Sir Alex Ferguson has made it clear throughout his tenure that no player is bigger than Manchester United. It is a philosophy that he has stuck to, and it has served him well.
Last season, Bastian Schweinsteiger had been dubbed as the successor to Paul Scholes, this season it is Inter Milan playmaker Wesley Sneijder.
The emergence of Tom Cleverley is now leading England fans into believing that the twenty two year old will one day become a world beater.
Sir Alex Ferguson has miraculously strengthened his squad, despite the departures of Paul Scholes and Edwin Van der Sar. What he has not done however, is find a replacement for the legendary midfielder, who was described by Zinedine Zidane as the best player that he ever faced.
This is a list of five players that could fill the void in the centre of United’s midfield, now that reports linking Sneijder with a move to Old Trafford have all but died down.
When Tom Cleverley went on loan to a third different club in three years, he must have been wondering what he had to do to break into Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans.
One year on and the twenty two year old academy graduate has played himself into contention for being a Red Devils regular this season.
Cleverley impressed on a season long loan at Wigan last season: in 25 appearances he scored 4 goals and looked comfortable in heart of The Latics’ midfield.
Roberto Martinez recently commented that he is not surprised about how good a player Cleverley is blossoming into.
"There's a real satisfaction because he was a really important player for us but it's not a surprise [how good his Man Utd debut was.] His talent was quite obvious but he was an example for us in terms of his character, his daily standards and his personality,” Martinez said.
Earlier this summer Sir Alex tipped the twenty two year old to make his debut, which could have come last week against the Netherlands were it not for the London Riots.
“Because of the experience he has had, keeping him now benefits us.
"He is an intelligent modern-day footballer. His movement and understanding of space is really good for a young player.”
Cleverley is a very capable replacement for Paul Scholes. His biggest asset is his passing ability. He is able to make penetrating passes from effectively anywhere on the pitch, with a commendable degree of accuracy.
Like Paul Scholes, he is not the biggest athlete in the United starting 11, but he can be as feisty as he is wiry. He does need to gain some weight to truly occupy his position, but the work rate and commitment is already evident for everyone to see.
His vision and technical understanding of the game is also impressive. In United’s recent friendly against Barcelona he controlled the midfield and was seldom caught off guard by his more experienced opposition.
Furthermore, last season at Wigan, he combined perfectly with N’Zogbia to be the link between defence and offense.
At twenty two years of age, Tom Cleverley is far from the finished product, but with Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Anderson also available to call upon in the midfield, Ferguson can afford to give Cleverley an extended run in the first team.
Anderson is going into his fifth season at Old Trafford, but it was not until last year that fans truly got a consistent glimpse of his quality.
For the first three years of his United career he was the bane of his own misfortune; erratic, clumsy and unable to find the back of the net. He looked nervous wearing the Manchester United shirt.
It is easy to forget that during this time he was little more than a teenager.
At the age of twenty three, Anderson is now showing encouraging signs of the player that he could become.
He is a hard worker, physical and tough. It is entirely possible that he will become the engine house of the United midfield for the next 10 years, if he continues to apply himself.
Passing is perhaps not the strongest element of his game, but he is competent at it—and of all the skills learned by footballers, it is perhaps the easiest to develop.
He makes up for the problems in his long ball game by being a solid dribbler. He has pace and when the ball is at his feet, it is difficult to dispossess him.
Like Scholes, he is a strong tackler but a little ill disciplined. In his youth it was possible to dominate Anderson, but now he is a player who has grown with confidence. Teams will not be able to pass their way around him, like they have done in the past, because he is experienced enough to be regarded as an essential cog in the Manchester United machine.
Unlike Paul Scholes, he does not have a keen eye for goal. Although in the final few years of his career Scholes’ scoring form dropped, for much of his career he was a prolific goal scorer capable of firing in some sublime long range shots at important stages of a match.
The faith that Ferguson has in Anderson’s abilities is illustrated by the first team appearances that the Brazilian has collected in recent Premier League campaigns. In four seasons, he has played in 74 games, a very commendable tally for a man who is only 23.
This year has been dominated with rumours linking Wesley Sneijder to United, last season it was a German name on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Alongside Sneijder, Schweinsteiger is perhaps the most accomplished player in the position he plays.
He started his career as a winger for Bayern Munich, but he has since moved to occupy a position in the centre of the pitch.
Aged 27, he is a little older than the previous names mentioned on the list, but he is very much the complete player who is more than accustomed to success.
A product of the Bayern Munich youth academy, he is going into his tenth season with the Bavarian giants. In that time he has won five Bundesliga titles, five DFD- Pokals, two Ligapokals and a DFB- Supercup.
He has also played in a Champions League and European Championship final, earning 88 caps for Germany.
Wesley Sneijder may be a more frequent goal scorer, but Schweinsteiger is undoubtedly the better tackler of the two players.
It is rare to find a player that possesses the vision and passing ability of Paul Scholes. Bastian Schweinsteiger has both. On top of this he is flexible—he can play in a variety of positions in the midfield, including the flanks.
He is among the best ball winners in the game and his box to box style is only matched, or perhaps surpassed, by Wesley Sneijder, thus making him a player very capable of filling Paul Scholes’ shoes.
The transfer of Schweinsteiger to United seemed as certain as Sneijder’s arrival at Old Trafford has during this transfer window.
Speculation about a potential transfer to Manchester United has died down considerably this season, in part due to a long term contract that the German signed with Bayern Munich midway through last season.
An article by Caught Offside has suggested that Manchester could secure the services of the German international but in reality he looks set to follow in Paul Scholes’ footsteps and spend his playing career at a single club.
Rumours forecasting the departure of a clubs best player seem to have cast their ugly eye upon North London during this transfer window.
Rivals Arsenal has already lost one of their best players, and look set to lose another. Rumours linking Luka Modric with a move away from White Hart Lane suggest that Spurs could join the Gunners in licking their wounds come September 1st.
Although at present Chelsea seem like the most likely suitors for the creative Croatian, he is a player that Manchester United could easily afford.
He may not be as gifted as Sneijder, or Paul Scholes, but he still has the best years of his career ahead of him and it seems more likely than not that he will improve.
The arrival of Rafael Van der Vaart at Tottenham has seen the Croatian occupy play a little deeper than he did during his first few seasons at White Hart Lane, but that has not prevented him from gaining acclaim for playing piercing balls through the centre of midfield.
The departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona arguably means that Luka Modric is the best passer in the Premier League, although Charlie Adam might want to plead his case in that department!
Modric’s vision is also one of his best traits. However, to date, he has not scored the amount of goals that his ability suggests he is capable of.
Off of the ball, he always gets back and tries to help his team as best he can in defence. Although he is not a natural tackler, he can at times be a nuisance to his opponent’s offence.
Luka Modric’s vision and passing ability would make him a great addition to the United squad, however, his lack of a physical game suggests that he is not a direct successor to Paul Scholes.
Arsene Wenger’s dogged resilience to hold onto his best players has served him well in recent years, however the Frenchman must be seething as he watches his failed empire fall to pieces.
The departure of Cesc Fabregas has set a dangerous precedent for Arsenal’s transfer policy, and it seems that, as was the case with their former captain, the Gunners are powerless to prevent Samir Nasri from moving on to pastures new.
The Frenchman has one year remaining on his current deal at the Emirates and seems determined to resolve his future before the end of this transfer window.
Arsenal have found themselves in no man’s land, if they force him to see out his contract, they will lose their best player to a rival club, if they sell him now, a gaping hole in their midfield will turn into a canyon.
Although all indications suggest that the Frenchman is bound for a transfer to rivals Manchester City, Nasri is not a player who is out of Manchester United’s price range.
His wage demands are modest in comparison to some athletes of similar footballing ability and it will most likely cost less than £25 million to pinch his signature from Arsenal’s books.
For £25 million, Sir Alex would be getting an absolute bargain.
Nasri has good pace, flair and is a very competent dribbler. Moreover, he has a keen eye for goal and at the tender age of twenty three he is likely to improve in the future.
He is perhaps not the most physical midfielder on the market but his special awareness and passing ability more than compensate for that.
Furthermore, he is flexible. Although United’s wing department is well covered, he could gel well with Ashley Young on the left flank. Young likes to drift into the centre, when he is doing this Nasri would be able to fill his position on the flank. They could even rotate during the 90 minutes to cause confusion for their opponents.
It seems a distinct certainty that Nasri will be leaving the Emirates this season, but Sir Alex seems certain that it will not be to play at Old Trafford.
In a recent interview with BBC Sport he said: “"I don't think he is coming to United… That is all I can tell you. I think he has agreed to go somewhere else"
Despite the bosses’ pessimism, it may be worth United throwing in a cheeky bid.
Are any of these players overrated?
Will Tom Cleverley have a good Manchester United career?
Who would you like to see Sir Alex sign?