it. The Red Devils are sorely missing that type of player. In the Premier League, they could paper over the cracks, but playing like that in the Champions League makes the gaping hole look more prominent. Finding those players will be a difficult task for Manchester United. If they have any hope of lifting another Champions League Trophy, they’ll probably need to beat Barcelona in their path again. And based on the gulf in skill between both clubs, Manchester United has a long way to go before they’re ready to battle Barcelona once again.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013. View all posts by Christopher Harris →
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25 Responses to Wanted: Creative Midfielder At Man Utd to Replace Paul Scholes

  1. The Gentleman Masher says:

    I really feel like Sir Alex, yet again, put out the wrong midfield grouping vs. Barcelona. He went for workrate over skill…Park? Giggs? Why not Fletcher and Nani? I don’t know how much of the gab it would’ve closed, but those guys were far more suited to handle the intensity of this match.

    If I’m a Spurs fan, this game has me worried…because Luka Modric is the kind of skilled, yet combative, CM that could face up to guys like Iniesta and Xavi…and Man U may now be willing to pay a 25 million price tag.

    • MennoDaddy says:

      Levy won’t sell Modric for £25m. They bought him for £16.5m, and he’s arguably the best playmaking midfielder in the league. It’ll take a lot more than that to pry him away from Spurs.

    • Andy says:

      When old whisky face Ferguson puts in a bid in the 50 million range, Levy and Redknapp might start to listen.

  2. The Gentleman Masher says:

    And I say “yet again”, based on the 2009 lineup of Scholes, Park, Giggs, etc .

  3. Blue says:

    i think you all need to do a tribute on scholes . Legend and a really talented player. He will be missed by all fans from the the EPL . I will remember him by the goal against city. Lovely strike it was.

  4. pungentjoe says:

    Gaffer its not just united!look how barca dismantled real madrid early in the season, your statement(his teammates really let him down)really? united couldn’t cope just like every other team that would have faced them in the final wouldn’t have coped.it is barca’s greatness not so much uniteds failings.

  5. patty says:

    i think he actually has to buy pastore of palermo and modric …..both to filling in for inesta and xavi…..i bet u dey will join barca as the best team in euro

  6. Lyle says:

    The more I watch this the more I realize how awful Manchester United were defensively. They had could not maintain formation. They should have had two rows of four back when defending and the first four were all over the place.

  7. El Tri 2014 says:

    Vidic was asked how he viewed the game afterwards and he said something to the effect that Barca play the game without a striker. Which then makes sense how the Special One played his team against them – the proverbial park the bus in front of the goal. Best way to beat Barca is in a two legged tie, to play physical and to park the bus.

  8. El Tri 2014 says:

    By the way, I couldn’t watch more than 54 seconds of the video, tikki-tacky football if you ask me.

  9. RVPFan says:

    The amazing thing for me, is the fitness levels of these Barca players. Will they never get tired?

    • R2Dad says:

      Actually, I recall them flagging in the last 15 mintues in recent matches. That’s when Wenger and Mourinho planned to strike, the goal being to hold them goalless until then and trying to slide by 1-0.

    • nah says:

      They’re obviously in good shape, but watch it again. When they lose the ball they press relentlessly until they get it back. Then, they slow the tempo down and pass it around until they find an opening. It’s easy for them to press when they slow down so much after they get the ball back.

      It would be interesting to see a team press them all over the pitch, but that would probably just lead to both teams being exhausted at the half, or Messi weaving all over the pitch with the ball and scoring. But, he does that when you drop off him too, so you might as well go all out with a press. I don’t watch enough of La Liga to know if any teams have tried that against them.

  10. Jason says:

    Spurs will sell Modric to United for 30 million. Modric may not have the passing ability of Scholes but he is much better technically and is not as bad a tackler as Scholes. So he would be a terrific addition. United would be moving in the right direction.

  11. Tony Butterworth says:

    Sorry Gaffer but you lost me in the opening paragraph – “But judging by his team’s performance this past Saturday in the Champions League Final, maybe he was right after all?” – just ridiculous.

    Man Utd, are, arguably, the second best team in the world, definitely top 5. They have made the Champions League final 3 times in 4 years, twice coming up against a once in a lifetime force of nature. I expected defeat Saturday and I’m still happy with the season. To compare this to the abject failure of England is ridiculous. To state that English teams come up second best against foreign teams is ridiculous. Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs all won against strong European teams.

    There’s only one valid conclusion. Barcelona are really good. No need to take it any further than that really.

  12. Andrew says:

    Good God man, just because United were outclassed by one of the finest teams ever assembled, containing the best player in the world since Zidane who also happens to be in the best form of his life, you suddenly think Rooney was right to say he thought United lacked ambition and that he had no faith in their new signings, like Smalling and Hernandez? You should really rethink that part of your post. Are you forgetting they just won the Premier League?

    Seriously, just because Rooney had a great game in the Final (the first Final he’s ever really performed in, while we’re at it) and other players struggled is not indicative of United. It’s just a clear statement about the quality of Barcelona and the Spanish national team. When they are up for a game, they can not be beaten.

  13. William says:

    This United squad is not that good. Yes, they were the best team in the EPL but their road to the CL final was through mediocre teams except arguably Chelsea. Unless United bring in better players, especially in midfield, they will not only fail to win the CL but also the EPL title.

  14. King Eric says:

    A true legend that will be missed and is irreplaceable in my eyes. Thank you Paul Scholes for so many years of brilliance that I will never forget. One of the best central midfielders I have ever witnessed who played on the biggest stage for such a long period of time.

  15. James says:

    I’m sorry but this is an awful article. It has complete disregard for the fact that the gulf in class between the best club in Europe and ‘the rest’ is larger than it has been for a long time. Fergie could have fielded that same 11 against any other team in Europe and he would have come out on top.

    ‘On Saturday, Manchester United’s inability to keep possession of the ball was, I believe, a combination of their players feeling overawed by Barcelona and, more importantly, United lacking the creative midfielders to keep a hold of the ball and do something with it.’

    Believe what you want, you’re wrong. United’s inability to keep possession against Barcelona was because they were nowhere near as good as Barcelona. You could have put Zidane (at his peak) in that United team on Saturday and it would not have made a blind bit of difference.

    And to top it all off – comparing this game to England vs. Germany in the World Cup! Read a book! Namely, any one containing some history of the last 30 years of football, and you might discover why this match has no comparison to the England vs. Germany game with the exception of how it made you feel!

    I’m sad that Blackpool went down yet I wouldn’t compare it to when my cat died as the two things are as unrelated as ManU/Barca and England/Germany.

  16. brn442 says:

    Gaffer – I see your point to a certain extent but Manchester were simply played off the pitch on the night.

    I’m not too sure about the rest of your thesis relative to all English Teams – Arsenal (lacking for other reasons) had less problems playing with the ball to their feet (when they could get it), in their tie with Barca. Also, remember this Barca side, two weeks ago, ruthlessly dispatched the Special One’s Real Madrid with all their continental super-stars.

    Saying that – Ferguson can do with a dynamic attacking midfielder/Striker, like a Suarez or David Silva type.

    We simply witnessed something special on Sat night and not to second guess Sir Alex’s selection but I just feel that if Nani and Berbatov started, the Red Devils would have been more fluid.

  17. CTBlues says:

    Wanted: Creative Midfielder At Chelsea to Replace Gaping Hole

  18. John says:

    Maybe what United need is a more creative manager. As great as Fergie has been I think his tactics are letting the team down. I’m beginning to question some of his decisions, the starting lineup and formation against Barcelona and signing Michael Owen to another 1 year contract. Leaving Berbatov out of the squad on Saturday is bad enough now Owen is rewarded for what? Why not bring back Wellbeck and go for youth?

  19. Sam says:

    Ferguson signed Owen to look after his horses :) .

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