Manchester United comfortably secured a record 20th league title last season. 

This was primarily due to the fact their attack was in scintillating form and out-scored every single team in the top four of the Premier League scoring over 80 goals in total.  

Also, another reason for their success was that, they were able to beat teams and come back from seemingly losing positions such as the 3-2, 3-2, 4-3 and 3-2 wins against Southampton, Chelsea, Newcastle and Aston Villa respectively.

This was, again, down to the attack. 

Nevertheless, this form could not be replicated in Europe. Why? 

Because United lacked depth and class in midfield in comparison to their last four UEFA Champions League counterparts namely, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.

Looking at all of these teams, they all had the quality and depth needed in the central-midfield area of the park. Madrid could choose from Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Michael Essien, Luka Modric and Kaka.Barcelona could choose from Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, Sergi Busquets, Alex Song and Thiago Alcantara. Bayern could choose from Toni Kroos, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Luiz Gustavo, Javi Martinez, Shaqiri and Tymoshchuk. And Dortmund could choose from Mario Gotze, Ikay Gundogan, Ivan Perisic, Kevin Großkreutz, Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin.  

All of these central midfielders possessed enough quality which meant that if their team lost anyone through an injury or suspension, they could easily find an equally class replacement.

On the other hand, United lacked this kind of depth in class. Michael Carrick for all his class and consistency in midfield should not have played virtually every single game. But he did. Imagine what would have happened if he had suffered a long-term injury. The simple answer is that United would not have won the league even with all their firepower as he was the only quality midfielder that would be put into the same bracket as that of the midfielders stated above. 

The legend Ryan Giggs could not play every single game as he was 39. Tom Cleverley, for all of his talent, faded after Christmas and also lacked the tactical nous which meant that striker Wayne Rooney and defender Phil jones were preferred ahead of him as the partner of Carrick in big games. Paul Scholes was injury-prone.

Shinji Kagawa was still trying to settle in. Anderson as usual, blew hot and cold and Darren Fletcher could only manage a few games due to a long-term illness.

Cast your mind back to the seasons 2007/08 and 2008/09 in which United won the Champions League and went to the final again the following season and you can see that they had the strength in depth and diversity in midfield that Bayern, Madrid, Dortmund and Barcelona have now. 

They had Hargreaves, a much younger Scholes and Giggs, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher. They had a mixture of flair and combativeness which meant that they could adapt to any team that was put in front of them.  

If United are going to do this again, they are going need to acquire, not only the flair and creativity of Thiago but also, the fighting spirit and tactical awareness of Strootman. Add these two to United’s midfield and they can dominate Europe again as they would have quality in depth in the heart-beat of any good team, the central-midfield. 

 

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Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Football
Kevin Strootman