It’s still early days and the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo has given the club and its fans a dose of dizzying excitement, but there is already a sense that Manchester United are missing a vital ingredient to battle for the title this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had previously been warned he could not possibly win the league with his current options in central midfield, and it took Roy Keane just two games in the new season to shine the torch on the lack of ‘quality and creativity’ in the new season. the middle of the park after United dropped points at Southampton last Sunday.
There is no doubt that having great central midfielders is fundamental to any title challenge. Think Keane and Ince, Vieira and Petit, Lampard and Makelele or Silva and Toure. Trying to compete for the title without those kinds of players is a bit like trying to win a game of Monopoly without owning Park Lane or Mayfair.
Man United were accused of lack of creativity in midfield after being detained by Southampton, while Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes were unable to get the much-needed three points
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tends to play two defensive midfielders with Fred (left), Scott McTominay (right) or Matic, seemingly his preferred options behind Fernandes and Pogba
Man United Central Midfield Options
- Paul pogba
- Bruno Fernandes
- Scott McTominay
- Nemanja Matic
- Juan Mata
- Donny van de Beek
Solskjaer won’t be too concerned about one bad result, but he should be aware that he has a conundrum to solve in midfield.
Many United fans questioned his decision to play two defensive midfielders against a team like Southampton, who were expected to sit back for much of the game.
There is a feeling that most would like Solskjaer to be braver and sacrifice one of the defensive midfielders in Fred, Scott McTominay or Nemanja Matic and play Paul Pogba alongside one of them, with Bruno Fernandes further up front, to give them more creativity in the middle of the park.
Whether Solskjaer sticks or spins, time will tell. What is far less ambiguous is that United’s midfield is a problem.
Keane is not alone in fearing United are missing something in midfield. His former United teammate Gary Neville has already expressed similar concerns this season.
But how exactly does United’s under-fired midfield compare to that of their title rivals? Sports post take a look…
Few managers in the world are as fortunate as Pep Guardiola when it comes to having quality midfielders at their disposal.
Guardiola is not only blessed with an array of midfield talent in his squad, but there is also a wonderful balance between the types of players he has to choose from.
Fernandinho, who has been one of the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League for years, although he is now, has Rodri for the league, while Guardiola alternates them throughout the season.
When it comes to creativity, there are certainly no worries about Guardiola’s men, with Kevin De Bruyne – arguably the best passer in the world – and Phil Foden joining City’s ranks.
Fernandinho and Ilkay Gundogan provide Man City with defensive cover and an attacking threat
Kevin De Bruyne is widely regarded as the best central midfielder in the Premier League
Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish are also able to fall back and play on the right or left side of a midfield three, as they have both already done this season.
And then there’s Ilkay Gundogan, a box-to-box midfielder with an impressive number of goals to his name last season. So Guardiola has essentially covered all bases.
The same cannot be said of United, who have three creatively limited midfielders who play the same roles in Fred, McTominay and Matic, and only Fernandes and Pogba as viable attacking options, as Donny van de Beek is an outcast and Juan Mata appears. are best over.
Georginio Wijnaldum’s departure has certainly been felt at Liverpool, who have not yet signed a replacement for him.
The diligent and skilled Wijnaldum was a key part of the Liverpool machine and was seen by Jurgen Klopp as one of the most influential players on his team.
That said, Liverpool still have some quality and experienced players in midfield, none more so than Jordan Henderson, who is a reliable player and a true leader for Klopp’s men.
Jordan Henderson (left) and James Milner (right) give Liverpool plenty of midfield experience
Thiago is a class operator and will be key for Liverpool this season if he can stay fit
Like City, Liverpool also have great versatility about their midfield players.
Fabinho is their main defensive midfield option, while Henderson, James Milner and Naby Keita Klopp can also provide stability and energy in the middle of the park.
Henderson and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are ball playing midfielders, who are also capable of the box-to-box role.
Thiago is one of the world’s best deep-set playmakers and will be vital for Liverpool this season if he can stay fit. And if that wasn’t enough, Klopp also has exciting youngsters Harvey Elliot and Curtis Jones, who can add dynamism and flair to his midfield.
Bar Pogba and Fernandes, it is unlikely that any of United’s other midfielders would be vying for a place on this Liverpool squad.
You know you have a great midfield when not one but two of your players from that area are in talks to win UEFA Player of the Year.
Jorginho and N’Golo Kante both defeated Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski to make the final three-man shortlist.
So that tells you what shape those midfielders have been in the past 12 months.
The Chelsea pair complement each other, have developed a great partnership and are arguably the best central midfield duo in the Premier League.
It speaks volumes for Mateo Kovacic’s ability to still score regular minutes in Chelsea’s midfield.
There aren’t many better midfield duos than Jorginho (left) and N’Golo Kante in the world
Mateo Kovacic (far right) is an excellent player who can rotate with Jorginho and Kante
The Croat is great on the ball and a top quality midfielder who shows the strength of Chelsea at depth.
Thomas Tuchel has a number of other players he could use in central midfield such as Trevoh Chalobah and Mason Mount, although he prefers them to operate in defense and outside the flanks respectively.
Hakim Ziyech is more often than not deployed in an attacking midfield role, but can also play in a deeper position, the same goes for Kai Havertz. Tuchel also has Ruben Loftus-Cheek waiting in the wings, but he can’t even smell Chelsea’s skill in that area. If necessary, Reece James is also talented enough to play in midfield – indeed, that’s where many see his future.
There’s no arguing – while Fernandes could compete for a spot further up front in the European champions’ XI, Manchester United lack central midfielders like Jorginho and Kante, save for Pogba.