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:


Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Clev/Scholes         Jones/Carrick,

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


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


Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,


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:


Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,

Tiote/Moutinho Scholes/Carrick

Tony V Rooney Kagawa


Or 4-3-3


Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Evra,


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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16 responses to “Do United Really Need To Sign A Central Midfielder?”

  1. chrisaus88 says:

    i agree with the 4-2-3-1 which is a bummer for Welbeck & Cheech. I think Fletch would have been perfect for the defensive role, but i agree Jones could well be the future. he has that keane like ability to run 30 yards with the ball in a straight line & scare the crap out of defenders. Needs some fine tuning though.

  2. obioha k says:

    we certainly need a midfielder. chioke tiote will fit into that role well. will love mutinho as well depending on the opposition.

  3. Bings says:

    I see your point, but I think the concern is finding the player that can replace scholes and carrick eventually. Right now, we are looking at our two primary holding players getting on with age and having an expiry date hanging over their heads with no viable replacement.

    Naturally, I would have loved Anderson to play that role, since he has the energy to destroy midfield play and still bring the ball forward with runs – i do hope to see more of that this season.

    When we first bought kagawa, I realised that perhaps SAF is contemplating moving away from his 4-4-2 to either a 4-1-2-1-2 or a 4-3-3. 4-4-2 can’t compete in Europe any more.

  4. sserunjogi charles says:

    Iam a fan of utd bt i thnk my team really need a natural ball winner to cover the defence coz were very good at attacking bt probs arise when were being attacked coz our defence has no cover en also no one to help regain the ball.A natural deep 6 lyk Tiote can do

  5. Oyefeso olumuyiwa says:

    Up united for life. I see your point is like we have a player and we are still looking for player. With the arriver of kagawa and powell and recovery of anderson i see us challeaging for the title next season. The only replacement we need now is for overage player like giggs, schoses,evra, rio and carrick. Up united.

  6. Keno says:

    I tink d 1st issue we shud address is our left bck position. Futhermore i strongly support a signing of a player lyk tiote BUT even witout anymore signings i believe wit most of our players fit we can cope just fine

  7. Ronnie A. says:

    It all depends on what you mean by ball-winner. If that is equivalent to tough tackling, then Carrick is not your man.
    But, as Rio Ferdinand explains himself (, last-time tackles are more often signs of poor defending and positional sense.
    Carrick is in fact a very good shield in front of the back four, one of the best in the EPL and an effective reader of the game(
    As the stats in the above article suggests, he does tackle and the number of interceptions he makes are really impressive. He does break up play. But he does it cleanly and elegantly. Whilst providing the range of passing to boot!
    So if it’s a choice between Tioté and Carrick, I’ll go for Carrick any day.
    A lot is being said about the steel of a Roy Keane missing, but people forget just how good a football player Keane was. He certainly could pass a ball!
    The only player that is similar in my opinion is Yann M’vila. So if we can get that sort of player, commanding, but still silky on the ball, I say yes!
    Don’t forget that Barca have changed the rules as well. They’ve won everything these past few without a tough tackler in the side, dispelling the myth that says this type of player is paramount to any success…

  8. Raad says:

    I agree that we need ball player, but i think that buying one would be a waste as this is currently phil jones’ most effective postition.

    What we need is a world class play maker. the reason we were knocked out of the CL is cos we played like england, ie gave the ball away cheaply and didn’t have enough possesion, even at home. This led to us conceding a lot more chances than we are used to. Scholes coming back stopped the sloppy posession, but left us vunerable to quick breaks.

    Cleverly + Anderson started the season amazingly, passing and driving an aspect of both of their games. but i think my nan has had a longer run of games than both of these put together.

    An ideal signing would have been sneider but he’s on silly money. would like moutinho, but glazernomics means that wont happen.

    I want to see jones starting DM and being disciplined when we don’t have the ball, behind scholes rotated with clev

  9. DI says:

    Go crazy and get either De Rossi or Alex Song.. The best players at the moment to play just in front of the back four.. And they pass the ball real well. Tiote is rubbish.

  10. lucio says:

    At least two more midfield battlers Martinez,Dembele,De Rossi,Strootman and Diarra.