In years gone by, Manchester United have been been blessed with many great leaders in the middle of the field, who drive the team forward and make us tick. Even though the Reds are famous for their exuberant and exciting wide play, it is the men in the middle of the park who give the wingers the opportunity to thrive. Looking ahead to the summer transfer window, Sir Alex will be looking to strengthen this area with the probable departure of both Owen Hargreaves & Paul Scholes.
In recent years, the role of the box-to-box midfielder has become less fashionable with the increased success of more European formations; as shown with the domination of the 4 2 3 1 formation at the World Cup, in South Africa. Whereas Keane, Whiteside and Charlton would get back and go forward in equal measure, the use of deep lying play-makers (Guardiola, Alonso & Xavi) and traditional #10s (Zidane, Ozil & Iniesta) has, for the moment, superseded the midfielder pair; which hasn’t worked for United against Chelsea & Liverpool. So, who will be United’s next #10?
Carrick, Fletcher & Anderson have all recently committed their long term future (until 2015 at least) to Old Trafford. Although one of these players may be capable of replacing a 36 year old Paul Scholes, could any of them provide the attacking threat he showed ten years ago. Although Anderson, the Brazilian from FC Porto, was signed for £18m as the Englishman’s ultimate successor, his career has so far been blighted by injury. Therefore, whether Scholes (Zinedine Zidane‘s favourite player) does hang up his boots or not, Sir Alex will be looking for a midfielder maestro to minimize his inevitable loss.
With an apparent war chest still available, and following Ronaldo’s departure, Sir Alex could indulge in anyone he wants to in the summer. Here is a look at the transfer targets the Manchester United manager is scouting and targeting:
Contrary to reports from the ever-unreliable Goal, (I have been reliably informed that) Manchester United are not currently negotiating a deal for an the talented youngster. The Argentinian international has been excelling with Palermo, drawing the attention of both Real Madrid & Barcelona, and is a permanent fitting in Argentina’s side. However, at £40m he is Ferguson’s most expensive transfer target and may struggle to adapt from Seria A to the Premier League (Alberto Aquilani), or be another dubious Argentinian signing (Juan Sebastion Veron). Risky.
Having been included in Brazil’s 2010 World Cup squad as a substitute for Kaka, the Santos midfielder has drawn inevitable comparisons with Real Madrids £56m signing. The attacking-midfielder thrives playing behind the striker, using his pace and vision to influence the game, and is being touted as the key man in Brazil’s WC Squad for the 2014 WC, in Brazil. At 20 years of age, he has been careful not to leave his home country too soon but has recently hinted that he “would like to succeed in England where the soccer is faster, [saying he] would fit in well there.” Hint.
As the German manager says, ‘it’s fun watching him play.’ The diminutive 5ft 7″ creative midfielder is a better version of Ozil (at the same age) and possesses great strength to accompany his small frame, Messi-esque. An influential figure in Borussia Dortmund’s run-away success this season, in the Bundesliga, he is another product of Germany’s recent academy investment. The 18 year-old is hot property but need he leave his local club, considering the possibility of domestic silverware? Probably not.
Outshining the promising Jack Wilshere, in England’s international versus Denmark, the young Ajax academy starlet has shone on a national, and international, stage. With quick feet, ample pace and a great brain, the 18 year-old Danish international is tipped as a future star. The Dutch club would be reluctant to let him go but would be forced to contemplate any considerable offers, due to their weak financial position. Exploitation.
A former World Player of the Year, the Brazilian is undoubtedly a very special footballer – just remember his performance in the Champions League against us for AC Milan. He has struggled to justify his £56m price tag in Spain and has argued repeatedly with Christiano Ronaldo, leaving his long-term future uncertain. United are one of the few teams that could meet his wage demands and transfer fee but is he too old to justify the investment? I’m sure he would love the opportunity, having described his desire to play with Sir Ryan Giggs.
Having rose to prominence on the international stage for Croatia, the little play-maker has adapted superbly to English football and become Tottenham’s best player, in my opinion. Harry Redknapp firmly believes he could get into any team in the world, a statement I think most Premier League managers would have to concur with. Bouncing off the Premier League’s rougher players, the Croatian distributes the ball forward, with unbelievable ease, gracefully allowing Spurs attacking players to flourish. Considering his age and experience, he would certainly fit straight into Sir Alex’s team.
In the summer, before he splashed out £8m on Bebe, Sir Alex Ferguson was seen at Craven Cottage watching, and apparently talking to, Ozil after his phenomenal World Cup performances. Having bamboozled the defences of England, Ghana & Argentina, the German wonder-kid was top of my summer wish list. Considering his ‘small’ transfer fee of £12m, I was sure the Reds would sign but regrettably he went to Real Madrid, to work with Jose Mourinho & Co (where he is now thriving).
The arrival of the young German international left the experienced midfielder, Van Der Vaart, looking for a club. Eager to dispose of his wages and services, Real Madrid offered the Dutch international to United for £16m but Sir Alex refused. Instead, he joined Spurs, for a cut-price £8m, where is thriving in an advanced attacking role – although it is uncertain whether he would have done so well as a traditional central midfielder at Old Trafford.
Under Our Nose?
With the prospect of £40m leaving the club in the summer, just to fill this one gap, the Reds will be eager to ensure the purchase is entirely necessary. Manchester United have had a long tradition of developing, and nurturing, young players into world stars and have some exciting prospects in the pipeline but would the current crop of youngsters be able to handle the pressure of being a #10 for the most supported club in the world?
Currently on-loan, at Wigan Athletic, Tom Cleverley is a promising talent who excelled at Watford last year and is starting to make an impact in the Premier League, having overcome some niggling injuries. Considering his pre-season form, he was only allowed to leave having asked Sir Alex himself. Although he will certainly be a good squad player next season – I don’t think he currently has the pedigree to fill this massive gap.
Ravel Morrison is one of Manchester United’s most naturally gifted academy players ever. People inside Carrington think he is more talented than Wilshere, Henderson & Rodwell put together (slight exaggeration) but question marks remain as to whether he will ever fulfill his potential. Unfortunately, he has had a troubled past and is on his final warning with the club. He most certainly has the talent to be not only United’s long-term #10 but, also, England’s. The real question is whether or not he will realize this and get his head down. If the Wythenshawe lad fails to do the business, United have Davide Petrucci in reserve, a young kid from Rome. He was taken from Roma’s academy, a few years ago, and impressed immensely before struggling with long term back and pelvic injuries – he is currently making a return to action and should hopefully be able to return to the fringes of a first team call up. Further down the line, United have many talents, just as promising, but this position is one that needs filling immediately; regrettably, time is a luxury that has ran out.
Personally, I’d love to see Luka Modric in a Manchester United shirt next season, all things considered, who do you want to see come in? Feel free to leave your views below and complete the poll to the side!