Midfield Options: Manchester United seek to build a midfield with steel in their game

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has a big summer transfer window ahead of him, despite working as a pundit for Russia television during the FIFA World Cup this summer, also having to prepare for the pre-season tour of the United States of America with many of his senior players out of action, for some, most, or all of the tour because of their participation in the World Cup. Mourinho needs to strengthen his squad this summer, correctly, in order to make up the distance Manchester City have gained on them this season.

At the end of the season, Mourinho needed to strengthen his defence, the midfield, and the attack, in different areas, in order to give Pep Guardiola’s side a run for their money in the battle for the Premier League title next season. Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal will also strengthen to ensure they are better placed next season, so for all, it will be a tough summer, even for Guardiola. The area up for discussion here is the midfield…

Michael Carrick retired at the end of the season and will take up a place on Mourinho’s coaching team this summer. Marouane Fellaini’s contract expires at the end of this month, so the likelihood is that the manager will need to bring in two midfielders this summer. United announced earlier this week that there is an agreement with Shakhtar Donetsk that Brazilian Fred will head to the Theatre of Dreams this summer, although he has not yet been announced as a United player, although defender Diogo Dalot has.

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United have been linked to many midfielders this summer already from Jean-Michael Seri to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Mourinho will know that as each day in June passes, the likelihood of needing another central midfielder rises and the United supporters will become happy because Fellaini has left the club. Although, you never know with football Twitter as they seem to change their minds often and will probably blame Mourinho for letting Fellaini leave. The fan base, in this instance, is a massive joke.

The only player United seem to be clearly linked with, as a midfielder this summer is Milinkovic-Savic, who would be another expensive signing and it does make me wonder where he would fit in to the team. Nemanja Matic is clearly the go-to guy in the defensive midfield role, Fred is a player who can do the lot in midfield so could take Matic’s place in some matches as the Serbian is rested, which means Mourinho will not have to rely on him as much. It is suggested that a midfield three of Matic, Fred, and Paul Pogba will be the first choice next season.

If United sign Milinkovic-Savic, which is something that has so many doubts right now, based upon the price Lazio seem to have put on the player’s head, which only a few teams in European football could afford, United being one of them. It makes me wonder if United would spend that sort of money on a player who would not be a starting player unless Pogba was to leave United this summer, which has been speculated but not something that is expected to happen.

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United’s midfield has not been considered one of the best in the Premier League. Carrick’s retirement will be a big loss for United when you factor in what he did whilst he was on the pitch. He seldom played during the past season because of a heart problem but in his final game, which saw him bow out in style at Old Trafford, his ability, distribution, dictation of play and control of the tempo is something that will be missed. However, his presence as a coach could be just what United need as they head into the third Mourinho season seeking to enhance the playing style.

United still have Ander Herrera, who is in the final year of his contract at the Theatre of Dreams after United activated the final year in his contract, which was four years plus the option of a fifth. His future at the club rests on how he performs this season but with him turning 29 this summer, his long-term future could be something that lies elsewhere, especially with the match-fixing trial which is impending in Spain. It is possible that United let Herrera’s contract expire and seek a replacement for him in a year’s time.

Scott McTominay, a player who emerged from the Academy under Mourinho at the end of his first season at the club, has done well this season when given the opportunity. He was even given a Manager’s Player of the Year award by Mourinho, which was not planned by the club. The Scottish international could find more games for United this coming season and could well be a player to replace Herrera, should he not get a new deal inside the next year.

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Mourinho does not have to look at purchasing players, after signing Fred and whether he needs to replace Fellaini, which looks likely. If additional midfielders are needed, looking towards the Academy will be the thing to do. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is a player who might feature in midfield in future. Despite being on loan with Crystal Palace and predominantly playing as a right-back, or a right-sided defender, the player can play in midfield and did during his rise within the U18s and the U21s a few years ago.

Mourinho will also have the likes of Ethan Hamilton, who has been training with the first team in stages during the past season and James Garner, who has played well at U18 level and looks to make the rise to the U23s this coming season as they seek their return to the top-level in the Premier League 2, finding themselves relegated to Division Two last season. There is plenty of scope to fill the midfield after both Carrick and Fellaini have been replaced. Fred is coming but has not been announced yet, meaning United still need one more midfielder.

I would like to see Fosu-Mensah given the chance to fortify the midfield but the fans who want Milinkovic-Savic will moan about that as the hero they have spent hours watching on YouTube will not be a United player. However, giving another youth player a chance, a player who not long ago said that he would like to play with Pogba in the midfield, suggesting that is his favoured position. He is more of a midfield destroyer, rather than a defensive minded player, seemingly wanting to chase his man down to get the ball.

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Mourinho will know what he is doing this summer, even if we don’t. It will be something that has been meticulously planned, whether we agree or not. We are merely supporters and cannot dictate who pulls on a Manchester United shirt. Some people need to understand that. When you support a club, you need to do that. If you become critical because you have different ideas, but only have experience of playing FIFA, Football Manager, or watching YouTube compilations, are you really experienced in managing a real-life football team?

Mourinho will be seeking to change the things that have let United down, namely the defence, the midfield and the attack. United have some great players, but some whose motivation ends with their paycheck, rather than having the belief, the determination and the level of performance to lift the club from the dark times they have faced since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson. With players who can do this, want United to win and win well, United can start to achieve the impossible once again.

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