Sir Alex Ferguson must invest in a midfielder
Van Persie isn't the answer for Man United
23 July ~ If Manchester United sign Robin van Persie this week then Michael Carrick becomes a world class centre midfielder by default. That must be the hope, because wingers and almost world-class strikers are gathering at the club in place of a recognisable midfield. Not many other explanations for United's Van Persie bid come to mind. The team that lost last season's Premier League by inches lost midfield battles to almost every major rival. United conceded the middle ground rather than taking them. Manchester City, Tottenham and even Wigan got free passes to keep possession. Then there was Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League.
Last season United lacked a midfield that dominated in games where it mattered. Bringing back a 37-year-old Paul Scholes suggested that Alex Ferguson realised this. How strange that now the chance has come to solve the problem more thoroughly, Ferguson seems intent on turning it down.
In the past three years there has been no money for problem solving. Not so now. Ferguson has access, supposedly, to enough cash to lure in a Brazilian wonderkid (Lucas Moura, £25 million), a Bundesliga star (Shinji Kagawa, £12m) and Arsenal's wantaway captain (Van Persie, £20m).
Almost £60m is enough to buy Luka Modric, although Tottenham might not want to sell to a rival, or a midfielder of a similar class. For once, at the world's richest club, the money is actually there for the manager.
But Ferguson – or at least the Ferguson pieced together from the rumours and the press conferences – appears to fancy topping up his squad in everywhere but midfield. Kagawa is a No 10, Moura is a winger-cum-No 10 and Van Persie is a striker in the mould currently well filled by Wayne Rooney.
Although some players could yet leave, that gives Ferguson a bizarrely long list of forwards to play with: Van Persie, Moura, Kagawa, Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov, Antonio Valencia, Ashey Young and Nani is more than anyone needs. Particularly as the bit where somebody gets the ball to them hasn't been worked out yet.
If this really is the full extent of the plan it demonstrates extreme confidence in the midfielders already at the club. Exactly what that confidence is based around is anybody's guess: Carrick had one of his best seasons at United in 2011-12 but still had little to say against better opposition.
Scholes was a masterstroke at 37, but even then came in as a desperate measure and is now a year older, while Anderson's form tends to hold up about as well as Amir Khan's. Tom Cleverley has been injured a lot, which means he hasn't yet been proven a failure. That is the best that United have got.
The only explanation for the current state of Manchester United's midfield that sounds plausible – that Ferguson trusts what he has – is simultaneously absurd and unbelievable. It looks like the greatest manager the world has ever known has either massively overestimated what he has, entirely ignoring last season's pile of evidence, or actually forgotten what a midfield looks like.
Whatever the real story happens to be, United need a central midfielder. A player who can win the ball back consistently and pass it on competently, with a bit of intelligence.
Luka Modric can do that, as can Xabi Alonso and a few other cheaper names: Newcastle's Cheick Tioté or Yohan Cabaye, or PSV's Kevin Strootman. The players are out there if Ferguson wants them but he seems to want Robin van Persie instead. Ethan Dean-Richards
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