Changing of the Guard; Who can replace Manchester United’s midfield general?

Since signing for Manchester United in the summer of 2006 Michael Carrick has been an ever-present cog in the Manchester United midfield. His relaxed and measured approach has made sure that he has not looked out-of-place in a red shirt despite playing through a period of relative weakness in the United midfield and a major transition after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. Carrick is one of the few who have remained since that time but his contract expires at the end of the season and he is yet to pen a new deal. It is possible that he will be around next season but given that Mourinho has used him rather sparingly this season it is likely that the club will be in the market for a new force to control the midfield.

The big question is who the club should go in for during the summer to replace our current anchor. United’s midfield has looked at its best this season when playing in a 4-3-3 with Carrick controlling the tempo, Herrera tearing the pitch and the opposition apart with his work rate and tough tackling and Paul Pogba operating with a sense of freedom to create and cause damage going forward. This system also gives enough numbers behind the ball to allow our attacking players to do what they do best and get forward. It has given the team a great balance and allowed us to dominate possession and momentum in games although it has been let down by some poor finishing. This is, therefore, the base selection that I will assume going forward.

It is very unlikely given Carrick’s skill set that a direct replacement would be found but given Mourinho’s style of midfielder, it is also unlikely that one would be targeted. Carrick moves around the pitch with grace while quietly mopping things up and distributing the ball to players in front of him. Mourinho tends to prefer his holding players to have more steel and power about them to dominate the midfield area and with the creativity of Pogba and Ander Herrera next to them, this could work well for the side. I could write for hours if I was to discuss every player that United have been linked with in midfield over the past few months so I will narrow the focus. Jose is building a squad of stars and I expect this summer to be the same therefore although there are many viable options in players like Julian Weigl, Idrissa Gueye or Johannes Geis I will focus on two ‘dream’ signings, two more realistic signings and then a wildcard.

The first dream signing to slot into the midfield would be Toni Kroos. The 27-year-old German has been linked with United almost as many times as Wesley Sneijder (aren’t we all glad that is all over) and has become one of the best in the world in his position. Not too far off the mould of Carrick, he does not rely on pace or strength but on his reading of the game and an exquisite right foot which can find either a team-mate or equally the corner of the net with ease. Kroos oozes style and quality, and as long as you can ignore his questionable music taste which he revealed in a recent Twitter Q&A, then it is undeniable that he would improve any side. This being said like our next dream signing he almost impossible to obtain. He is currently playing in a star-studded Real Madrid team looking for domestic and European success. It would be a huge surprise if he were to leave the club during his prime years to join a team who have not competed for the league title or the champions league for four seasons. As nice as this move would be I think it shall remain just a dream.

My second candidate for dream signing is Marco Verratti. The Pitbull-like Italian midfielder is only 24 and already one of the most sought after prizes in world football. His tenacious and rugged style to win the ball back despite his small stature is backed up by excellent ability on the ball. He can use his speed and agility to work his way out of tight spaces and his passing to set players free further up the pitch. Verratti and Herrera could run a team ragged with their work rate in midfield and he would likely offer a better shield for the defence than Carrick currently does. Once again though Verratti would be very difficult to obtain. He has been linked heavily with Barcelona as a replacement for Iniesta and he would certainly come with a very hefty price tag. If he was to be tempted to Old Trafford it would be an excellent move by Ed Woodward but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

A more realistic target would be Radja Nainggolan of Roma. Although not an out-and-out defensive midfielder the skill set is certainly there. The Belgian is currently 28 although will be 29 by the summer so is in his prime years. He has more recently been used slightly further forward in the midfield due to his passing and shooting abilities and has 12 goals this season but he is strong in the tackle and could offer the midfield some experience. It would seem that if a big club came knocking for him he may be tempted to move on from Roma for his final years at the top-level. They are currently trailing Juventus with no hope of winning the Serie A title or the Champions league and this may be a chance to tempt him away with the prospect of success and top-level football. The only concern here would be trying to adapt his play to fit the disciplined holding role at the highest level.

It would be very difficult to leave this next option out as he is currently one of the most talked about young players in Europe and he scored against City to knock them out of the Champions League. Tiemoue Bakayoko has been linked with anyone and everyone this season as one of Monaco’s young stars and there are rumours that Chelsea are now leading the race for his signature. At 22 he is very young and would come lacking experience and leadership which the midfield could really benefit from but he does bring with him an impressive physical presence, good technical ability and did I mention that he scored against City to knock them out of the Champions League. Bakayoko could have over 10 years of top performances left in him. He is a destroyer of opposition attacks and can pass the ball well and travel with it. He offers a presence in both boxes from set pieces and could be part of a successful formula at United for years to come if we are able to win the race to sign him.

My wildcard option for the holding midfield position would need no financial outlay or new shirts to be printed. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is one of the most physically impressive youth players I have ever seen. His lightning pace is astonishing given his build and size. He combines incredible strength with great speed, agility and work rate. We have seen him mostly restricted to a right back role this season which is disappointing as I feel his skill set is wasted there. He has shown impressive tackling and defensive ability but has not been able to show his on the ball ability from the right back position. Another player with an ability to run with the ball and pick a pass Fosu-Mensah could become a valuable asset to United if given the time to blossom but his versatility may prove to be his downfall. If he is to push on he needs to nail down a position and impress whenever given the chance to. He is already a fan favourite having done relatively little and many want to see him in the squad but the arrival of a new midfielder is only likely to prevent him from getting minutes. United may already have their replacement huddled up on their subs bench just ready to be set loose on the opposition’s midfield.

Written by Jack Gadsden


Other news you may also like

July 24, 2017

Manchester United attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan has spoken about his second season at the Theatre of Dreams being the one where he would improve massively. The … Read more

August 22, 2017

Daley Blind was one of the few Manchester United players who had a poor pre-season. Some fans, including myself, thought this form might carry into the opening stages of … Read more

November 21, 2016

Manchester United U23’s face Sunderland in the Premier League 2 at Leigh Sports Village this evening, their first match under Nicky Butt after Warren Joyce left the… Read more

March 8, 2017

Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with Bournemouth on Saturday seemed to confirm all the doubt we’d been having; United may struggle to finish in the top four this… Read more

copyright: MW

%d bloggers like this: