Manchester United: 10 Youngsters to Fill Sir Alex's Midfield Gap at Old Trafford
Manchester United is a club with a history packed with great midfielders. From Sir Bobby Charlton through to Paul Scholes, the Red half of Manchester have historically been blessed with a host of central park play talents. These players have been artists, fighters, soldier and creators, often all at same time, tearing up the pitch as box-to-box midfielders.
United's current weakness lies at the heart. Gone are the days when Roy Keane marauding and marshalled his way through the middle ground, dominating foes and driving on his team to glory. Beyond Keane, the saturated stills of the 80's deliver us Bryan Robson, the ultimate midfielder general, and United's former 'Captain Marvel'.
A combative yet highly skillful player is the sort of inspirational firebrand United currently lack, but such operators are hard to come by in the modern game. Before rivals snapped them up, Yaya Toure and Michael Essien could have been worthy recruits, but their obvious unavailability means eyes must be cast elsewhere for potential targets.
Here are 10 players who could renovate United's midfield, not all of which are realistic...
Currently playing for Basque side Athletic Bilbao, Martinez is exciting and flexible prospect comfortable in midfield and defense.
With a polished passing game and tight defensive abilities, Martinez would be a dominating force in United's midfield, capable of fighting back attackers and launching moves into the opponents half.
He isn't likely to come cheap however and is seen as a key player in Marcelo Biesla's new set up at Bilbao, where he is currently being deployed as a modernised sweeper at the back.
Banega's reputation is growing after some impressive displays for Valencia over the last season and a number of national call-ups for Argentina.
The former Boca Juniors player is an all-round midfield operator who is extremely comfortable with the ball and retaining possession.
He may not have the physical attributes or defensive tendencies of more destructive players, but he is a hard worker. His combination of movement, pressing, passing and tackling would make him solid competition for Tom Cleverley in the Manchester United midfield.
Ravel Morrison is something of a fashionable name to throw about the blogosphere, but his growing fame (and infamy) is not without cause.
In his League Cup cameo against Aldershot, Morrison translated some of the determination, energy and guile he displayed last season whilst playing for the United youth side, to burst into life on the left wing.
Cutting inside he almost snatched a goal in an all-action performance that saw he rip up and down the left flank in attack and defence.
Depending on whether he has the positional awareness and discipline to make the transition from attacking midfielder to a more centralised, box-to-box role as Cleverley has, is another question.
Either way, he is one for the future, unlikely to make a impression on the Premier League just yet. If United's midfield can hold out that little bit longer, the stage could be set for the Ravel Morrison show.
The 24-year-old Slovakian isn't a promising youngster anymore but a fully fledged Serie A performer.
At Napoli he has gained Champions League experience as a multi-skilled attacking midfielder, but he could adapt to more central role as an all-action playmaker.
Hamšík would be an expensive purchase with a high risk factor considering the historical difficulties some Serie A players have had in adapting to the Premiership. Veron anyone?
In some ways, Toni Kroos is Bayern Munich's answer to Jack Wilshere as a young, deep-sitting, creative force capable of initiating play forwards and closing down opponents at the back.
Transfer wise, this is practically a non-starter considering the player is at Bayern–a difficult club to buy players from unless they're no longer wanted at the Aliianz Arena.
Regarless, as Kroos continues to develop under the tutelage of the immensely impressive Bastian Schweinstiger, he will leave fans across the continent staring enviously at such a well-rounded midfield prospect.
Speak and the devil, and no I'm not for one minute suggesting Jack Wilshere is a viable candidate for United's next recruitment drive.
The young English midfield is, though, the perfect player for United's current midfield. He's got technique, awareness, creativity, on-the-ball strength, a hunger to compete, a proper box-to-box engine...and he's still only 19!
Wilshere has recently come and said he wishes to stay at Arsenal for life, but if he should ever want away, for glory rather than money, a move to United would be a huge boost to the club's midfield roster.
Tunnicliffe is currently on loan at Peterborough United, seemingly following a similar path to Tom Cleverley. The Manchester-born midfielder is a feisty customer, with the energy and intensity to drive the opposition off the park!
If he can make his mark on-loan and back at Old Trafford, the Mancunian youngster would add some much needed steel and fire to the United midfield. At the moment, the centre of the park is an area that is currently all too easily dominated by opposing sides away and at Old Trafford. Tunnicliffe could be another answer yet to come.
Bender is seen as a huge prospect in Germany, a country flooded with top, young talent.
At Dortmund, where free-flowing football is the order of the day, Bender acts as a highly skillful midfield link in the team's tactical structure. A confident passer and adaptable team player, Sven operates well under pressure and could thrive in the fast pace of the Premier League with United.
Yann M'Vila has been a name on the lips of the European elite for at least two seasons now, and after watching him play its clear why.
Combining a strong physique, an aware and mature ability to read the game and tidy technique, M'Vila is about the become the next big defensive midfield sensation in France.
His words to press have suggested he favours a move to Arsenal or Real, but with his ball-playing and defensive abilities he could be a play for Fergie to pass his rule over in the meantime.
Having just transferred to Porto it is unlikely Defour would be available any time soon, but Sir Alex is a known admirer having posted a letter of encouragement to the player during a tough injury break.
It will be interesting to see if Defour can make the step up in Portugal from his time in Belgium. It is often difficult to fully understand a player's level outside the so-called "big" European Leauges, but if he can make the transition, his commanding yet fluent style would be a bonus to any top team.