Manchester United’s midfield is somewhat depleted following the departure of Marouane Fellaini in January and Ander Herrera leaving the club as a free agent in the summer. At least that is what the moaning relates to as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have strengthened the midfield during the summer transfer window.
However, the Norwegian opted to sign a winger instead, in Daniel James, who arrived for £15 million from Swansea City. It was a summer that saw Paul Pogba state to the media that he wanted a new challenge and one which saw United linked to a number of different midfielders. Bruno Fernandes was linked to the club for the entire summer window.
Some will suggest that United’s midfield is weak and there are no positives should Pogba actually leave before the European window closes, or if he suffers from an injury. However, as an optimist, I see options, not great options but options for players to grow and learn a place in the midfield. However, some will not be happy with this fix.
Defensive midfield depth; a player on the decline or players lacking experience.
Nemanja Matic is the player with experience in the defensive midfield position. But as last season and during pre-season has clearly shown, the Serbian has lost his pace, is slow and on the decline. Based on this, he will not be expected to play a big role at the club this season. There are players under him with less experience.
At this moment in time, Scott McTominay will start ahead of Matic as he has been offering more to the team than Matic can at the minute, possibly for the future too. In rotation, McTominay could be challenged by Andreas Pereira and Tim Fosu-Mensah, once he has recovered from knee surgery. Another option is James Garner.
It might not be something that you would consider great depth but it is still depth nonetheless. McTominay has developed into a decent midfielder and that has not finished for him. Having the likes of Pereira, Fosu-Mensah and Garner, also Matic means there are options there if there needs to be. Solskjaer has a plan and he will follow that plan.
Central midfield depth; Pogba has little competition for a starting central midfield role.
In this position, Paul Pogba is the player that others will need to get past in order to play regularly, at least in the 4-2-3-1 formation with only two midfielders. In another formation, say 4-3-3, a third midfielder would be given the chance to earn their place in the team. However, the 4-2-3-1 formation has been used most often by Solskjaer.
If Pogba was to be injured or was rested keeping in mind bigger matches during the course of the season, the likes of Fred and Andreas Pereira could replace him in the team. Fred could also play as a defensive
Pereira has done well, however, I am not sure the centre of midfield is where Pereira should be playing; he played on the right-wing for periods against Chelsea last weekend. The depth here is not the greatest but it will have to do, until January at least when Solskjaer ma
The formation above shows the depth of the midfield. There are seven players competing for a central midfield role, of which in the current formation, two will start each match. If the formation changes, there could be a further place available in the team. There is some strengthening needed but that doesn’t just mean buying players.
There are many players in the team that could be used in these positions if the need arises. I am sure Juan Mata could play a central role, as could Angel Gomes. It might not be ideal but it could work. However, with the seven names to fortify these positions, it would take a long injury list to ensure Solskjaer played other players out of their favoured positions.
The depth is there, although it is not as magnificent as it might be. But the way I look at things, the depth of the squad, at least in the striker role was not great in the 2015/16 season and after Anthony Martial injured himself in the warm-up ahead of the Midtjylland match, Marcus Rashford may not have had the impact in which he’s had. Every cloud and all that!