M&M’s: is this duo the solution to our midfield woes?
Well one issue has been the lack of a natural lone forward who thrives when playing up front alone. Rooney and Berbatov are not naturally inclined to thrive in this role and no doubt that they’ve added to the problem as well as being victims of it. Inter have Eto’o, so did Barcelona but now they’ve found a genuine replacement in Villa, Chelsea had Drogba at his peak, now they’re struggling because he’s aged and they have too many strikers to keep happy, Liverpool had Torres and look to have a ready made lone forward replacement in Suarez and possibly Carroll too. Arsenal have Van Persie and are desperately unlucky that such a vital player is made out of glass, Bayern had Klose and now Gomes all players who can be relied upon to score goals no matter what form they’re in and consistent goalscorers. Berbatov and Rooney on the other hand both play best when alongside a partner it seems, although with a stronger midfield behind them we could see a transformation in their fortunes as lone forwards.
The second issue is the lack of legs and bite in our midfield. Fletcher is the one player United possess who physically can compete consistently week in week out without being out muscled or outrun by opposition midfields. Despite putting in his fair share of defensive work he does struggle to shake off opponents when running with the ball and thus can’t be relied upon to provide a penetrating burst from midfield. Scholes is past it physically in comparison to his youth and unable now to perform defensive duties to a sufficient level in a two-man midfield every week; hence the increasing number of cautions he seems to be picking up as a result of arriving late on the scene. Carrick who has modelled his game on elegance and intelligence, is unable to adapt and change if the situation demands he be more energetic and engaged in terms of defensive diligence. His long legs undoubtedly get him into good defensive positions but when United are in need of taking the game ‘to’ the opposition, he is unable to increase the number of tackles. On the ball he too like Fletcher is one-paced and unable to create space by outrunning an opponent. Anderson is a player who can out muscle and outrun opponents, on and off the ball however he is physically unreliable and for 3 seasons running he has missed important periods of the season through injury, not to mention he struggles to reach an optimum level of match fitness, to the point where he can never be relied upon to be a regular starter.
The final issue is the lack of class we possess on the ball. The side lacks the ability to manipulate the ball in tight spaces under pressure and continue to retain possession, its a constant failure I’ve witnessed dating back to 08/09 and the prime culprits have been Carrick and Fletcher. The latter had improved on his close control and turning ability but has lapsed back into his old habits of giving the ball away needlessly and at times going for the conservative option, Carrick on the other hand can’t seem to play any other way against top opposition. Put pressure on Carrick and it is very rare that he’ll turn his man and proceed to play a forward pass, apparently he used to do this in 06/07 well I know for sure he was capable of this when playing for Spurs but the pressure playing for a club like United is a different and whilst he’s done a sound defensive job for us over the years, on the ball he is now found wanting. He lacks the requisite footwork, the composure and courage to demand the ball under pressure, his slip against Liverpool when receiving a pass from Smalling in his own half was symptomatic of his inability to perform under pressure and to take responsibility in possession. No one’s expecting him to be Pirlo/Alonso but playing simple accurate forward passes should be the minimum expected of a midfielder featuring for Manchester United, defensive midfielder or not.
‘M n M’ – The Solution
So we lack class and we lack bite. How do we resolve these issues in the immediate future? Put simply, we’re going to have to put our hands in our pockets. Hargreaves is finished and is unable to provide the bite, Anderson & Scholes can’t be relied upon to provide the class.. not that they lack the ability, its just physically neither is up to it to pull out a whole season’s worth of top notch performances.
There is talent coming through the reserves/academy and it would be amazing if Pogba & Morrison were the answer to both the problems, however the realistic solution is not to throw these untested youngsters in but bring in players who can lead us to success during the next 5 years. Fergie isn’t going to last forever and surely he realises that it is time to spend and make the most of his remaining years rather than let his career end in a manner not worthy of the great man. The time has come for the likes of Carrick, Fletcher, Scholes to become squad players and to strengthen the first team, create a side worthy of going toe to toe with the likes of Barcelona and a team capable of securing Fergie’s legacy as the greatest manager of all time, domestically and abroad.
Without further ado I would break the bank for the following duo this summer…