The Curious Case of Manchester United’s Midfield

Manchester United moved quickly in the transfer market this summer after it became abundantly clear that Borussia Dortmund would be open to part ways with Jadon Sancho for the right price and that Real Madrid would be willing to accept a lower fee for Raphael Varane since the French defender only had a year left on his contract but one area of the team still remains that needs significant improvement and investment in, and that area’s the midfield.

With the signing of Sancho completed and a “deal in principle” been agreed for Varane, United have managed to secure their forward line and their defence for the upcoming season at the very least.

Is Manchester United’s Current Midfield Options Good Enough?

United Set to Turn Attentions to Midfield

Manchester United’s saviour Bruno Fernandes has proven time and time again that when his team needs him the most, he is always there to deliver the goods. He has had an unprecedented impact on the team ever since making his debut in Manchester United colours against Wolverhampton Wanderers in February of 2020. He has grabbed the opportunity with both arms and made the attacking midfielder position his own. However, the double pivot behind Bruno Fernandes is where the problem lies.

Andreas Pereira could secure a permanent move to Lazio this summer following his loan last season with the Italian club. James Garner could also go out on loan to a different Premier League club or a club in the Championship. That leaves Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to choose from Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba, Fred and Donny Van De Beek for the two positions in the midfield behind Fernandes.

Over the past couple of seasons, Solskjaer has tried different combinations of these five players in the double pivot with varying levels of success. During the Project Restart period of the Premier League in 2020, a midfield three of Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic played almost every game together. However, with Matic’s age and fitness being a concern, the Serbian midfielder found himself on the bench alongside new signing Donny Van De Beek for most of the 2020-21 season with Fred and Scott McTominay being preferred to start in the base of the midfield while Paul Pogba operated off the left-wing.

While the duo of Fred and McTominay was successful in protecting the back four by putting their defensive attributes to good use, they lacked in their ability to progress the ball to the forwards quickly. Either one of Fred and McTominay while sharing the double pivot with a more attacking player in Pogba or Van De Beek, have struggled.

The Potential Solution to United’s Midfield Woes

Nemanja Matic and Donny Van De Beek both started in the final Premier League game of last season against Wolverhampton Wanderers and on Saturday they once again started together against Everton in the final pre-season game before the start of the 2021-22 season which has led the fans to believe that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could resort to starting Van De Beek and Matic in the midfield against Leeds United in the season opener.

However, Manchester United are likely to play somewhere between 50 and 60 games this season depending on how far they go in Champions League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup and given his age, it would be unfair to expect Matic to play each and every game just to get the best out of Pogba and Van De Beek. Therefore, United need to bring in a midfielder who can do that more frequently than Matic.

Manchester United have been linked with the likes of Declan Rice, Eduardo Camavinga, Ruben Neves and Saul Niguez among others throughout this transfer window which suggests that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might be looking to bring a midfielder in to turn United from a title-challenging side to potentially a title-winning one. It would be interesting to see if Solskjaer’s wish gets fulfilled by the August 31st deadline of the summer transfer window.

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