Picking Manchester United's Best Midfield Formation This Season

Jaideep Vaidya@@jaideepjournoAnalyst ISeptember 8, 2011

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 07:  Tom Cleverley of Manchester United celebrates with goalscorer Nani after he scores the winning goal during the FA Community Shield match sponsored by McDonald's between Manchester City and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on August 7, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Manchester United's midfield was the most debated entity in world football throughout the summer transfer window.

After the Wembley massacre at the hands...err...feet of 11 indomitable Catalans, which was also United veteran Paul Scholes' last competitive match, the alarm bells went ringing across the red side of Manchester and around the world where their millions of fans are located.

The gaping hole left by Scholesy needed to be filled, and quick!

Wesley Sneijder's name was tossed around pub debates, online forums and maternity wards. The Dutchman was widely regarded as the messiah who would magically jump United over their final hurdle.

United boss Sir Alex Ferguson responded by signing Ashley Young, a winger, and thrust the responsibility onto his younger players.

Manchester United were surely relegation-bound.

However, the Reds have started their 2011-12 Barclays Premier League campaign with three wins out of three—something unheard of before. 

Being the perennial slow starters, Sir Alex's new youthful and vibrant team has surprised even the gaffer as the Reds sit on top of the table with a healthy goal difference of 10.


Ferguson has fielded the awesome midfield foursome of Nani, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Ashley Young in the three league matches so far.

These four have combined really well together and play an exciting, attacking brand of football that parades United's trademark wing-attack style.

However, United haven't really come up against a worthy opposition.

Arsenal, whom United smashed 8-2, couldn't field their strongest side. As for Spurs, they haven't won a match at Old Trafford since yours truly set foot on earth 22 years ago!

As the season sets in and the frequency of games increases, we're sure to see player rotation kick in in order to keep players fresh.

Away matches and cup games, especially Champions League games, are sure to bring out different combinations in the squad. More so, in the midfield.

Ferguson seems well prepared for this. He already has two proficient midfield lineups at his disposal.

Other than the four mentioned above, the gaffer has the midfield of Antonio Valencia, Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick and Ji Sung Park available to him.

Ryan Giggs and Darron Gibson are always available in case Sir Alex wants to switch to his European-away five-man midfield.


The current foursome is perfect for the high-tempo, touch-and-go passing that United tease their lesser opponents with.

But in tougher games, the Reds could potentially struggle with maintaining possession and defending counterattacks.

Ferguson will be looking to bring in more defensive cover for teams with strong midfields that pose a sizable attacking threat.

The first person to be dropped when such a situation arises is most likely to be Tom Cleverley.

Although Cleverley has been brilliant so far this season and has linked up astonishingly well with Anderson in the center of the midfield, he is found lacking in the defensive department.

Anderson is likely to retain his position because he is a more complete player. He isn't exactly a defensive midfielder, but he has been doubling as one in the last few months and has valuable experience in the department. 

Cleverley could thus be replaced by Darren Fletcher or Michael Carrick, depending upon the situation.

Fletcher can add that bullyish defensive edge to the midfield whereas Carrick is, more often than not, reliable as the quarterback.

Anderson and Cleverley are in that honeymoon period right now where everything is going right for them. But, it's unlikely to last the entire season. 

As the season progresses, one of them will be paired with Fletcher, Carrick or even Giggs on a regular basis.

Another player who could be sacrificed for the sake of defense is Nani.

Nani has been phenomenal in the last 12 months and was one of the stalwarts of United's record 19th title triumph last season.

But the Portuguese could give way to Antonio Valencia when the Ecuadorian is fully fit. 

Valencia, after returning from injury last season, shoved an in-form Nani out of the team for the last two months and could do so again this season.

Valencia's defensive abilities have often seen him doubling back as a fullback and could be preferred over Nani in away games.

But, a United team with Nani on the bench sounds just preposterous! It's a right headache for the gaffer!

So, as it stands, Ashley Young is the only player in the current four-man United midfield who is, more or less, guaranteed a spot in the starting XI if fit. And deservedly so.


Young has taken to the Manchester United style of football like a pig to mud! Having easily adapted to United's wing-attack style, Young brings balance and a superb delivery from the left wing.

Anderson comes a close second, with regards to a guaranteed spot on the team-sheet.

Anyhow, the current combination in the midfield seems to be working and isn't giving the smallest of reasons to bring about a change in it.

The present 4-4-2 system in which Rooney drops behind to aide Nani, Cleverley, Anderson and Young is setting the league on fire! 

It would be foolish to mess with this formation.

But the amount of choice Sir Alex has just goes to show the astuteness of the Scotsman in building his team.

With the likes of Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba and Ryan Tunnicliffe coming through, the future of Manchester United's midfield is bright and bewildering.


Follow me on Twitter: @jaideepvaidya


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