5 Reasons Manchester United Should Not Sign an Attacking Midfielder in January
David Moyes' start to life as manager of Manchester United has been far from smooth.
His team have struggled through the club's worst ever start to a Premier League season and their efforts have looked rather laboured on the pitch.
Short on inspiration and organisation to the point whereby over-achievers such as West Bromwich Albion and Southampton have been able to take advantage against United at home, questions have been raised over the manager's choice of system and ability to encourage his best players to produce chances.
Considering the club's lacklustre performance in the summer transfer window, January has been pin pointed by pundits and fans alike as a major opportunity for Moyes to find the missing pieces to his side's puzzling performances.
With a lack of creativity within the midfield cited as one of United's key issues it's only natural that recent transfer talk has been dominated by the need for a new and exciting attacking presence in the middle.
Remy Cabella, Ricardo Montolivo, Marek Hamsik and even Wesley Sneijder have each been touted by the usual football gossip columns as potential targets for the new year. But spending big on such players would be a major mistake with the team's current lack of ideas a symptom rather than a cause.
Here are five slides featuring key reasons why Moyes would do well to steer clear of adding another attacking midfielder to his squad.
Hit the button below or directional arrows above to get started.
United's Midfield Problems Lie Deeper in the Team
Marouane Fellaini was United's only first team signing of the summer. The Belgian added some much-needed physicality to the team's spine, but his arrival felt like a recruitment job half done with Moyes admitting that he wanted another two midfielders, according to The Guardian back in August.
One of those signings probably should have been Athletic Club's Ander Herrera. He would have been a necessary, if costly, upgrade to Tom Cleverley as a robust yet mobile playmaker able to perform in a midfield two or three.
The young English midfielder has proven to be a useful option in the middle to elevate the sluggish pairing of Fellaini and Michael Carrick in the middle.
While both players offer plenty of experience and ability in their respective disciplines as battering ram and ball hog respectively, they are arguably the most pedestrian midfield pairing in the league, with their static nature brutally exposed in Manchester City's 4-1 win back in September.
Rather than signing a new playmaker in January, Moyes should perhaps consider bringing in a new Neville brother to help him assess his team's main weakness through the middle.
As reported by Goal.com, United's treble-winning right-back turned Sky Sports football analyst has singled out the squad's lack of speed in midfield as a major problem that must be addressed.
The speed of their game through the midfield is not quick enough. United have always been about those relentless waves of attacks, sustained for good periods without counter which would eventually overwhelm the opposition. Because this isn’t happening opponents have time to rest and recover between attacks.
United need more pace and agility. Not only do they need it in the final third but in their deeper midfield pivot, as illustrated by the semi-improvement shown when Cleverley has been used a link between the two statuette figures of Carrick and Fellaini.
Adding a player who can fulfil a similar role as Cleverley, either as a back-up or superior version, is far more important than another man to overcrowd the hole.
There's No Space in the Whole for a New Signing
Retaining the services of Wayne Rooney was one of Moyes' main priorities in the summer. And with the in-form English forward now confirmed as United's first choice option to play in the hole, it's difficult to see where a new face would be able to fit into the team's current system.
If the former Everton striker were to be sold, however, signing a replacement to take on his role in the final third would make sense. But it looks increasingly unlikely that Rooney will be leaving Old Trafford any time soon with Moyes staking his reputation on bringing the want-away striker back into the fold.
The Englishman has been a continued presence as the team's creative fulcrum.
And with the club's emphasis on wingers and stretching the play out, adding another player into the attacking midfield mix to play alongside Rooney would be difficult to pull off without wasting the talents of Nani and others.
Moyes' Formation Doesn't Suit
So far, Moyes has preferred to play a hardworking player able to cut inside on the left, an attacking winger on the right flank and Rooney in the middle as a midfielder-cum-forward.
With the club's roster well stocked for wide players, including Nani, Antonio Valencia and now Adnan Januzaj, alongside Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck as right-footed options on the left, it's hard to see Moyes cutting their influence from his system.
Removing United's width would also only cause him more problems with United's fanbase.
They expect their team to play fast, wide and good looking attacking football, in the traditions of George Best, Ryan Giggs and Cristiano Ronaldo.
As highlighted in a previous slide, the problem lies behind the wingers, strikers and inside forwards, in a midfield that lacks the speed to keep up with their fleet-footed colleagues up front.
Some may try to argue the toss of why the likes of Sneijder and Hamsik could, in theory, play in a deeper midfield role next to Carrick or Fellaini. However, in reality, such experiments would wither away under the intense pressure and pressing of both the Premier League and Champions League.
United don't just need a player who can add speed and ideas to their midfield two, but one that is robust enough to weather the tackles and challenges involved with securing the centre of the park against the likes of Yaya Toure and Victor Wanyama.
Footballers more used to the luxury of playing as well being protected playmakers for Galatasaray and Napoli would struggle to enjoy the challenge of converting their talents to the battlefields of central midfield.
Other Areas of the Team Should Take Priority
Patrice Evra has told the French press that he wants to leave Old Trafford in the summer due to "personal reasons" preventing him from accepting a contract renewal, according to The Telegraph.
World-class attacking left-backs, able to dribble forward and beat opposition defenders like traditional wingers, are both rare and expensive, and replacing the long-serving Frenchman will not be cheap.
Beyond the obvious monetary concerns, when it comes to bringing in such a player, Evra's ability to surge up the left and cover the entire flank, stretching the play on the overlap is vital to the success of United's style of play.
Evra allows whoever is playing ahead of him to cut inside and contribute to the build-up play and goal threat.
His pace, flair and ability to take on opponents are all key to his success in this role.
A slower and less explosive player such as Leighton Baines would, regardless of his obvious qualities as a more traditional full-back and crosser of the ball, diminish the team's potency down the left.
In fact, Evra's declining stamina and speed have already begun to affect United at the back, with the pocket of space created by his forward runs having grown with every season to the point where it is now one of the team's most recognisable weaknesses.
Signing a player such as Baines may plug this hole by virtue of his more considered and conservative approach to the position, but United shouldn't be looking to apply a pragmatic sticking plaster to such an important part of the team's attacking play.
Fabio Coentrao or Luke Shaw are the sort of players that may be able to succeed Evra as United's dribbling, flank-dominating wing-back.
Neither would come cheap however, with Real Madrid unwilling to sell the Portuguese for a fair price unless a suitable replacement can be found. And interest around Shaw is likely to lead to an intense and costly bidding war with the likes of Chelsea for his signature.
Failing to adequately replace Evra will be far more detrimental to the team's creativity and dynamism in attack than the failing to bring in another lithe attacking midfielder.
Last but by no means least, United don't need to sign a creative, attacking midfielder because they already possess one in Shinji Kagawa.
The Japanese playmaker has so far been misused and under-played by Moyes, even though his influence on games has only grown with each outing.
Against Bayer Levekusen he allowed Van Persie and Rooney to roam and dovetail in one of United's most fluent performances under their new manager so far. While his latest showing against Real Sociedad has been cited as reason enough for the midfielder to remain in the team from here on in.
It has been said that Kagawa was a tad wasteful against the Spaniards in-front of goal. But having been denied playing time, it's not unreasonable to suggest that his ability to find the back of the net has been blunted by his manager's selections rather than his own failings.
With United in desperate need of a new wing-back to replace Evra, and at least one combat-ready midfield general with the speed of feet and thought to supercharge the team's creativity from deep, Moyes can save his season and budget by showing faith in his estranged Japanese playmaker.
Play Kagawa in a narrow, in-field position on the left, cutting inside to allow Rooney more license to roam and Evra the space to surge down the wing, and any concerns of a need for a new attacking midfielder will soon dissipate.