The state of Manchester United’s midfield continues to be one of the main talking points of the transfer season.
Unlike last summer where United failed to make any new additions to bolster their midfield, the Red Devils have signed attacking midfielders Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell. While Kagawa will likely instantly feature in the starting eleven, the 18 year old Powell is more of long-term solution.
Yet, there is room for improvement as United are in pursuit for a versatile holding midfielder who will stay back to retain possession and dictate the momentum.
In terms of central midfielders, United have many questions in regards to how they’ll perform in the upcoming season.
While Michael Carrick is currently one of United’s most established central midfielders, he lacks imagination and creativity. Paul Scholes defies age as United’s chief holding midfielder, but one wonders whether he can be relied on to last for another full season. Tom Cleverely showed promise in an injury-shortened campaign last year but he hasn’t yet played well for a full season at Old Trafford. Darren Fletcher’s health makes him a serious question mark and Anderson’s injury issues and erratic form are significant causes for concern.
Therefore, Manchester United needs to sign a versatile box-to-box midfielder who will inject creativity and confidence into the midfield.
Porto’s Joao Moutinho is that player.
Ever since his teenage years with Sporting Club de Portugal, Moutinho has become a star player in the Portuguese Liga. At the age of 20, he was made the captain of Sporting Lisbon due to his consistently impressive performances in their midfield.
In his tenure with Sporting Lisbon and later on with Porto, Moutinho stood out for being a remarkably durable, reliable player. An extremely versatile playmaker, Moutinho is a box-to-box footballer who can serve as both an attacking and holding midfielder from the center of the pitch. He proved that he can adjust himself to either flank in his later years with Sporting Lisbon.
Often compared to Paul Scholes, Moutinho is valuable because he excels at the simple tasks most people take for granted. Rather than trying to score flashy goals or make glamorous passes, Moutinho is a no-nonsense player that will fight to retain possession and keep the ball moving with smart, incisive passing.
Like Scholes, Moutinho is a persistent tackler who has been lauded for his determination and superbly subtle technique. He’ll make the necessary runs in attack and will get back on defense which is very much valued in Sir Alex Ferguson’s system.
Sir Alex always threw on Ji-Sung Park whenever he needed someone to make a hard-working, lung-bursting performance in midfield. At the age of 25, Moutinho is entering the peak of his career in terms of skill and fitness. Moutinho could be the driving force United desperately needed last season when they showed great inequality with Manchester City’s midfield of Yaya Toure and David Silva.
If Sir Alex needed any more proof about Moutinho’s exemplary ability to influence matches, Euro 2012 was a perfect showcase. Playing in every minute of the tournament for Portugal, Moutinho was a standout player because of the ball service he provided through pinpoint accurate passes to forwards like Ronaldo and due to his passionate defending. His performance against Spain was especially remarkable in terms how he assisted his teammates in breaking up Spain’s chances which sent the game to penalties.
In terms of his destination, Manchester United and Tottenham have stood out as the favorites for his services. Tottenham’s greatest advantage of course is the appointment of Andre Villas-Boas who Moutinho played for at Porto. Villas-Boas’ first signing at Porto was Moutinho and it’s possible that the Portuguese manager can once again lure his former midfielder to White Hart Lane as a potential replacement for Luka Modric. A disciplined and gifted footballer, Moutinho would be the perfect candidate to fill Modric’s boots as the Croatian looks set to play Champions League football with either Real Madrid or Chelsea.
While United would love to sign Modric, Tottenham’s massive price tag of 40 million pounds will turn off Sir Alex who’ll feel that he just isn’t worth it. Moutinho is a more affordable option as Rory Smith of The Times reported on Twitter that United made a bid of £20 million which is close to what Porto want at £26 million. There has even been speculation that United would allow Anderson to return to Porto in a deal involving Moutinho.
According to Duncan Castles of The National, Moutinho went to Porto’s president to reveal that he wanted to leave the club. This will spark widespread interest as Moutinho has become one of the best midfielders in all of Europe.
In order for Manchester United to rebound from a disappointing season, they need to make impact signings to strengthen their play in midfield. While Kagawa will provide the attacking presence the Red Devils need from their midfield, Moutinho would be a commanding maestro who’ll eventually replace Scholes in the holding position.
With Moutinho’s arrival in the Premier League seemingly imminent, Manchester United needs to act quickly to sign the Portuguese star who would be an ideal asset to their midfield.