Why Toni Kroos Would Solve Manchester United's Midfield Crisis

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Why Toni Kroos Would Solve Manchester United's Midfield Crisis
Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

As Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich continue to try to find common ground on the player’s contract renegotiation his future remains very much up in the air.

It is no secret that David Moyes and Manchester United have been monitoring Kroos and his situation at Bayern. According to the Daily Mail, the club were just recently ready to offer Kroos three times what he makes at Bayern to try to lure him to Old Trafford.

Due to United’s struggles this season, Kroos has emerged as one of the touted solutions to the team’s most prominent problem area—their midfield.

If Moyes and United were to successfully bring over Kroos, they would take an enormous step in the right direction in steadying the ship and building for the future. Kroos is the exactly type of player United need to both put Moyes' first season behind them and return to their glory days.

 

Kroos Control

If one were to isolate United’s biggest recurring weakness this season it would point directly to their inability to control and dictate games like they used to so prominently under Alex Ferguson.

And if one were to describe Kroos' best attribute as a player it is precisely his ability to take games firmly into his hand and run plays through midfield. Kroos' impeccable passing, intelligent movement off the ball and positioning are almost second to none.

In Bayern's impressive 5-1 win against Schalke in the Bundesliga this weekend, Kroos had an astounding, match-high 155 touches on the ball. That was not only a personal record for Kroos, but even more impressively, only two other players since detailed statistics have been collected have had more.

Now, that figure naturally points to just how dominant Bayern are, but it also emphasizes Kroos' prominence in that dominance. Of course, Pep Guardiola and Bayern have no shortage of technically gifted midfielders who can pass the ball, but the fact that Kroos has managed to keep his place amidst all the competition speaks further of his qualities and how impressed his coach has been with him.

Not to mention his long-range shooting, which is quite possibly even better than his passing. Kroos honed and practiced his shooting technique for years coming up through the youth ranks, and he combines accuracy with power to place almost every shot he takes on target.

 

A Player for the Big Occasion

Lest one thinks Kroos' numbers against Schalke were an isolated incident, his figures and performances in the Champions League this season are even more impressive considering the level of competition.

Kroos has averaged nearly 100 passes per game in the competition this season. Only Xavi, Sergio Busquets and Thiago Motta have averaged more. Of players who have taken part in at least six games in the tournament, no one has a better passing accuracy than Kroos, a staggering 95.8 percent rate.

In fact, his best performances in the competition have come in Bayern's most important games. He was arguably the best player on the field in their impressive 3-1 win in England against Manchester City in the group stages, and again in their first leg against Arsenal last month.

Again, Bayern's deep and talented squad allow for such controlled performances, but there is a reason Guardiola has started Kroos in every single one of their Champions League matches this season. It is because the control Kroos exudes on the pitch is crucial to how they play and all their results so far this season.

United’s performance against Olympiakos has been characterized by many as the worst in the David Moyes era, and it is precisely in Europe where their limitations have been most evident. In Kroos, United would get a player that who could help lift those limitations.

 

Integration and Functionality

The biggest question in the event of a transfer would be how Kroos would be integrated into the United squad. Who would he play instead of? Would they have to change systems? And just how would the club optimize his talents? Basically, how would he functionally improve the team?

Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press
Michael Carrick would be the ideal midfield partner for Kroos.

For one, Kroos' attributes as a player are the missing ingredient in United’s game. Rather, the lack of those attributes in the team currently is one of the biggest reasons for their disappointing performances.

Michael Carrick’s role has essentially evolved to that of a holding midfielder. At his age, he is best served playing in front of the back four, distributing the ball and playing a more conservative role. The use of traditional wingers by Moyes and two strikers in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie means that there is effectively a disconnect between defense and attack.

Carrick’s partner, Tom Cleverley, although capable in his own right, provides neither the presence, security nor creativity demanded of a central midfielder in that system, or in the modern game for that matter.

Kroos has performed equally well as an attacking midfielder and central midfielder for both Bayern and Germany throughout his career. His adaptability and all-around game would help stabilize a midfield that has largely been fragmented this season for the Red Devils.

Kroos is essentially a two-way player with the brain of a playmaker and thus has the edge over the less cerebral Darren Fletcher and Marouane Fellaini. That is not to say a combination of the former cannot be paired with Kroos and Carrick. That depends on Moyes' tactical flexibility and willingness to drop his wingers and switch to a more free-flowing 4-3-3.

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Either way, Kroos has performed and excelled in a multitude of systems under several different managers. His talents have always shined through at the end of the day. For Manchester United, Toni Kroos would be a significant investment, but one well worth making if they want to progress.

*All statistics courtesy of whoscored.com via Opta


Follow Cristian on twitter @cnyari

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