Manchester United's Midfield: As It Stands Now

will evansCorrespondent IJuly 11, 2009

YOKOHAMA, JAPAN - DECEMBER 21:  Anderson and Michael Carrick of Manchester United and Alejandro Manso of Liga de Quito fight for the ball during the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 final match between Manchester United and Liga de Quito at the International Stadium Yokohama on December 21, 2008 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. Manchester United defeated Liga de Quito by 1-0.  (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)

With so much attention focused on Manchester United's attacking line (or the apparent lack thereof), I started thinking about the aspect of United's game where I feel they are actually the weakest—the midfield.

This is actually somewhat surprising, considering how weak United's midfield appeared last season. In fact, almost all of United's losses came down to losing the midfield battle (unfortunately the Liverpool game and Barcelona game come to mind).

Apparently, in world football, a strong midfield, and not a forward line, is where a lot of games are won and lost.

So, taking this into consideration, how does United's midfield stand now?

Note ahead of time that I'm only covering the middle of the pitch and that I'm not going to cover Scholes or Giggs, who, despite being two of my favorite players and playing good games last season, shouldn't see much playing time next season.

I'm going to start off with Michael Carrick, the one player who consistently puts in good shifts.

Well, Carrick is a smart player. While not necessarily a hard worker, Carrick covers a lot of ground. Part of the reason he doesn't run all over the pitch in a Tevez fashion is because a) he can read the play and intercept the pass, rather then making Keane-esque tackles, and b) because he rarely loses the ball.

He is a playmaker, who's at his best playing further up the pitch where he can play the killer pass, yet this past season, Carrick was forced to play in a much more defensive role due to the lack of a proper defensive midfielder.

If United were to acquire a defensive midfielder, then Carrick could play in his natural, and more dangerous position. While not the most brilliant of players, Carrick is nevertheless invaluable to United as he is the one who, especially in the absence of Scholes, controls the tempo of the game.

The next midfielder is Owen Hargreaves.

Assuming of course that Hargreaves makes a full recovery (which in itself is very hypothetical, but one can hope!), he is one of the best in the business at what he does—filling that hole between the defenders and the midfield.

Hargreaves is one of the best in the world at the defensive midfielder position, a role that United seriously missed last season. It was mainly due to his absence that Carrick had to drop back into an unnatural position, inhibiting his and United's attacking prowess.

Hargreaves is also a fantastic crosser/passer, and his stamina is second to none, making him excellent cover for the wide positions. Hargreaves is also more then capable of covering in defense.

If Hargreaves returns fit, then that would be fantastic for United, as his return alone can help them vastly in defense. However, his injury woes remain, so United may need to look into a replacement, if not cover for him.

Next up his Anderson.

Now, personally I'm a huge fan of Anderson, but I'm going to try to take an objective look at him.

Anderson had a decent first season, followed by a hit and miss second season. First, I'll cover Anderson's flaws. He's not the best shooter on the team (being generous), some of his passes are rather erratic, and his positioning is a little off.

However, Anderson is one of the most physical players United have now, and this could be a huge boost to them in the upcoming season. Physically very strong, Anderson also boasts the ability to outstrip anybody on the pitch. He's the type of player you don't know how fast he is, just that he's faster then the guy next to him.

Anderson is also very technically capable. While it has only been shown in glimpses, Anderson boasts potential to be one of the best dribblers in the world. His passing can be brilliant, and while I have already stated that it can be erratic, with Scholes and Giggs mentoring him, he can become a fantastic passer with time.

And that's another great part-time. The lad is only 21, so time is definitely on his side.

Anderson, I feel, should be given more playing time, so that he can become one of the best midfielders in the world (he isn't dubbed the next Ronaldinho for nothing!).

The next player is Darron Gibson.

I have mixed feelings about Gibson. The lad clearly has talent, as he showcased last season. He could be the next Paul Scholes, as his passing, vision, and long range shooting is reminiscent of Scholesy.

However, Gibson is a bit old. I know he's only 22, but he's going on 23, and while undoubtedly talented, he may be a tad to old to completely showcase all of his potential.

Gibson has put in some strong performances with the "reserve side", or the Carling Cup side, and he deserves at least one season where he play 20-30 games with the full squad, in more important games, so that he can try and prove his merit.

Finally, the last player I'm going to cover is Darren Fletcher.

I'm not going to lie, before last season, I was not a huge fan of Fletcher.

But he put in some fantastic displays, especially at the beginning of the season, and continued to do good work right up until he was unceremoniously and falsely red carded against Arsenal.

However, I think Fletcher may have hit his peak last season. He's in his prime, so we can't expect much more from him. If he delivers, that's absolutely terrific, but if he doesn't, it wouldn't be surprising.

As it stands, I don't think he is good enough quality to start most games. He is a hard worker, and fantastic cover for Hargreaves, should Hargo not be fit and SAF fail to find a replacement, as well as being able to cover in other positions out wide and in defense.

So, Fletcher should remain as a useful substitute, that plays enough games to remain happy, and is used for some big games where a slightly more defensive team is needed.

So, these are my thoughts. As it stands, I would like to see Carrick and Hargreaves as our main center midfielders for most games, with Anderson a substitute for Carrick, and Fletcher on the bench as cover for Hargreaves or any other number of positions where he is more then capable. Fletcher may also be opted for on European nights, where his talent seems to be magnified.

Anyway, give me your thoughts. Should United add any more talent? If so what kind, where, etc. I want to see what fellow United enthusiasts or haters think about our midfield situation, as it stands now.


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