Manchester United have a problem in midfield this summer which requires strengthening, according to Danny Murphy on talkSPORT. The former Liverpool and England midfielder has suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has work to do in replacing Michael Carrick, who retired at the end of the 2017/18 season, becoming a coach at the club.
Carrick signed for United from Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2006 for a fee of £14 million, which could have risen to £18.6 million. The combative midfielder played for the club for 12 seasons before hanging up his boots and becoming a coach under Jose Mourinho and continuing under Solskjaer. Carrick was the reason United’s midfield has depth.
During his career at the club, as a player, Carrick won five Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, six FA Community Shields, one UEFA Champions League, one UEFA Europa League and one FIFA Club World Cup – only the UEFA Super Cup is missing from his list of honours. A great career for a great midfielder.
During the summer, United were linked with many midfielders, failing to sign a single one. Having sold Marouane Fellaini in January and with Ander Herrera leaving as a free agent in the summer, it was expected that at least two central midfielders would be signed. However, that did not happen. Solskjaer’s side may have wanted to make signing though.
For the duration of the summer, Solskjaer was linked to Newcastle United midfielder Sean Longstaff, a connection that was mocked by supposed supporters of the club on Twitter. It would seem that supporters think United should be signing experienced world class players, ignoring the fact that Longstaff has the skills to be a great player.
Former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez one stated that Longstaff was like Carrick but with more mobility and more in the tank. If only some supposed United supporters looked forwards instead of always looking back, they might understand the game a bit more. There is little point buying ready-made players, helping to develop younger players works.
Carrick was a deep-lying midfielder, one that did not rely on pace, stamina, physical attributes, box-to-box play or tackling like a typical midfielder. Instead, Carrick relied on his reading of the game, helping him to anticipate attacking threats from the opposition. This helped him and all the teams he played for. Carrick has been praised by legends of the game, including Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Xavi and Xabi Alonso.
Longstaff is a born leader, he has perfect his passing to the best of his abilities, he gets stuck into the game and has his entire career ahead of him. You should be able to see why Longstaff was linked to United and why Newcastle seemed to put a huge price tag on the player this summer, seemingly wanting to keep him. Speaking about United’s midfield, Murphy told talkSPORT:
“And then of course in the middle of the
parkI’m still not sure that it’s the right balance.
“I think they need another, I keep saying it, Michael Carrick, but where do you find a Michael Carrick?
“But that type, someone who can sit in there, [Paul] Pogba likes to go forward and do his bit, someone who can sit in there.
“[Scott] McTominay’s a good player but he’s not someone that can dictate tempo
likeCarrick did. They’ve never replaced him as far as I’m concerned.”
United though, have a player of their own who could help strengthen the midfield and add something Carrick-esque in the centre of the pitch. His name is James Garner. The 18-year-old has made his first team debut for United but has yet to play a considerable amount of minutes at a competitive level. He was involved in the clubs summer pre-season tour.
Garner has started to establish himself in the U23 squad this season, under Neil Wood and Quinton Fortune, playing all 360 minutes of action with United beating Rotherham United 2-0, West Bromwich Albion 5-0, Reading 2-0, and Newcastle United 4-0, showing his ability and more importantly his development at a higher level than U18 football.
Garner has four goals and one assist at this level this season, scoring a brace against West Brom, once against Reading and Newcastle, getting his assist against Rotherham in the EFL Trophy. Garner may not be ready to be considered for the first team right now but during the course of the season, if he continues on this trajectory, the world could be his oyster.