There is no panic. Manchester United will win the Premier League. But looking back at another failed treble attempt, fingers have to be pointed at United’s lack of a dominant central midfielder.
United are not short in central midfield. They have 12 players in the first-team squad who have played in that position; Rio Ferdinand has even been tried there in the past.
Sir Alex Ferguson's will is such that United can overcome literally any obstacle to win trophies. Yet despite cruising to another league title, failure to invest in a world-class central midfielder is now haunting United.
Ryan Giggs performance against City showed that the Welshman's best days are well behind him. Paul Scholes cannot seem to influence the first half of games as he does gloriously the second. Darren Fletcher has failed to overcome a horribly debilitating condition, while Anderson lacks the consistency to be a world-class player.
Michael Carrick is the main feature in United’s midfield. The Englishman has been an excellent player with outstanding positional sense. But he is a gentle soul, a passer not a fighter, and his presence has contributed to the troubling phenomenon of United being bullied in their own turf. What Bryan Robson, Paul Ince and Roy Keane must make of this is anyone’s guess.
Sir Alex Ferguson has spent about £190m over the past five years without investing in a central midfielder. Phil Jones and Nick Powell can be counted, although their original positions were elsewhere, while United replaced Scholes with... Scholes.
The Red Devils have been linked to Barcelona’s Thiago, who is reportedly unsettled at the Nou Camp. The problem with Thiago is that he is a raw talent that has failed to take the game by storm yet. He is obviously talented with an eye for goal, but he is not the player United require.
There were rumours that Yaya Toure was going to leave City after initially failing to agree terms for a new contract. Toure is exactly the sort of player that United require to take them to the next level. His stride and strength are almost unmatchable. He’s a dynamite player that never fails to turn up for the big matches. United should have moved for him.
It is difficult to understand Ferguson’s reasoning. He has faith in the likes of Tom Cleverley and Anderson. Perhaps he has a blind spot, as Arsene Wenger did with defenders for a long time.
It is time for the greatest manager to conquer his Achilles heel and sign a new central midfielder.
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