Which Players Can Take United To The Next Level? – Part Two – Midfield

Traditionally, United prefer to buy players who are on the cusp of greatness – young promising players – and go on to nurture them and make them great players, possibly world-class performers.  It is very rare that we buy players who have already hit the top with other teams, even though the money was always available to spend.  The main driver for this attribute has been the fact that most United teams were already at a competitive level and players coming in could be given time to make their mark.  The situation is somewhat similar now.  The team is clearly improving with a rapid pace and it may not be advisable to change tact just now.  That said, there are a couple of players who I would certainly acquire for a simple reason which I will refer to later in this article when we tackle the forwards part.

This article has also been drafted with one proviso in mind.  Covid has hit hard the finances of football clubs all over the world, as it did to other industries.  Hence, when selecting the players that could take us to the next level, I kept in mind the budget that Ole would have at his disposal.  It was never the case of an endless pot and this year it’s even worse.  That is the reason why I think that United can only afford to bring in just one stellar player, and be economical with the rest of the acquisitions, while also selling some of the fringe players to boost the coffers.



I have been impressed by Nemanja Matic since January this year in particular.  He seems to have obtained a second lease of life and his performances in front of our defence have been disciplined and efficient.  He has allowed Pogba and Bruno to venture forward at will and kept the shape of the team admirably.  Without doubt, Nemanja is not getting younger and he will not be able to play 60 matches next season but in my mind, he ought to start the most important ones.  If I had to be greedy, Declan Rice from West Ham would be a nice addition to the squad and the boy is certainly developing into a fine defensive midfielder and a leader for his team, despite being still 21 years old.  In this area of the pitch, United are well stocked though and acquiring Rice is not a priority this season.

Fred and McTominay have played well when called into action.  Last season, Fred has distinguished himself with some top performances and he rarely let us down in midfield.  I watched him live three times and he’s full of energy, being always ready to cover for the attacking fullback on the flanks, tackling and intercepting in midfield and harassing opponents.  His attacking play, also in the shots has to improve but on the whole, he was one of our best players over the season.  Fred is a different kind of player than Matic but can easily fill the defensive midfielder position in place of Matic.  One thing I’ve noticed is that Fred performs better when he has McTominay alongside him.  The latter came from nowhere two seasons ago and recorded a few appearances for the first team.  Last season Scott manage to improve further and he is starting to boss that midfield area with tough tackling, surging runs and the odd goal for the team.  Another definite stay.

As I commented in a previous article in July, I would like to see Pogba moving further forward in the line-up, possibly in a 4-1-4-1 formation, and play closer to Bruno.  Let’s face it, Paul is anything but a defensive midfielder.  He can be world class however if Ole uses him appropriately.  Pushing him closer to the front three will create mayhem in the opponents’ half and will certainly create many chances for the players around him.  I think that the acquisition of Bruno has released pressure from Paul’s shoulders, as he understands that he does not have to carry the team forward on his own in the final third.  My feeling is that he will sign a new contract soon as he looks happier than ever on the pitch.  I can see him going from strength to strength this coming season and if Paul can pitch in with ten goals or more, he would be like a new signing for United.  Bruno Fernandes on his part has been a revelation for United in the second part of the season and has managed to lift the whole team to a new level.  Bruno has the technical ability and creativity to unlock any defence with his splitting passes.  He can shoot from distance, is a free-kick specialist, has sublime technique for penalties and can see a pass.  Moreover, he works hard for the team and is an inspiration for his team-mates with his high pressing on defenders of the opposing team.

So, those five midfielders stay and how.  The only acquisition I can see happening this transfer window – if we confirm the other five, as above – is of a creative midfielder that can give Paul and Bruno a breather.  At the end of this season which ended in July, Bruno looked knackered and I am sure that he was playing at 50% of his potential.  Two matches every week with the intensity of the Premier League and the pressure United were in to make it with the top four took everything out of our players and when Bruno’s performances dwindled, the whole team under-performed.  It became obvious that United needed another person that could challenge Bruno and Paul for the attacking midfielder roles.  Jack Grealish would have been perfect for that position.  Still young and has not reached his potential yet but captained a Villa team that avoided relegation on the last day of the season.  And the moment that he carried them to safety against West Ham in Villa’s last match, I felt that it killed the possibility of him joining United this season.  If Villa had been relegated, Jack’s price would have been affordable and he would have been able to push a deal through with the justification that he needed to play in the Premiership.  I personally would not pay £80 million for Jack, maybe he’s worth half of that in the present environment.  Villa will not sell for £40 million and the only way I can see him joining us this season is by virtue of a season-long loan.

There were rumours lately that James Rodriguez will join United for a fee as low as £13 million, which is certainly a bargain for a player that is in need to resurrect his career.  Personally, I never appreciated his talent, but he might be perfect for what United want if he is humble and if he delivers when he is called upon.  If James however comes to Manchester with a primadonna attitude, then even £13 million is too expensive.  Nicola Zaniolo of Roma has also been mentioned but he would cost north of £40 million and I am sure United tried to include him in any negotiation for Chris Smalling, so not much hope there.  Two other players who are very interesting but are not mentioned much are David Brooks of Bournemouth, who is just coming from a season-long injury and is very promising, and the young Hungarian playing for Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, Dominik Szoboszlai.  The latter will be 20 in October and has taken the Austrian Premiership by storm last season.  He will be a star and he is the type of player that United can propel to greatness.

So, three position of midfielders in the first team, six players to fight for the three places plus an extra player.  As an extra, I would keep Pereira.  The boy had some poor performances with us but I think he still deserves another season in the squad.  Andreas is technical and hardworking.  His problem in my book is that he thinks he is better than he actually shows on the pitch.  If he manages to be humbler, there is still a chance for him to succeed at United.  The other midfielders – mostly young ex-academy players should be loaned out to the Championship.  The pick from these youngsters is James Garner.  James is expected to have a bright future with United and a season playing in the Championship under his belt will assist him to go to the next level.

Article contributed by Contributor RoderickComments are appreciated on our Facebook page.