The solution to Manchester United’s midfield.

It has been obvious for a while now that Manchester United are in dire need of a midfielder. I’m still astonished at how they managed to win the league with out of form wingers and only one consistently, reliable central midfielder.  I suppose it speaks volumes about the quality of Sir Alex Ferguson and Michael Carrick.

United’s current options in midfield do not provide a balance between defence and attack. Tom Cleverley is a player whom I rate, but don’t see as anything more than a squad player, playing now and then.  Much like Joe Allen’s role at Liverpool. Anderson is one who splits opinion.  He’s often the subject of light-hearted fat jokes and a comical suggestion for the solution to United’s problem.  It’s almost like people have put him in the same category of footballers as Emile Heskey, who just get mocked for being a poor player at a big club.  I actually think Anderson is another good squad player to have. Perhaps he hasn’t been value for money, and he might carry a bit of excess weight, but he is talented. I think, given the chance, he will be able to recreate some of the creativity he displayed in the 2007/08 season (see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Z7VaZGEkVs).   Again, though, he is not an adequate partner to Carrick.  Phil Jones is excellent cover for defensive midfield which he proved in matches against Real Madrid and Everton, keeping Fellaini and Ronaldo (relatively) quiet.  My worry is that Phil Jones could become a victim of his own versatility in the way that he will never get a string of games in the same position and therefore never nail down a position in the England or Manchester United team.  Centre back is his ideal position, for me.

Thiago  Alcântara’s transfer to Bayern Munich was understandably heartbreaking for United fans, after being linked with the Spaniard for such a small fee.  Thiago would have slotted in alongside Carrick beautifully and excelled in a deep-lying, creative role in which he would play week in, week out.  Unfortunately for Reds, however, he decided to join former coach Pep Guardiola at the European champions.  In the Telekom Cup, in which Bayern, Dortmund, Hamburg and Mönchengladbach play their pre-season matches, Thiago has looked comfortable and dangerously efficient alongside Toni Kroos.  He may have jumped ahead of Kroos and Gustavo in the pecking order to start alongside Schweinsteiger and Martínez, which could signal a potential exit for the Brazilian, Luiz Gustavo.

This brings me onto my next point, that Luiz Gustavo is United’s best option.  He ticks all the right boxes; young enough at 25, retains possession well with a completion rate of 93% of his passes [Sqwawka], offers a great balance between defence and attack, has developed under one of the best managers around, Jupp Heynckes and last but not least, he would be relatively inexpensive.  Furthermore, with Sandro returning to fitness and Hernanes being a starter at Lazio, there will be competition for the final central midfield slot next to Paulinho, behind Oscar, in the Brazilian national team. This is another reason for Gustavo to join United, it would benefit four parties; United (new starter), Brazil (more players getting regular club games), Bayern (money), and Luiz himself (game time).

Many newspapers have been running stories claiming Manchester United have submitted a second bid for Cesc Fàbregas.  I don’t see this happening.  Firstly, from Cesc’s point of view, there is no reason to leave. Winning the Premiership with United would be no easier than winning La Liga with Barcelona next season, he’s situated in the beautiful city in which he grew up and he starts the vast majority of matches contrary to popular misconception.  He also plays in a much more advanced, attacking position, a ‘false winger’, if you will, at Barcelona. The more disciplined role at United would not appeal, I imagine. Secondly, why on earth would Barcelona sell such a brilliant player after having just lost Thiago, leaving one back up to Xavi/Iniesta; the inexperienced Sergi Roberto? They would reinvest the money, but who, of the same quality, is available?

For these reasons, I see Luiz Gustavo as the solution to United’s midfield problems.

By Reuben Pinder, @ReubenPinder.

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