Date:2nd April 2011 at 1:25am
Written by:

Wesley Sneijder

Not the answer to United's midfield problems

You know when you meet a girl, and everything about her seems great. She’s your type, your mates seem to like her, she’s hot – because let’s be honest we’re shallow, you have a laugh.

But something doesn’t quite fit. Well Wesley Sneijder isn’t a girl. But I don’t see him quite fitting at United. I’d want it to work. Because of his class, I know that even if it didn’t, we’d still be friends. I’d want him to do well elsewhere. But something about Sneijder and Manchester United doesn’t work for me.

It’s not for lack of ability, experience, temperament or even style. It’s where he plays. You see, I’m kind of old fashioned in a lot of ways, and I don’t think there should ever be more than one person playing in the hole. Once you get two or three in there, things get messy, you’re bound to get in each others way, uncomfortable looks are going to be shared when it’s not quite fitting right.

Eventually one of you is going to have to get out of the hole, and that person is going to understandably feel a bit of resentment. I’d imagine that’s what would happen anyway.

The thing with United at the moment is, Rooney loves playing in the hole. He’s like a pig in shit when he drops deep. For a lot of people it’s where he was always destined to end up. Growing up in Liverpool he certainly lived in a hole. A lot of people already know how I feel about Rooney, that his behaviour in negotiating a contract was disgusting and disrespectful and I’d be happy to see him gone.

But, that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon, so in the meantime I’ll settle for him getting back to his absolute best. Now I don’t see Rooney’s best as scoring 30 tap ins a season. I see Rooney’s best as a true 20-20 player. 20 goals, 20 assists, pulling the strings, setting the wingers and Chicarito running behind defenders, helping out the midfield when needed, playing the way we know he can.

Now, if Rooney is playing that role, being the player who likes to operate in the gap between midfield and defence, making himself hard to pick up, threading the passes and linking the play, then that really doesn’t leave a lot of room for Sneijder.

Even if you imagine United selling Rooney, it’s hard to see Sneijder fitting. Not because he wouldn’t get in the team. He’s undoubtedly an incredible player. But Veron was one of the most highly rated players in the World when United stumped up £28m to bring him over from Italy. His signing resulted in a change from a marauding 4-4-2 to a slightly unbalanced 4-4-1-1 with Scholes playing behind the striker. Now I personally don’t hold Veron responsible for that. He was nowhere near as bad as people chose to make out and actually put in some good performances. The problem was it really didn’t suit United, especially not in the Premiership.

United now have a few formations that they employ, although they are mostly variants of 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. Depending on whether Berbatov and Rooney start, as you’d expect in a 4-4-2 away from home where retention is key, or a 4-4-2 with Rooney and Hernandez with Rooney a slightly deeper forward and Hernandez stretching the defence at Old Trafford you’ve got a couple of options for games where you’d expect United to field 2 forwards and try to bully the opposition.

When playing the ‘harder’ teams, especially away from home, or when the clean sheet is considered the most important thing, like a Champions League match, then United will usually field a 4-3-3/4-5-1 with the expectation that fast counter attacks will be the order of the day. Occasionally, but rarely you might expect to see United line up with a 4-2-3-1 with a play maker behind the centre forward.

Again, I think Rooney could quite easily begin to do that job with Hernandez up front stretching the defence, but for the frequency United play a specialist central attacking midfielder, it begs the question why they would really stump up £40m for Wesley Sneijder when there are other options more in keeping with their recent transfer policy.

That policy might not overwhelm the fans sometimes, but personally I’d rather buy a talented young player and make him into a World beater, rather than spend £40m on a player who’s already won a Treble with someone else. If rumours of De Gea are true, then that’s a fantastic example of a player who fits that bill and I genuinely believe could go onto become a legend at the club.

There is a lot of talk of United needing a box to box midfielder, and in a lot of ways I think that’s true. But only the right one. De Rossi would be a fantastic acquisition for United in my opinion. Scott Parker wouldn’t. The one player I really would love to see at United at the moment is currently playing for Spurs. Oh and he isn’t Welsh. It’s the little magician with a look of Cruyff about him, Luka Modric. When you talk about players who stand a chance of stepping in and replacing Scholes, there are very few who deserve to be even mentioned in the same sentence. Modric though, I think he’d stand half a chance.

Transfers don’t always make sense. But when papers are casually throwing rumour after rumour out there, I always try and analyse the following: Does the player fit in the current system, do they need another player of that type, can they afford the fee and if they can – would they spend that or are there more suitable buys out there. With Sneijder, unfortunately the answer is probably no to all of them. He’s World class, he really is. But United are a team that really don’t suit a 4-4-1-1 and given the fact that Ferguson has Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Macheda and Wellbeck wanting to play centre forward I can’t see him switching to a 4-2-3-1 enough to justify the outlay.

I’m sorry Wesley, it’s not you, it’s us. You’d try your hardest, and we’d want to love you, but it just wouldn’t work out.

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