Manchester United had the Premier League title race all sewn up in April, but that hasn’t stopped people questioning the strength of Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad.
Domestic success helped to satisfy the hunger for silverware this season but United’s dominance in the Premier League only served to highlight their shortcomings in other areas.
Talk of winning another historic Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League treble was reduced to hushed tones when patchy form led to an early exit from all cup competitions.
And it’s United’s midfield that most fans will agree needs reinforcing the most. The experience that Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs bring to the side is priceless but the veteran pair are being used sparingly and cannot be relied on forever.
Anderson, who is falling further down the pecking order, is a favorite to leave during the close season. Meanwhile, Darren Fletcher, whose colitis condition keeps him out of the side, is predicted to head for the exit too.
Tom Cleverley still needs time to convince the Old Trafford faithful and Nick Powell is an emerging prospect for the future, which leaves just Michael Carrick as United’s most reliable and creative player in midfield.
The 31-year-old’s performances this season led to him being included in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. He has played in all but two of United’s league games in the 2012/13 campaign.
But if United are going to retain their Premier League crown and challenge for more honors next season, Ferguson will need to make additions in the center of the park.
The tantalizing prospect of a heroes return for Cristiano Ronaldo aside, here are five of the top creative midfielders that could be coming to Old Trafford this summer.
Manchester United could be weighing up a bid for FC Porto’s James Rodriguez.
Reports dating back to March in the Daily Mail suggest that the 21-year-old could be coming to Old Trafford, with Anderson as a makeweight in part of a £36 million deal.
Able to play on the wing and as an attacking midfielder, Rodriguez has scored nine goals and made eight assists in 21 Primeira Liga appearances this season (per Transfermarkt).
Other reports claim United have offered Luis Nani in return for the Colombian’s services (via Metro).
Often compared (UEFA.com) to Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama, the playmaker could make an exciting addition to the Old Trafford lineup.
Following in Radamel Falcao’s footsteps, Rodriguez scooped the Portuguese Golden Ball award in 2012, becoming only the second Colombian to do so. If his career continues to emulate Falcao’s, United could be onto a very good thing.
According to former Manchester United player-turned-pundit Lou Macari: “Modric would be perfect for Manchester United” (via talkSPORT).
Signing a five-year contract with Real Madrid in 2012 has done little to dispel rumours that Modric could make a return to the Premier League.
The former Tottenham playmaker has had a largely disappointing first season in Spain, where recent goals in games against Manchester United in the Champions League and Barcelona in La Liga do not disguise the fact that he isn’t a regular starter.
Ferguson does not hide his admiration for the Croatian and has often made comparisons (from the Daily Mail) between the 27-year-old and United favorite Paul Scholes.
With Jose Mourinho’s tenure at the Bernabeu nearing an end, Modric could well follow the Portuguese coach to the exit door this summer.
According to The Mirror, Manchester United are lining up a £20 million bid for Newcastle’s box-to-box midfielder Yohan Cabaye.
The 27-year-old could be a potential successor for Paul Scholes and can play a number of roles in midfield.
The Frenchman has scored six Premier League goals and made two assists in 24 appearances for Newcastle this season.
Cabaye joined The Magpies in 2011 from Ligue 1 side Lille OSC and his current contract runs out in 2016.
But with a buyout clause of £20 million, chances of Cabaye’s departure in a St. James’ Park firesale look increasingly likely as Newcastle United slump closer to the relegation zone.
Spanish side Malaga CF are in trouble—huge financial trouble—which adds weight to Manchester United’s pursuit of attacking midfielder Isco.
With three goals and four assists, the Spaniard played a pivotal role in Malaga’s journey to the Champions League quarter-finals this season.
But the 21-year-old admitted this week that he would be happy to leave the La Liga side, whose financial mismanagement sees them banned from the Champions League in 2013/14.
Isco told Spanish newspaper AS (via the Daily Star) that he would leave Malaga, where he still has three years remaining on his current contract, if the price was right.
Kevin Strootman is a midfield general in the Roy Keane mould—think tough-tackling, steely-nerved and a natural born leader.
The similarities to United’s former No. 16 led the Mirror to dub Strootman “The Dutch Keano.”
At just 23, Strootman is captain of club side PSV Eindhoven and he has already captained the Dutch national team twice.
United have a history of signing Dutch players who go on to have a considerable impact on the side: Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Edwin van der Sar and of course Robin van Persie.
Perhaps Strootman’s name will be added to that list this summer.
According to The Express, the Dutchman is open to offers.