Examining the State of Manchester United’s Midfield
Throughout the summer, an on-going story has been Manchester United’s pursuit of a central midfielder. After being outclassed by Barcelona’s midfield followed by the retirement of Paul Scholes, everyone has expected United to find a replacement. After bringing in Phil Jones, Ashley Young and David de Gea for over 50 million euros, it seemed only a matter of time before the Red Devils would get their star midfielder. However, with the Samir Nasri and Wesley Sneijder sweepstakes stalling, one has to wonder if Sir Alex may just have enough faith in his squad to move ahead without any more signings.
So why would Sir Alex put down rumors about Nasri and Sneijder? Is he trying to play mind games with Arsenal and Inter? Perhaps he feels his roster is deep enough to wait until January to make a bid for either player which would make sense considering Nasri and Arsenal have still failed to agree on a new deal. Inter, meanwhile, has been reported to have debt issues and with the signing of Ricky Alvarez, the Milan club may soon feel pressure to unload Sneijder’s contract.
Ironically, it has been almost ten years since Manchester United signed a world class midfielder in Juan Sebastian Veron for a record price. I’m not saying that Nasri or Sneijder will turn out like him, but the possibility of obtaining an expensive flop is always present.
Buying the next Paul Scholes is a ridiculous notion that has been manufactured by the media. Paul Scholes is simply irreplaceable and all the money in the world won’t change that. Signing a high profile talent may help fill the gap he’s left but at the end of the day, Scholes’ retirement marked the end of an era.
According to the media, if Manchester United fail to buy a central midfielder, then the summer will be deemed a failure. Also, because of Barcelona’s dominance, it seems United have to sign a world class midfielder or they’ll never be able to compete with the Catalan giants. My question though, is when did Manchester United have the sole responsibility of dealing with Barcelona?
Manchester United should only be concerned about consistently winning rather than being concerned with how to stop Barcelona. With that, the Red Devils may not sign another midfielder because of confidence in what they already have. In terms of the future, one option could be the young Tom Cleverly fresh off his stint at Wigan. United fans saw Cleverly’s potential as an explosive attacking midfielder during the summer tournament last year. His play was a major factor to Wigan’s survival and the experience truly made him a better all-around player. He is already playing for the England U21 team and is definitely highly touted for the future due to his central role in creating chances from the center and the wings of the pitch. He’ll still need time to develop with United, but he is definitely a long-term solution to the midfield. In my opinion, if he wasn’t with the team already and was a transfer target, he would be a lot more hyped.
In terms of the immediate future, this could mark the year that the Brazilian Anderson emerges as a consistent force in the midfield. After four years with Manchester United, Anderson has undergone his ups and downs. Despite doing well in his first couple of seasons, Anderson was looked over in the bigger games for the likes Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Darren Fletcher. It was a lot of disappointment and pressure for a 21 year old to deal with and he clearly had some maturity issues. Then, injuries from rupturing his cruciate ligament in his left knee and from being in a serious car accident sidelined him for months.
However, the time away may have been a blessing in disguise because he played remarkably well in the first half of the season last year. His form confirmed the great potential he has and warranted a new deal that will see him remain at Old Trafford to the end of 2015. For the rest of the season, Anderson continued to play in a comeback year for him in both the EPL and the Champions League.
In the upcoming season, Anderson finally looks ready to become a permanent fixture in Manchester United’s midfield after not having to deal with any injuries. He himself is confident in his abilities as he recently stated in an interview with Manutd.com. “I think I’m already there.” “I’ve played well for Manchester United in the past and I’m confident I have the quality to play in the position of Scholes. “He was an unbelievable player – of course I understand that – but I think I’ve learnt a lot from him. I think of him like my teacher. He’s helped me a lot.”
When looking at Anderson at his best, there is a lot to be excited about. He’s become an excellent passer in terms of short and long balls which will remind many of Scholes. He has shown his talent in driving up the field during attacks while at the same time staying committed on defense. His competitive flair spurs on those around him and after his noted struggles in terms of scoring, 2010 was his best year yet with four goals after only one in three prior years.
Would I like it if United signed a world class talent like Sneijder or Nasri? Of course I would. However, the Red Devils shouldn’t be seen as desperate to buy a new midfielder. With Anderson and Cleverly blooming at the right time, Red Devil supporters should feel comfortable with what they have already. At the end of the day, there is no such thing as the “new Paul Scholes” whether it’s Sneijder, Nasri, Anderson or Cleverly. There can only be the new player ready to fill Scholes shoes and right now, Anderson looks like the most realistic option.