The position of central midfield has been a growing problem for United over years. The last few seasons have shown the true cost of the lack of investment in the central area of midfield; epitomised byCity’s title win last season, driven by powerful central midfielder Yaya Toure. With the chance of another transfer window shutting without the acquisition of a world-class centre midfielder increasing, the worry over how this may cost us during the upcoming season does too. Of course there’s still time for the required player(s) to be bought in, but the promising youngsters in and around the first-team are the only people stopping our midfield from looking like it’s perched on the brink of a complete mess.
The pessimistic view may make the current United midfield seem disastrous, but in fairness the actual quality of United’s midfield at the moment is, although not perfect, sustainable. For as long as we have Paul Scholes in reasonably good condition, we’ll make do with what we’ve got – at least in regards to the Premier League. It’s not in the realms of City’s midfield, but it’ll just about do. But the true worry must be for the future of our midfield over the next one or two years. With both Scholes and Giggs set to retire at the end of this season, we should be thankful that we’ve got a good set of promising youngsters ready to take over the reign when the former two both retire.
Tom Cleverley properly broke into the first team last season after seasons of popping up impressively during pre-season, and it’s a shame that injuries ended up getting the better of him through the year. But next season, as long as he can remain injury free, remains just as, if not more, promising. During his time on the pitch for Team GB in the Olympic football, Cleverley has once again showed his masses of potential and it’s these brief glimpses that make him such an important part of the future of our midfield. It seems the word logical can rarely be used around our club at the moment, but the only logical explanation for our scarce investment in midfield is because Sir Alex believes the potential of Cleverley is massive.
Elsewhere, the summer signing of Nick Powell is also encouraging. He’s no marquee central midfield signing but he’s certainly one for the future. Young, fast and strong, the time spent on the pitch during United’s pre-season games so far show how he’ll end up being a great investment for us. Many have suggested that Powell will be sent out on loan next season in order to accumulate more first-team experience but, as we often see at United, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Powell get more time on the pitch than we currently expect. He’s obviously not quite at the stage of Cleverley because of his age, but you’d expect that in a few years he’ll be going to a regular place in the first team.
But while we can go out and buy players with potential like Powell, it’s fantastic that we’ve got some prospects in the reserves that have just showcased their talents in the first-team during the tour. Tunnicliffe impressed massively during the tour and he’s looking to push his United future further. Speaking about the departure of the likes of Paul Pogba and Darron Gibson, Tunnicliffe says he just sees it as “another door opening.” The impressive thing about Tunnicliffe is that, while he’s done well when he’s been given the opportunities, he’s still not stopped looking the other way at other players who might challenge his claim to be involved in the first team, saying “We’ve still got Larnell Cole and Jesse Lingard, who are doing very well as well, and people who are younger than me and have got me looking over my shoulder as well as looking forward.”
While the whole issue with our current midfield remains pressing, it’s nice to know that we’ve got younger players that are all waiting for their chance to impress. Some our closer to the required standard than others at the moment, but all the players mentioned have got the potential to develop into a decent enough player for us if they’re dedicated enough and are given the right amount of time. Unlike previous seasons, last year we were decent enough in midfield. Although we did suffer it at times, we were rarely outdone in the middle of the pitch like we have been in previous years while we were playing in England. There are the games against City are some of the other big teams where we suffered, but it could’ve been worse. This is larglely down to the impressive form shown by both Scholes and Carrick but, unfortunately, we can’t rely on that to remain consistent.
Even if Scholes remains as fit as he was last year after his ‘retirement,’ it’s unlikely that he’ll be able to perform as consistently impressive as he did last season. Equally, Carrick was almost faultless through periods last year and it will be a surprise to see him hit that sort of form again. While we got by in the Premier League, our midfield was the stand-out factor in our demise in Europe where we were overthrown a few too many times – even to lesser and smaller opposition. This year, without the signing of a top class central midfielder, it’s likely to be the same.
While I hope and pray it won’t be the case, I can’t see us getting far in the Champions League this year without the relevant acquisition. Nevertheless, although we’re far as good as we could and should be, it’s nice to know that the midfield situation would be a lot worse without the promising youngsters we’ve got behind the scenes. This may well be Cleverley’s big year, but even after this season there’s big years ahead for the likes of Powell, Tunnicliffe, Lingard and Petrucci.
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