Monday, June 13, 2011

Jones Must Be The Beginning Of Fergie's Midfield Revolution

"The times they are a changing" said Bob Dylan, and while I doubt football played into his thoughts at the time of writing, it seems appropriate to apply his quote to the United midfield.

From the moment the final whistle blew at Wembley stadium, and a surprisingly happy looking Ferguson marched over to shake hands with Pep Guardiola, the wheels were spinning. Michael Carrick had been dominated again, Giggs' age had told and Paul Scholes had made his final appearance for the club. Sitting on the bench, in the stands or trudging around the pitch were the hit and miss Anderson, the out of form Darren Fletcher, and United's second greatest enigma; Darren Gibson.

For a team that has boasted players battlers like Keane, Ince and Scholes as well as creators like Cantona, Giggs and Kanchelskis, the mediocrity of Anderson, Gibson and Carrick is simply not acceptable. United lack both a destroyer and creator in midfield; against Barcelona they missed the tenacity of Keane and the brilliance of Cantona, now it is Fergie's task to find them.

Half the job may already have been completed, earlier today Manchester United sealed the signing of central defender/defensive midfielder Phil Jones from Blackburn, a deal which has been stretched out due to some legal haranguing between the two clubs. The void in creative midfield is still wide though, and unless United fill it, they may find next season very turbulent indeed.

Names will be tossed all summer long, Sneijder has borrowed Ronaldo's habit of making cryptic transfer statements and Luka Modric's future is still wreathed with mystery. Spaniards like Javi Martinez and Juan Mata could also provide a creative presence in midfield, as could Napoli schemer Marek Hamsik. All of those aforementioned players would fit the bill at Old Trafford, but what Ferguson must avoid is settling with Ashley Young, tricking himself into thinking that the Englishman is all that is needed to insure another year of success; Young is a good player, but reinforcement is still imperative.

What Ferguson may or may not understand is that the gulf in midfield isn't something which will just prevent the Red Devils from attaining a fourth Champions League crown, it is something which could jeopardize their very place in that particular competition. The noisy neighbors are becoming louder by the minute, and the force by Merseyside which we thought had been quelled seems to have gained a new lease of life. At Stamford Bridge,  Guus Hiddink's impending appointment will spark a new era of  spending this summer, one that could leave United in the dust.

From Arsenal the threat is less great, Captain Fantastic Cesc Fabregas has been on his way out of the club for the best part of three years, and Nasri clearly is seeking a move elsewhere. However, do not discount the threat of fellow North Londoners Tottenham Hotspur, a team fueled by ambition and led by transfer juggernaut Harry Redknapp.

Premonitions of downfall are often made too hastily in the wild world of football writing, so I'll shy away from any pessimistic prophecies, however, there is no question that a few mistakes this summer could lead to problems further ahead for the nineteen time league champions.

Who should United sign?
Who will win the 11/12 Premiership?

For more by David Yaffe-Bellany visit Red Flag Flying High

1 comment:

  1. Carrick, Gibson, Fletcher are great for the Premiership, quite average in the CL, let's face it. Anderson, Nani and Valencia are the ones who are/could be a bit better when it comes to oozing class and technical ability but even they do not stand up to the midfields you'll find of the two Spanish giants. Oezil/Khedira/Alonso and Xavi/Busquets/Iniesta are very difficult to match and until Ferguson doesn't sort this section of his team out, he'll never be able to win the CL again. Modric or Sneijder, one or the other has to be recruited, otherwise they'll end up second best again.

    As for their ability to win the Premiership, never write them down. Ferguson is a master motivator and for a 38-match league season, grit and determenation (which Fletcher and co. have in abundance) are much more important than flair.