Manchester United's Defeat at Liverpool Highlights Their Problem Area
If ever there was a game that highlighted Manchester United's need for a midfielder, this was it.
David Moyes is running out of time if he wants to make that one star signing supporters have been craving all summer. And while it's a stretch to suggest United's chances of silverware are riding on Moyes' success in the transfer window before Monday night, the two are linked.
It's no secret that United need another midfielder, or that Moyes wants one. But if any more evidence was needed, it was on show at Anfield.
Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley again started in midfield, the third time the two have been paired together this season.
But they came up against a Liverpool team with Lucas and Steven Gerrard protecting the back four, with the extra bodies of Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas buzzing around in front.
It meant Carrick and Cleverley were out-numbered and over-run.
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Danny Welbeck dropped in whenever he could but only to disrupt Liverpool's attempts to pass out from the back rather than run the midfield.
In the Premier League last season, Carrick was booked three times and Cleverley once. Already this season they've both been booked twice in three games.
It's not an exact science, and it owes something to the demanding nature of the games, but it's a statistic that suggests they're being isolated and forced into mistakes.
A midfield two of Carrick and Cleverley will be fine in most games. It was proved at Swansea and, to a certain extent, against Chelsea at Old Trafford.
But big games, such as visits to Anfield, Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium, are decided by fine margins and an extra man in midfield can be crucial. What will hurt Moyes the most is that Liverpool deserved to win but didn't have to play particularly well to do it.
Cleverley in particular, with his his sharp movement and boundless energy, is ideally suited to a midfield three. But in a two, with just Carrick for company, he can often look lightweight.
Cleverley is beginning his third full season in the first team. It's really only his second season after injury robbed him of his first chance two years ago.
He's 24, and an England international, but running United's midfield for a whole season is a huge responsibility for young shoulders.
Moyes may well get his way and bring in Marouane Fellaini or Ander Herrera to Old Trafford before the deadline. But the negotiations will be more fraught given what Moyes saw at Anfield.
Just three months into his new job, it's too early to say Moyes is facing his first D-Day. But the next 24 hours could make or break United's season.
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