Date: 13th July 2012 at 2:13am
Written by:
"Kagawa, Kagawa, wherever you may be, you eat raw fish in your own country..."

"Kagawa, Kagawa, wherever you may be, you eat raw fish in your own country..."

It’s a strange turn of events when the unveiling of two new signings seems to bring a collective response of Oliver Twist-esque “please Sir Alex can we have some more” from a large section of United fans but judging by the wonderful world of social networks that’s exactly what seemed to happen yesterday. No sooner had young Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa – or Kagawa Shinji as Rio calls him,  sat down than people were quickly tweeting, face booking, forum-ing questions about when United were gong to buy the coveted central midfielder we’ve all been longing for. It would be remiss of me at this point to pretend I myself wasn’t part of the “twitterati” claiming I’d like to see a ball winning midfielder arrive at the club, as obviously that’s exactly what I did claim.

Before we start looking at what United haven’t got let’s just take a look at what we have- at least central midfield wise- players capable of playing in that position.

We’ve got, deep breath now, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Anderson, Tom Cleverley, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Phil Jones, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Nick Powell, Shinji Kagawa, Wayne Rooney and Rafael- remember I said “capable.”

First of all we can discount Fletcher who’s still not recovered from his virus/illness- more on him later, in another article. Then there’s Ryan Tunnicliffe who despite my praising of him last season, is still a long way of really making an impression on United’s first team. Nick Powell as Sir Alex said will be used in midfield but the question is how often and for what games, also is he really the type of CM we’re missing in the big matches? Scholes is obviously a legend and capable of orchestrating practically any game, just as long as its not his second or third game that week, while Giggs, will probably be used even more sparingly.

Anderson, Anderson, Anderson, where did it all go wrong? Well it actually didn’t it just never quite went right for longer than five games and after the same number of seasons we’re still waiting to see what he’s capable of. Now I’m as patient as the next man, my championing of Darron Gibson bordered on delusional such was my mantra of “give him a chance” no matter what the popular opinion was, but I’m afraid I’ve finally run out of patience with the chunky Brazilian. I can’t be bothered repeating what I said half way through last season about Anderson but if you want to know my thoughts here’s the link to an article I wrote HERE  last October, which basically sums up why I feel it’s time for him and us to move on.

Rafael has hardly ever been used in central midfield so he’s not really a viable option there, I just mentioned him to save the smart arses from bringing up the fact he played their against Blackburn for 45 disastrous minutes. Cleverley, if fit could well be the key to changing the way United attack the opposition, has he showed in the Community Shield for 45 glorious minutes. The question with Clev 23 is one based around fitness, which is a doubt many Reds still justifiably raise. Only time will tell, but if fit there’s no doubt Cleverley can/is/will be a great player, the issue is that’s a big “if”.

Michael Carrick has just enjoyed his best ever season and seems capable of playing alongside practically anyone, many praised his superb performances next to Scholes, yet quickly forget he’d actually began to form a decent partnership with Jones just prior to the Ginger one’s resurrection. My only slight doubt surrounding Carrick is the age old argument that he’s not a natural “ball winner” he’s more a calm collected type that keeps possession well, rather than regaining it, and that’s the flaw in using him as a ‘DM’ which he often is deployed as. Actually tell a lie, my other slight doubt is he sometimes fails to really get hold of the game in the bigger matches, usually when the rest of the team are also under-performing, hardly a sackable offence, but one that a player of his quality in the prime of his career, could work on. For my thorough thoughts on Carrick click HERE.

Shinji Kagawa is an attacking player that can’t really be labelled a ‘CM’ in the conventional sense and it may be detrimental to both him and United to try and use him there, something I doubt Sir Alex will, especially as he’s already spoken of how the former Dortmund man operates best just off the front man. The same can be said of Wayne Rooney who’s no more a central midfielder than he is a cockney, although he does drop so deep at times you could be forgiven for thinking he’s playing just in front of the defence.

That leaves just Phil Jones who I believe could do the very job I feel needs doing in midfield, in other words getting hold of the ball and giving it to a Red shirt. Sorry to bombard you with links but here’s my argument in full, for Jones as being used more in midfield HERE.  The only problem with this is Sir Alex doesn’t seem to like playing Jones there too often and may see him as a natural choice at either right back or central defence when others are unavailable.

Looking at a United side lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation of:

DDG,

Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Clev/Scholes         Jones/Carrick,

Nani/Tony ,   Rooney/Kagawa/Powell     Giggs/Young

Welbeck/Chicharito

There seems plenty of options the only question marks many will raise would be Giggs being able to operate as a winger or Clev so deep, but this is just to show options rather than what I expect, the point is many of the front six positions are interchangeable, you could have Giggs in Clev role, or whatever.

Or 4-3-3

DDG

Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Carrick/Jones

Scholes/Clev/Powell              Rooney

Nani/Tony V Welbeck/Chicharito  Young/Kagawa

The problem with this of course is you drop Rooney very deep although you could easily play him in the Welbeck role and drop Danny, but that’s blasphemous in my view. There’s also the option of playing Kagawa deeper, although that seems like a bit of a waste of his talents.

The only question then is what is really needed personnel wise in midfield -the “what haven’t we got” part of the argument. Well, readers of this site and the four people who follow me on twitter will know that I’ve long been an advocate of Chieck Tiote as the type of no-nonsense ball winner we need in front of the back four. My problem with having say Scholes and Carrick in the deeper roles is could they cope energy -wise against a Barcelona, or a Madrid, or perhaps even a Manchester City? Scholes alongside Jones may be able to, or certainly if we bought an out-and-out ball winner, some have suggested Dembele or even Joao Moutinho could actually fill that role, despite both seeming more attack minded players.

Look at this line-up:

DDG

Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Tiote/Moutinho Scholes/Carrick

Tony V Rooney Kagawa

Welbeck

Or 4-3-3

DDG

Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Tiote/Jones

Moutinho/Scholes         Rooney/Clev

Nani/Tony V  Welbeck/Chicha     Young/Kagawa

Looking at the possible inclusions of the last two line-ups are United really that much stronger? The obvious answer seems to be slightly rather than massively. Yes, Moutinho would be a useful addition, but could we be just as effective without him? Tiote would add the steel we need in the middle, but could Jones do that job? The answer to both questions is arguably ‘yes’ but that’s the point, the fine margins it takes to beat the best in Europe and to defeat City are often that difference between having a player that will give you a seven or one in the same position who can give you an eight.

Do United “Need” a central midfielder to challenge for the title and perhaps even the Champions League? No, but we certainly could benefit from one, that’s the difference, whether Sir Alex and indeed the Glazer’s are willing, to push us that little bit further or instead rely on what we’ve got. To me the latter seems like more of a gamble.

Well, what do you think do we need another midfielder? Or is it simply cover at left back we need to worry about?

Answers on a brick through the usual window please, or comment below:

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