Signing a midfield enforcer – necessity or needless?
French poet and historian Voltaire once wrote; “Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes”. He didn’t know it at the time, but when it comes to football, he may have had a point. United’s opening round defeat to Everton has prompted discussion in all quarters, with every critic, journalist and punter clamouring to offer their own opinion on the state of affairs at Old Trafford. Views range from the somewhat overconfident declaration that we have a team capable of immediate domestic and European dominance, to the cynical belief that we may as well pack up and go home now; such are our slim chances of success this year. The truth is perhaps somewhere between these extremes. The signing of Robin Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa will undoubtedly strengthen a team that missed out on the league title last season by goal difference alone, but a period of adjustment is inevitable as the team discovers how best to utilize these player’s talents. Add to this the fact the injury crisis ravaging our defence and the fragmented nature of our preseason and it’s easier to see why the Reds didn’t have the best of games against Everton. This is a team that will undoubtedly improve as the season goes on and players return to full fitness. Most detractors predictably aim the bulk of their criticisms towards our midfield. Another summer is almost gone and Sir Alex has yet to sign the midfield enforcer craved by so many. It has also become clear he has no intention of doing so.
“We’ve never had a holding player…I’ve not had it for 25 years. Why should I think about it now?” (May 2012).
This sentiment will no doubt frustrate many Reds supporters but such is the gaffer’s unwavering loyalty to Michael Carrick it is unlikely we will see a defensive midfielder added anytime soon. Add to this the re-emergence of Tom Cleverley and the signing of Kagawa and it becomes clear that Sir Alex has his own ideas of how best to move the team forward. Whether it will ultimately pay off remains to be seen, but as the Scot moves into his 26th season at the club, he is probably entitled to a little faith. It is, however, shaping up to be a career defining season for many of our players. Tom Cleverley will be looking to rediscover the form that saw Sir Alex prepared to build the team around him last year before injury curtailed his season. Impressing both in the Olympics and in pre-season the Basingstoke born midfielder will hope to build upon the promising relationship developing with Kagawa, and firmly stamp his name on the Gaffer’s team sheet. Alongside him in the centre, Anderson will be attempting to finally realize some of the form and potential that he has been on the brink of realizing for some years now. Now entering into his sixth season at the club, the charismatic Brazilian may be quickly running out of opportunities to show that he is capable of being a player for this club; a reality that is not lost on him.
“I need to prove what I can do. I know the boss and my team mates believe in me. I have just had bad luck. I need to improve…” (July 2012).
The form of Wayne Rooney was often scrutinized last season. Remarkable when you consider the sheer number of goals he scored. It is a testament to the lofty expectations placed on the former Evertonian that despite racking up a career best 35 goals in all competitions neither the fans nor indeed the player himself were pleased with his form. Over the last three or four seasons Sir Alex has successfully converted the striker into a highly functional goal scorer, capable of hitting the net even on bad days. The arrival of Robin Van Persie will hopefully breathe new life into Rooney, both lifting the burden of being United’s main man and introducing a bit of healthy competition. It would do the forward no harm to realize he is no longer immune to being dropped. The striker looked abject at time’s last season and a few games short of match fitness against Everton. Improvement is inevitable as the player embarks upon what should be his peak years. If the thought of playing up front along side Van Persie and Kagawa doesn’t whet his appetite, nothing will. In truth the Everton game may have come too soon for the Reds. International commitments saw a great number of senior players miss the opening games of pre-season. When coupled with the copious injuries wreaking havoc on our defence it is little wonder Sir Alex’s men were shy of form in the opening fixture. As players return and new signings settle in the team is certain to improve. Midfield frailties considered, it would be foolish to expect anything other than a competitive Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson is in charge. Though as always, he will do things in his own indomitable way with a clear idea of how he wants the team to form and progress. American Philosopher Elbert Hubbard once said “To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing”. This is one thing the unconquerable Scot will never be guilty of.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance writer and blogger. You can follow him on twitter here: @KevinLevingston
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