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Does Fergie Still Need To Spend Big And Buy A Midfield Maestro?

Amid calls from fans for Sir Alex Ferguson to buy a new central midfielder, we look at whether United already have enough quality in the middle of the park.

Football Talk are delighted to welcome Bivin Mathew to our writing team. Bivin is a Manchester United fan who will be writing about all the latest goings-on at Old Trafford. His first piece looks at whether Sir Alex Ferguson still needs to spend big on a central midfielder.


Keeping in tradition with past years, the start of the new Premier League season has seen the arrival (and departure) of talent in Manchester. Ever persistent rumours have added to the existing and feverish buzz in the city surrounding the transfer activity. However, as was the case in the prior year, the non-arrival of a big name, proven midfielder has confounded many.

Sir Alex, till now, kept laughing off the potential threat that the noisy neighbours posed. But since the League Cup encounter two seasons ago, he had admitted to taking them a bit more seriously than before. And now that the title has been conceded to City, it is clear that the ‘noisy neighbours’ clearly have got the bite to the bark. Despite this, another transfer window has come to a close with Man United not having made any significant additions to solve the midfield crisis.

Shinji Kagawa and Robin Van Persie might appear to be good signings but neither of them is your bulk standard box to box midfielder. Kagawa’s favoured position is off the striker and prefers the ball to be played into space in front of him. A lot has been said and written about their over reliance on Wayne Rooney in the last couple of seasons; so the addition of RVP to the attack is welcome though cynics question the feasibility of the transfer fees given his age and injury record. Injuries during the season to key members of the defence and midfield derailed their title charge as the replacements were not good enough to grind out victories.

On paper, United may have reasonable quality when it comes to depth of squad, with most of the players featuring on an international level. But in Premiership football, these squad players have not been able to prove their mettle and ability to influence a match, especially in the absence of some of the first team regulars. Nani, Anderson, Cleverly, and Welbeck have just not been able to step it up and provide a match winning performance, save on a rare occasion.

Despite all their attacking flair, United still lack a creative midfield genius akin to Xavi, Fabregas, Sneijder, or Pastore. Paul Scholes can still deliver a maestro performance on the odd day, but how often can the team depend on him to bail them out? The team sorely misses a player who can create a space out of nothing, and then, within seconds, produce a defence splitting pass for one of the strikers to finish. I have no doubts about the current strike force duly obliging to finish a good pass (everyone remembers Owen’s winner against City last season, but it was Giggs’s pass that provided him the chance on a plate).

Recent performances against Newcastle and Cluj showed more promise and intent in the middle, with swift, neat passing (Cleverly), and desire to win back the ball (Fletcher and Anderson). Cleverly and Anderson formed a good partnership at the start of last season only for injuries and indifferent form to derail the pair. The former plays a similar style to Cazorla, offering quick short passes and making space for the return ball. With more minutes in the bag, he could be effective in retaining possession and keep the engine room ticking. This is what United lacked against Liverpool, and in the first half against Spurs.

Whilst playing teams who are quicker and more mobile in midfield, a potentially effective midfield – forward line up can be:

Carrick & Fletcher/Cleverly
Tony V/Nani       Rooney           Kagawa

It might appear to be a bit narrow but there will be more urgency in the middle, and Rooney, Kagawa and RVP can switch position and link up with whoever the lone striker is at that point (similar to the trinity of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez in United’s title winning sides).

Depending on form, injuries, opposition, and for substitutions, Carrick/Fletcher can be replaced by Scholes/Anderson/Cleverly/Powell/Phil Jones (yes Jones; I reckon given time, he can develop into a good holding midfielder who makes strong runs into the opposition half, like Yaya Toure), whilst Rooney and Kagawa’s roles can be performed by Welbeck and Young.

So, contrary to what most fans and critics think, United may not have to spend money in January for that elusive midfielder. Instead, it is up to the current roster of players to rise to the occasion and deliver performances that will make up for that missing maestro.

Do you think United still need to buy a world class central midfielder? Get involved in the comments section.

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