In Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, Manchester United had two of the greatest central midfielders to grace the Premier League. However, the void left by them has never been filled. It became such a problem that Scholes had to come out of retirement in 2012. United have tried a various number of players during this time who haven’t made a mark. Shinji Kagawa, Anderson, Tom Cleverley to name a few. Darren Fletcher had a prolonged absence due to illness and he was never the same player on his return to football.
Michael Carrick silently rose to be one of United’s most important players. He brings a certain calmness every time he’s on the pitch. One of the most underrated players in the league, Carrick has tremendous vision and is very good at reading the game. He often sees a pass that other players don’t. He helps to build the attack from the back and gets more players involved. During the 2014-15 season, United won 72% of the games that Michael Carrick played. Not only that, his passing accuracy of 89.62% was the highest of any United player.
In the summer transfer window, Louis Van Gaal bought Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin to strengthen the midfield. Schweinsteiger has played at the highest level for a long time and seemed like an excellent addition even though his age is catching up with him. Schneiderlin on the hand was a crucial part of Ronald Koeman’s Southampton. He formed a formidable partnership with Victor Wanyama helping the Saints to record their highest ever points total, finishing in 7th place.
Having these three players playing the same two positions means one of the three has to be on the bench each week. So far, Carrick and Schneiderlin have started 5 games together and United have won all. United have conceded twice scoring 8 times in those 5 games. However, each time Carrick has been substituted for Schweinsteiger around the 60th minute mark.
Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger have started 3 games together out of which United have just won one. Carrick and Basti have started just 2 games together. However, those two games have been United’s two biggest games so far. Liverpool at home and Arsenal away. While it worked brilliantly against Liverpool, it completely fell apart against Arsenal. The main problem with this combination is that the pair is too slow and as Schweinsteiger goes forward to attack, they leave way too many gaps.
One of United’s player of the season so far has been Juan Mata. Playing on the right, he has been involved in 44% of United’s goals this season in all competitions. There are only three players who have contributed a higher percentage of their team’s goals this season. Barring one horrible game in Eindhoven, Mata has made it very hard for Manchester United to drop him so far.
United’s biggest disappointment, excluding Wayne Rooney, this season has been Memphis. Signed from PSV in the summer, he has been tipped to become one of the best. However, he has had an underwhelming start to life at Old Trafford. He hasn’t adjusted to the pace of the game at all, scoring just once in his 8 League appearances. It’s a little unfair on Ashely Young to be sitting on the bench on account of Memphis. Young had a terrific 2014-15 and has made an impact every time he’s been brought on this season.
When you think of Manchester United’s mid-field, you automatically think of Carrick, and the pairing of Carrick and Schneiderlin is what LVG should look at with Basti coming on later to influence proceedings. Juan Mata on the right and Ashley Young on the left completes United’s best midfield with of course skipper Rooney in the number 10 role.
Buy tickets for European football fixtures, Premier Leauge and FA Cup matches at 1st4 football tickets.