Louis van Gaal addressed some of Manchester United’s long-standing central midfield problems last summer by signing Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
However, the Dutchman also allowed Tom Cleverley, record-signing Angel Di Maria, Darren Fletcher and Anderson to all leave Old Trafford during the same window.
So far this season, Van Gaal has utilised Marouane Fellaini as a forward option, converted compatriot Daley Blind into a centre-back and used Spanish playmaker Ander Herrera as a no.10. As a result, United’s options in central midfield this term have been limited.
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Van Gaal has often opted with two holding midfielders this season, choosing between Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick, the latter two in their 30's.
United need someone who can pick the ball up in the middle of the park and drive forward, injecting pace into their attacking play. Here are three players the Red Devils should consider to reinvigorate their slow midfield.
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Under Van Gaal’s rigid philosophy, United have been crying out for someone who isn’t afraid to express themselves and take risks on the pitch - and Everton’s Ross Barkley certainly fits the bill.
The 22-year-old is at his best when he operates just behind the main striker but can also play as a central midfielder. Despite his age, Barkley is already renowned for his vision, creativity and ability to find pockets of space on the pitch.
He is without a doubt one of the most exciting players to watch in the Premier League and capable of producing moments of magic at any given time. Not only is Barkley powerful on the ball, but the Englishman offers trickery and a clinical finish.
After six goals and seven assists this season, his energy and natural talent would perfectly compliment the intelligence and technical ability of players like Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney.
In a youthful, energetic Tottenham team striving for a top-four place this season, Moussa Dembele has finally started to make the most of his undoubted talents. The 28-year-old, who used to be a striker, has a keen eye for goal in addition to skill, power, quick feet and vision.
The Belgium international has the strength to break up opposition attacks and, unlike Carrick or Schweinsteiger, the athleticism to cover ground for 90 minutes. Dembele would present an excellent signing not just for his phsyical presence, but for the qualities he possesses in all facets of the game.
Winger Riyad Mahrez and record-breaker Jamie Vardy have earned the majority of praise for Leicester City’s remarkable campaign thus far, but N’Golo Kante has been just as important to the Foxes’ success.
The Frenchman is an absolute workhorse who has bags of energy, working tirelessly to regain possession and establishing himself as one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League this season.
The former SM Caen man isn’t the most technically talented of footballers, but he certainly makes up for it with his determination, intensity and dynamism. His arrival at Old Trafford would allow the creative players around him the freedom to thrive.