After Manchester United struggled past non-league Crawley Town, it became abundantly clear for all to see, despite it being a predominantly second-string side, that the club are sorely lacking a dynamic and creative midfielder to link the team’s play between the midfield and attack – a problem it has to be said, that has been in evidence for some time now and Ferguson’s reluctance to address it fully so far has caused concern amongst certain sections of the Old Trafford faithful.
Man Utd have a perfectly functioning midfield, but the strength of their game is in their stubborn and well-organised defence. It could be argued that they have also over-relied at times this season and last on the likes of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani to supply individual moments of brilliance and that they could do with a creative midfielder to help lighten the load on the attacking trio. Far too often the aforementioned triumvirate have had to drop deep in an attempt to instigate attacks themselves and the likes of Carrick and Fletcher offer very little value to the side going forward.
The fact remains that there has been little contribution in the goals and assists stakes from the centre of midfield in recent seasons and the club haven’t had a true goalscoring central midfielder since Paul Scholes was in his pomp. It really does make Ferguson’s failure to move for Rafael van der Vaart in the summer all the more baffling.
Here are my runners and riders for the role should manager Alex Ferguson wish to address the growing problem in the summer.
Yoann Gourcuff – I touted the Frenchman to my Man Utd supporting friends before last summer’s World Cup as the answer to all of their problems. Unfortunately for me, Gourcuff played like an absolute dog of a player throughout the tournament, as did the whole of the France squad it has to be said, as France exited in the group stages in what was a brief albeit hilariously kamikaze effort on their entire squad’s part. Thankfully this proved to the exception and not the rule with Gourcuff. Blessed with exceptional technique when striking a ball, his size and passing range are also great attributes to have at your disposal and he should have no problem adapting to the Premier League. Despite only moving to Lyon last summer, Gourcuff is thought to be unsettled in France’s second-city and open to a move elsewhere.
Nuri Sahin – The 22 year-old German-born Turkish international has been a revelation in the Bundesliga for the past season and a half. Capable of speeding up and slowing play down, he is the heartbeat of an ever-improving Dortmund side currently leading the German league by a canter. Although not the quickest, his vision is without peer throughout the whole of Europe at the moment and only a move to either England or Spain is holding him back from being a true global star.
Eden Hazard – There has been a lot of talk about the 20 year-old Belgian international for quite some time now. He’s been a first-team regular for Lille for three seasons and he already boasts considerable international and European experience despite his relatively young age. Hazard is a real livewire with the ball at his feet; capable of drifting past players with ease, his acceleration has to be seen to be believed and it’s in his unpredictability where his greatest strength lies at the minute. He wouldn’t come cheaply, but he looks tailor made for the rigorous pace of the Premier League and he could still be moulded into the player that Ferguson would want him to become.
Alexis Sanchez – The 22 year-old Chilean winger is similar to Hazard in many respects, but looks to have a more developed and better all-round game than the Belgian. He has become an integral player for Udinese over the past few seasons and Ferguson is known to be a big fan. A summer move looks on the cards, whether that will be to Old Trafford though remains to be seen.
Luka Modric – The obvious choice for all discerning Premier League viewers. Modric has been the real star for Spurs this season for me, and while all the attention has been heaped on Gareth Bale’s meteoric rise and exploits in Europe, it’s Modric that is the heartbeat of the side. He’s also gone on to dispel the myth that he cannot play in a four-man midfield this season too after being considered by many to be too lightweight for the role. He’s already familiar with the league, he boasts fantastic vision and distribution and his metronomic style is exactly what Utd need right now as they begin to prepare for the unthinkable – a life after Paul Scholes. Spurs will be extremely reluctant to sell one of their key players and the fact that they are in no immediate need to do so makes a move difficult to foresee at the minute. If any move is to transpire in the future though, then a lot of the movement will have to come from the player’s own desire to leave White Hart Lane and force through a transfer, something which would appear to be out of character for the unassuming Croat. Unlikely as it may be and expensive to boot, Modric remains the perfect fit for the role.
Wesley Sneijder – Inter Milan have failed to get anywhere close to matching last season’s trophy-laden exploits as the club have struggled at home and in Europe post-Mourinho. Sneijder has often talked of his desire to move the Premier League and that his preferred destination would be to join Ferguson at Old Trafford. Sneijder was extremely unlucky not to be in the final three, let alone win the Ballon D’Or this year. His movement in front of the back four is so difficult to pick up and the sheer amount of chances that he creates on a plate must mean he’s any respectable striker’s dream partner. His speed of thought and ability to create something out of nothing are fantastic qualities to have and he is also a significant goal threat, a quality he displayed at the World Cup to the tune of 5 goals. He is a danger with set-pieces, boasts bags of experience and a right foot that you could open a can of beans with. Sneijder may need time to adjust to the Premier League after predominantly playing in slower paced leagues throughout his career in Holland, Spain and now Italy, but at just 26 years of age (I know, shocking right?) time on his side and he just oozes class.
Well there you have it – Sneijder and Modric would be the best bets in my opinion, whereas the likes of Gourcuff and Sanchez look the most attainable. Who would you like ideally to fill the creative midfield slot at Man Utd?
There may be a shortage of creative midfielders at Old Trafford, but Paul Pogba should be there for many years to come. Watch the video below to see why…