A good midfield is a crucial part of any team and Sir Alex Ferguson has enjoyed immense success at Old Trafford with his. There was the 1999 treble-winning midfield of Giggs, Beckham, Scholes and Keane, which remained the foundation of United’s success for many years. New arrivals have come and gone, from the successful (Cristiano Ronaldo) to the ones that failed to deliver (Djemba-Djemba, Veron, Kleberson), but so far this seaon, Sir Alex has not settled on a midfield this season as he launches an assault for trophies on three fronts: the Premiership, Champions League and Carling Cup.
Before tonight’s Champions League tie with AC Milan, David Beckham has said that United’s current side is as good as the treble winners of 1999, that the England midfielder was a part of. But in the nine games United have played so far this year, Ferguson has not named a single unchanged midfield in each game:
Feb 10 vs. Aston Villa Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Fletcher, Scholes
Feb 6 vs. Portsmouth Carrick, Nani, Fletcher, Valencia
Jan 31 vs. Arsenal Park, Nani, Carrick, Scholes, Fletcher
Jan 27 vs. Man City Giggs, Carrick, Nani, Fletcher, Scholes
Jan 23 vs. Hull Park, Nani, Scholes, Fletcher
Jan 19 vs. Man City Anderson, Giggs, Carrick, Fletcher, Valencia
Jan 16 vs. Burnley Carrick, Nani, Scholes, Valencia
Jan 9 vs. Birmingham Park, Carrick, Scholes, Fletcher, Valencia
Jan 3 vs. Leeds Anderson, Gibson, Obertan, Wellbeck
So what is United’s best midfield? Fletcher has impressed this season and last year with his determination and work rate, Nani has shone in recent weeks but is still extremely inconsistent and Valencia has done well at Old Trafford with his pace and crossing on the right wing. Giggs and Scholes are both nearing the twilight of their careers, but can both be counted on for a moment of brilliance and the odd wonder goal. Anderson is currently in Sir Alex’s doghouse and Park is a good impact player coming off the bench. When Owen Hargreaves returns from his long injury layoff then competition for places in the United midfield will really hot up.
The other question is what formation suits United? Ferguson shifts between a 4-5-1 and his conventional 4-4-2, depending on whether he wants to incorporate Dimitar Berbatov into the side. The question remains whether United need two out and out wingers in their team, in the form of Nani and Valencia? Nani has been a revelation recently and is definitely a game changer, but United’s style does not need the Portuguese winger and Valencia whipping in crosses to the box for Rooney and Berbatov to get on the end of, because that’s not what they are about. Rooney plays everywhere along the front line, drifting out wide and is not an out-and-out striker. The same can be said for Berba, who likes to create with the ball at his feet. United need a Ruud van Nistelrooy-type striker for that to work, as they did so well when the Dutchman was at Old Trafford.
Certainly United have missed the goals of Ronaldo this season from midfield, especially against the weaker teams, where the Portuguese winger usually excelled. I’m going to open it up for debate: what do you think is United’s best midfield?
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