Football

Man United's midfield- Ferguson's biggest mistake?

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Sir Alex Ferguson's credentials as a manager are impeccable.

He is without doubt one of the managing greats and he has almost certainly forgotten more about the beautiful game than most people, myself included, knew to begin with.

The poor state of Manchester United's central midfield is a riddle therefore that deserves investigation.

Prior to David Moyes signing Fellaini in this transfer window Manchester United had not spent any money on a first team central midfielder for since the summer 2007. Paul Scholes did come back out of retirement on a free transfer but that hardly seems to count as a purchase.

The two midfielders Manchester United signed in 2007/08 season were Anderson and Owen Hargreaves. Transfermarkt.co.uk suggests that just over £27million and £22million respectively was spent on those two for just shy of a combined £50million.

Neither of these transfers was overly successful and one wonders whether the lack of value in the transfers put Ferguson off spending money on central midfielders all together.

This is a particularly pertinent point when it's considered that since in the years afterwards the central midfield position has been one that the Red Devils have sought to fill in the long term by grooming academy players.

The now much-maligned Tom Cleverley moved up through the ranks. Whilst a whole cadre of young centre midfielders from Paul Pogba to Ryan Tunicliffe to Ravel Morrison have all failed to make the grade/ find opportunities at Manchester United.

So on this reading Ferguson, burnt by the expensive flops of Hargreaves and Anderson, turned his back on big name central midfield signings and focused his attempts on developing young talent.

This is all very admirable but then it does pose two questions. Why did Ferguson not give the youngsters a chance to play? How did Ferguson come to view the role of the central midfielder?

The first question probably has the least interesting answer. Many of the youngsters were not good enough. The two that stand out as being good enough that were released were Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba.

Ravel Morrison had trouble settling down in the Manchester area and Paul Pogba's release is explained by two things. One; he seems to have questioned Ferguson's complete control of Manchester United. Two; a decent youngster Pogba might be but he is hardly a world beater. Put Pogba back into this Man Utd squad and the league position would not change at all.

This leaves the second question: How did Ferguson come to view the central midfield
position?

Over the last six or seven years the possession based central midfielder has been in the ascendency led by the example of the much copied Barcelona tiki-taka, yet Ferguson's central midfielders do not fit into this style.

Young midfielders like Pogba, Cleverley and Morrison are not midfielders suited to the tiki-taki game instead they are more box to box midfielders. They seek to move the ball quickly out to the flanks or the forwards getting the ball into attacking positions quickly.

This of course fits with the attacking style that Ferguson's Manchester United team played with and it is also the sort of style that David Moyes seems to favour.

The big issue moving forward for United is whether this can work at the top level.

The era of pure tiki-taka may have gone but it seems to be being replaced by a high tempo pressing game that seeks to force teams to lose the ball in areas of the pitch from which attacks can be launched. It does not seem to be swing back to the sort of winger based play that the Manchester United production line seems set up to deliver.

Did Ferguson leave behind not just a weak midfield but also a club which seeks to use the midfield in way that no longer works?

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Topics:
Premier League
Manchester United
Football

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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