It seems as if Old Trafford has been going through the midfield cycle for years; buy midfielders, they don’t fit properly, buy more midfielders. Marouane Fellaini served a purpose but was unable to dominate the midfield for United. Juan Mata has arguably been the most successful midfield purchase, but he hasn’t spent time at the heart of midfield. Daley Blind is now considered a key player in defence for United, and Ander Herrera has only shown glimpses of the quality we know he has. Herrera’s words can also be directly applied to Morgan Schneiderlin, and it is arguable that Bastian Schweinsteiger’s status as a key player at Old Trafford is one of the biggest misconceptions in English football.
United has purchased six midfielders in the last three seasons, and none have had the intended impact (not necessarily in a bad way). However, it seems the only solution for the club is to buy more midfielders and look for a success. Ed Woodward needs to ask himself where these signings have gone wrong (or in some cases, have taken longer than expected) and then figure it out.
The most likely solution he will find is that the players he purchased do not fit United’s system or tactical needs. The imminent appointment of Jose Mourinho may very well prove to be a miracle for Schneiderlin and Herrera, but a modern midfield is composed of three players and United needs a third. Hopefully, the rumours that United is targeting Grzegorz Krychowiak are true because a focus on the Sevilla holding midfielder will prove that he is the perfect tactical player to add to United’s squad.
Firstly, Krychowiak is an unbelievable winner of the ball in defensive situations. Standing at 6’3, Krychowiak averages 4.4 interceptions and 2.4 tackles per game, which adds up to seven defensive actions without blocks and clearances. Krychowiak is an unbelievable winner of the ball and distributes it safely too, as the Sevilla midfielder completes 85% of his passes.
We all saw what Morgan Schneiderlin could do going forward in his final season at Southampton, and Krychowiak offers a similar presence to Schneiderlin’s Southampton counterpart Victor Wanyama. Krychowiak’s presence would benefit Schneiderlin, but also would greatly benefit Herrera. The risk of Herrera losing the ball would be much smaller with Schneiderlin and Krychowiak to pick up the pieces, which would allow Herrera the freedom to play with the freedom that saw him destroy teams in United’s best run under Louis van Gaal.
Krychowiak’s presence also helps the other players in United’s midfield. Having Krychowiak in defensive midfield could be the saving grace of Juan Mata’s United career, especially considering Jose Mourinho infamously sold him to United in the dawn of his Chelsea career. More relevantly, players in the mould of Bastian Schweinsteiger’s reinvention at United (late Paul Scholes, late Pirlo, late Xavi) all operated with a player protecting them and compensating for their lack of physicality. Krychowiak would be the destroyer United fans have craved in midfield, and he is actually completely comparable to Roy Keane.
Daley Blind’s presence in the centre of United’s defence is, from a positional perspective, very unique, and luckily for United, Krychowiak can also play in the central defence. Perfect to cover Blind, another central defensive purchase to cover for Smalling would reinforce United’s options in the centre of defence greatly (Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Paddy McNair). In addition, Krychowiak offers something remotely close to Blind’s incredible passing range while offering a much more potent aerial threat.
Speaking of aerial threat, WhoScored identifies United’s greatest weakness as “aerial duels”, and with Marouane Fellaini long linked with a move away from United, the problem could become worse. Krychowiak is everything United would need in a replacement for Fellaini and is actually more prolific in the air, averaging 3.2 aerial duels compared to Fellaini’s three per game. Krychowiak, Smalling and Schneiderlin would be prolific in both United’s box and the opposition box, and it would make United less susceptible to counter-attacks in matches where they struggle to break down teams.
The last aspect of a Krychowiak transfer that makes him perfect for United is his status as a world class player without the name. Though Krychowiak isn’t as well-known, it doesn’t make him any worse than the best ball-winning midfielders in the world. This benefits United greatly because he will not demand a place in the team when the tactics of specific matchups don’t suit him. United fans love an underrated player more than anything and Krychowiak fits the bill.
Tactically, physically and mentally, Krychowiak clearly has what it takes to be a template United player. With United’s midfield looking promising but missing the final piece, scouts should hope they find Krychowiak because he has the potential to be the best midfielder in the Premier League. Krychowiak will be playing for Poland at the Euros in France, and there will be many clubs ready to sign him after that. Rarely is a player so perfect for a club- one can only hope the coaching team at Manchester United realises that this summer.