Fred and Scott McTominay have been average, while age is catching up with Nemanja Matic.
Manchester United are on course to one of the best performances post Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has done a good job of rebuilding the squad. The manager has been smart in recruitment and selling of players as per requirement.
Since his appointment as permanent manager, Solksjaer has signed ideal players for positions that needed attention. One of the few issues in the squad right now is the position of defensive midfield. The Red Devils have occasionally conceded poor goals due to errors and a lack of cover by players like Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic in this position.
There is an immediate need to fix this area and the upcoming transfer window will bring an opportunity to do so. Below are five reasons that justify the need to recruit better players in the holding midfield role and why the club must act fast:
Inconsistency from Fred
Fred will complete his third full-season with Manchester United at the end of the season after signing from Shakhtar Donetsk. The Brazilian turned a lot of heads due to the £53.10 million transfer fee he cost the 13-time Premier League champions. Many doubted if Fred would be able to cope up with the physicality of the league from initial performances.
Solskjaer has persevered with Fred, by picking him regularly alongside either Scott McTominay or Nemanja Matic. However, the 28-year-old always has an uncharacteristic error in his gameplay. The midfielder was at fault yet again during the recent defeat to Liverpool. He gave away possession in a dangerous area leading to the third goal by the visitors. Unfortunately, Fred has had his chances in the starting lineup and the club needs a more reliable figure in his place.
Paul Pogba a liability on the backfoot
Paul Pogba has found a new lease of life at the Premier League outfit in the second-half of the 2020/21 campaign. The Frenchman has recorded consistent performances, especially from the left-wing position. The tactician has utilized the attacking qualities of Pogba perfectly, however he still does not seem to trust his defensive work. The former Juventus star has played in a deeper role before, but isn’t a preferred option there anymore.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup winner has a tendency to be casual in his off-the-ball marking. Moreover, the lack of industry and uncharacteristic errors from the most expensive United player makes the gaffer incapable of trusting him. If Pogba cannot play as a holding midfielder, Manchester United must recruit a player who can perform the role efficiently.
Need to include more attacking options
One of the key factors behind the need for a better defensive-midfielder is to allow players upfront more freedom. At the moment, Solskjaer majorly fields a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two defensive-midfielders, mainly Fred and McTominay. On the other hand, teams like Leicester City, Manchester City and Liverpool play with one holding midfielder like Wilfried Ndidi, Rodri and Fabinho respectively.
This setup leaves Bruno Fernandes isolated in the attacking department. The Portuguese often needs help in the creative aspect of the game despite his world class talents. In a perfect scenario, Manchester United could line up in a 4-1-2-3 setup with both Fernandes and Pogba playing in advanced roles behind the forwards.
Nemanja Matic’s advanced age
Manchester United has a good depth in terms of midfielders. Their most experienced figure in the defensive midfield department is Nemanja Matic. The Serbian plays an important role whenever he steps onto the field. However, he cannot perform at a high intensity for the full duration of a match due to his advanced age.
The 32-year-old has lost a yard of pace in recent times. He is often left chasing faster opposition players and fails to cover spaces and block passing lines. This also hinders his capability to intercept passes and put in tackles. As a result, Solskjaer does not start Matic from the first whistle, especially in important games against tougher opposition. A younger and yet an experienced defensive-midfielder is the need of the hour.
A tailor-made option to elevate the squad
The fact is, Manchester United is finally heading in a right direction. The club has done well in terms of recruitment, league performances, cup performances, attacking output and defensive solidity. The rebuilding project is on-course under the guidance of Solskjaer, but the tactician admits a few more additions to the squad are needed.
The outfit is a few steps behind to match a team like Manchester City. Finding a reliable defensive-midfielder is one of those steps. The club has been linked with several young and established players like Declan Rice, Yves Bissouma, Wilfried Ndidi and Mauro Arambarri – all players who can perform the role effectively. It is of utmost importance that the club signs a new defensive-midfielder in the upcoming transfer window.