Tuesday Team Talk: Fletcher, Cleverley, Carrick and Scholes do not plug vast hole in Manchester United’s midfield

Comment by Robbie Gill

The elephant in Manchester United’s dressing room can no longer be ignored, Sir Alex Ferguson must sign a dynamic midfielder in January or risk another potless season.

A lacklustre defeat at Norwich City exposed United’s midfield shortcomings as their comeback luck finally ran out.

Although the signing of reigning footballer of the year Robin van Persie has made them potent at the sharp end of the field, their substandard midfield has left them chasing games too regularly.

Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick turned in a conventional and listless display in the middle of the park and their lack of energy made them too easy to bypass.

Missing drive in midfield has become a recurring problem and has done little to aid a defence that has been ravaged by injury.

While Carrick offers a valuable shield, and is key in recycling possession, the aging Giggs can no longer provide the dynamism that the former requires in a midfield partner.

Carrick has looked at his best when paired alongside the fresh legs of Tom Cleverley, but the youngster has yet to prove he can stamp his authority on a game and his wasteful finishing has meant his goal return has fallen short of requirement.

Anderson has shown little more than flashes of mild ability since his £20million move from Porto, and his alarming lack of fitness renders him unable to be effective for 90 minutes.

Darren Fletcher once offered urgency but the sad reality is that he may never be the same player again after his battle against a debilitating stomach illness.

Paul Scholes, while still majestic, cannot be expected to play every week and he has never been or needed to be a box-to-box midfielder.

The need for a dominant presence has become stark, countless stagnant displays has allowed too many teams to run riot in the middle and exploit a weakened backline.

Marouane Fellaini tore them to pieces on the opening day of the season and Moussa Dembele has come to Old Trafford with two different teams and been unplayable.

While over £185million has been spent in the past five years, none of this has been invested in the position that everyone with two functioning eyes can see them crying out for.

The last out-and-out midfielders United signed were the beleaguered Owen Hargreaves and the inconsistent Anderson in 2007.

Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa is the closest thing to a midfielder to walk through the doors at Old Trafford in the past five years, but he is certainly not the imperious presence required.

His technical ability and penetration have been invaluable, but Ferguson has viewed him more as a second striker than the answer to his midfield woes.

This absence of reinforcements is costing points and was responsible for both last seasons’ Champions League failings and their surrendering of the title.

Firepower has countered the injury crisis that has bedevilled their defence, but until this hole is plugged with a world-class midfield powerhouse they can never hope to dispatch the lesser sides with the ease they once did.

This weekends’ trip to Carrow Road was a point in case, after falling behind once more there was nobody capable of grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and driving them forward.

It is becoming a monkey on Ferguson’s back, as if he is the only man incapable of fathoming what stands out like David Cameron at a working man’s club.

Last year the difference between United and their cross city rivals wasn’t Sergio Aguero’s last gasp winner, it was Yaya Toure.

His barnstorming performances towards the end of last season were pivotal and allowed them to overturn United’s lead and claim their first title since 1968.

United capitulated, blowing a two-goal lead at home to Everton as they let Fellaini amble through their non-existent midfield, leaving their defence perilously exposed and conceding the title in the process.

Although the signing of Van Persie has appeased fans that feared the unwelcome debt imposed by the Glazers’ was compromising their ability to compete in the transfer market, the failure to rectify this glaring defect is causing the same old problems.

There is only so long that a free scoring strike force can compensate for midfield mediocrity, this weekend their luck ran out and United got the result their dour performance deserved.

Ferguson, a man never famed for mid-season signings, must now acknowledge this deficiency and act in January before the same problems that have blighted recent campaigns result end up handing trophies to their arch rivals across the city.

Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Mancunian Matters.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles