Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
The lack of midfield presence at United, particularly since the departure of Roy Keane in 2005, is startling, given that the team have won five league titles in that time. Darren Fletcher’s lengthy spells on the sidelines have been well-documented, and Anderson’s failure to ever truly acclimate to the Premier League culminated in him being sent out on loan to Fiorentina this season.
United’s wing-heavy play over the years has papered over the cracks, but with no truly outstanding wingers since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and with Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia out of form, the problem has become obvious this season.
Marouane Fellaini has become an inadvertent, curly-haired figurehead for Moyes’ shortcomings and faltering transfer policy, his signing from the Scot’s former charges emblematic of a manager accused of being stuck in the mentality of a smaller club without a winning culture. However, while Fellaini’s time at Manchester United has failed to ignite so far, many have overlooked the fact that on his day, he is a force to be reckoned with who has won many admiring glances over the years. His signing could yet prove to be a huge boon to the squad.
The same is true of club-record signing Juan Mata. While not yet operating at the level we have seen over the past two seasons at Chelsea, he may well become talismanic in the future, particularly if Moyes’ successor is less inclined toward a wing-based approach to attack.
United under Ferguson didn’t really need a plan B due to Ferguson’s presence and sheer dominance over the team—plan A was enough. Now, at the very least, United have options.