Manchester United’s success under Sir Alex Ferguson was always built around a strong midfield.
From Bryan Robson and Roy Keane to Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick, the manager rarely found himself lacking in talented options in that area.
The forwards may have stole the headlines but those midfielders helped turn United into a dominant force in English football.
United’s midfield problems
However, the midfield had started to become a clear and obvious problem within the squad by the end of his reign.
Between 2007, when they signed Owen Hargreaves, and Ferguson stepping down in May 2013, United didn’t sign a single central midfielder.
In that time, Park Ji-sung and Rafael were famously used in central midfield against Blackburn Rovers while Paul Scholes had to come out of retirement.
United were in desperate need of reinforcements and tried to address the issue after Ferguson’s retirement, but they missed out on key targets like Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos.
Midfielders like Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin were eventually brought to Old Trafford, but they were always going to be a poor fit.
Without Ferguson’s genius, the beleaguered midfield soon started to affect United’s performances on the pitch and they have regularly finished outside of the top four.
Ahead of this season, most people argued that midfield was still their weak spot and it’s not hard to see why.
United had lost Ander Herrera and Fellaini in 2019 but failed to replace them in the summer transfer window.
Their departures left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with just Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Fred as his central midfield options going into 2019-20.
United’s current options
That midfield certainly looked underwhelming on paper, and their injury problems only made the situation worse.
Despite this, the midfield has actually improved significantly over the last few months and it now feels like a fully functioning unit.
McTominay’s combative nature has made him a fan favourite at Old Trafford while Matic has looked rejuvenated and back to his best in recent weeks.
After a disastrous debut season in England, Fred has gone from strength to strength in his second campaign to become one of the first names on the team-sheet.
New signing Bruno Fernandes has had an instant impact and transformed United’s season by adding some serious creativity to the midfield.
Meanwhile, Pogba has always divided United supporters, but his eventual return to full fitness can only make the team even stronger.
United also have some talented young midfielders waiting for a first-team opportunity, with James Garner and Dylan Levitt impressing for the under 23’s.
Therefore, Solskjaer has some serious options in the middle of the park, and he’ll have a few tough decisions to make when the Premier League returns.
It could be argued that Matic, Pogba and Fernandes is United’s strongest midfield three at the moment.
That would leave McTominay and Fred, two of our best players so far this season, on the bench and that seems incredibly harsh.
But the best teams in Europe all have incredible strength in depth and United finally have that in midfield for the first time since 2009.
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