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David Moyes Must Be Creative to Reinforce Manchester United Midfield in January

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10:   Manchester United Manager David Moyes looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Shakhtar Donetsk at Old Trafford on December 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Michael Steele/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 11, 2013

For David Moyes, there were plenty of reasons to be concerned after consecutive defeats to Everton and Newcastle.

Firstly, they were defeats, Manchester United's fourth and fifth of the season. It was also the first time United had lost successive home games in the Premier League since May 2002. That's not the kind of record Moyes wants to be associated with.

The two results all but ended United's hopes of retaining their title, and they also raised doubts about whether they can claw their way back into the top four before the end of the season. Languishing in ninth, seven points off the Champions League places, they will have to string a significant run together.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 07:  Phil Jones of Manchester United is pursued by Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on December 7, 2013 in Manchester, England.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

But apart from the damaging results, the two games highlighted United's fatal flaw: The midfield is simply not of the required standard for a club that wants to challenge for trophies at home and abroad.

It's nothing new.

The United fans have been calling for significant investment in the midfield since it became clear Owen Hargreaves was never going to return from injury. Marouane Fellaini has arrived from Everton, but he's yet to show he's worth the £27.5 million United paid.

The games against Everton and Newcastle made for uneasy viewing. This wasn't Juventus of the '90s or Arsenal's Invincibles dominating the midfield at Old Trafford. It was Everton and Newcastle.

30 Mar 2002: Paul Scholes of United celebrates scoring with team mate Roy Keane during the Leeds United v Manchester United FA Barclaycard Premiership game at Elland Road in Leeds. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Both played with three midfielders and a lone striker. Everton had Gareth Barry, James McCarthy and Ross Barkley. Newcastle had Yohan Cabaye, Cheick Tiote and Vurnon Anita.

They are good players, some of whom would improve Moyes' midfield. But they are not Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Patrick Vieira or Emmanuel Petit. They are not Roy Keane or Paul Scholes.

It says much about Moyes' options that his most impressive midfielder this season has been Phil Jones, a player who wants to be a centre-half. He's been without Michael Carrick, but it still highlights United's problem.

Without Carrick, they've looked slow and aimless. Jones has done his best to inject some urgency and use his physicality, but he can't do it all on his own.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY- SEPTEMBER 17: Wesley Sneijde of Galatasaray reacts to his teammates during UEFA Champions League Group B match agaist Real Madrid at the Ali Sami Yen Area on September 17, 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
Burak Kara/Getty Images

Moyes at least has the chance to find a short-term fix in January.

He has promised not to panic-buy, but it's unrealistic to expect United to be any better in the second half of the season without midfield reinforcements.

Moyes had a taste of window-shopping at the high end of the market in the summer. But he'll find players of a similar calibre aren't available midway through the season. Wesley Sneijder has just booked his place in the Champions League knockout rounds with Galatasaray, Kevin Strootman is settled at Roma and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is injured. 

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 27: Henrik Larsson of Manchester United celebrates his subsequently disallowed goal during the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON Fourth Round match between Manchester United and Portsmouth at Old Trafford on January 27, 2007 in
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Instead, Moyes will have to be creative, much as Sir Alex Ferguson was when he signed Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic in January 2006, or when Henrik Larsson joined on loan from Helsingborg in January 2007.

He's shown in the past that he's open to similar deals after signing Landon Donovan twice at Everton during the the MLS break.

United's season doesn't depend on the January transfer window. It's more important that Moyes gets his existing players performing at a level somewhere near the one they were at last season. 

But he'll struggle to be successful if the quality of his midfield doesn't match the club's ambition. It's something he'll have to address in the summer, but the January sales offer a chance to get started.

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