Let’s be blunt and not mess around here.
Our midfield is not very good at the moment. And this isn’t a question of form…this is about quality and depth.
When you add it all up and put most of the midfielders together in pairs, it doesn’t make for good reading. Chemistry is a huge issue. Carrick with Ando or Fletch. Fletch with Ando. Stick in a Cleverley here. A Ryan Giggs there. Even a Ji Sung Park. All the combinations don’t seem to open that lock. There’s nothing to get really excited about. Yes we saw the early buds of brilliance from the opening season form of Clev and Ando…but can we rely on this partnership to stay injury free forever, play every single match, and scoop all the trophies on it’s own? Of course not. The four across the middle and two up top is a Manchester United tradition…but sometimes you need to look outside the box to be able to move forward.
So a striker, a centreback and an attacking midfielder come winger is the answer for the heart of the team? Yes it sounds ever so slightly bonkers I know. But in an age when transfer windows rule the world, and squads have to make do with what they have, United need to have to look within to solve it’s midfield Rubik’s Cube.
The qualities of Rooney, Cleverley and Jones are all fairly obvious. But what is just as important as these three players skills is what United have in the departments they currently ply their trades. Rooney is the one to look at first. The talisman. The player who can fit snuggly in that ‘World Class’ bracket. On his day…totally unplayable. Part Messi. Part David Villa (though not actually as good as those two in what they specialize in!) Rooney is at times the perfect centre forward for MUFC. However, two things have happened to United’s front line in the last twelve months. Those being a little Mexican, and the blossoming of a local lad from a thorn-bush to a spectacular Lancashire red rose. Chico & Welbeck have both been individual revelations, in their own ways. Both are central players that give United that X Factor that even the genius of Berbatov cannot. They ‘fit’ the Manchester United way. They know where the goal is…and they work their proverbial balls off for the team. They are the future, already here in the current.
Their progression has eased the burden on Rooney. That being post Ronaldo – ‘The man that scores the goals’. This is a good thing. It’s been mooted for many years that Wayne will one day become a midfielder…something that personally I have always been wholly against. Using the United template for midfielders he just didn’t cut the mustard in my mind…but the crux is formulating his personality into a central midfield 2….Cos thats the way we play. Isnt it? In a two Rooney as a theory just doesn’t work.
So rather than change the player….why dont we break the mould of the team instead?
In the modern game the midfield is king. We have seen United revert to a 5 across the middle for tricky away ties. We see Barcelona play with one up top with a wizard-like, yet hard-working midfield 5 behind that. In fact it is a fluid front six with no real centre forward! It’s not just about ‘packing the midfield’ as we have done previously…but making the midfield effective to the point of dominating games, packed with skill, flair and endeavour.
So what about Rooney in a central midfield 3??
I’m deliberately not mentioning the wide players here, because I think between Nani, Young, Park and Valencia, we have everything we could possibly need. It is our central spine that is the huge problem.
It would be simple to stick a Carrick and Fletcher in with Rooney. They could do all the dirty work. And Rooney could burst from deep. But that’s all a bit predictable..and is just a variation of 4-4-2..with Rooney maybe 10 yards deeper than the hole. It would be nothing ‘new’. So as the title of this piece says..its time to get Cleverley and Jones involved.
Cleverley has had a great start to his full on United career. And then he got injured. Jones is already a defensive cult hero..being compared to the incomparable: Duncan Edwards (and that from the one mouth that should know: Sir Bobby) They are young players who are demanding our attention now. They are players that deserve the opportunity to make a claim to be first choices.
Now I understand the clamour to keep Jones as a defender. But there are two things that make me put him in this midfield. Firstly, we have Vidic, Rio, Evans and Smalling. Four class centrebacks. Yes, Jonah is up there in the competition for places..but if you limit his positional possibilities then he’s gonna spend alot of unneccessary time on the bench when everyone is fit and healthy. Secondly, he’s the one defensive lynchpin who has the all round total quality to step out of the back four, and play higher up the pitch. Many United fans will tell you this is myth. That he’s only a defender and nothing else. These fans like putting things into boxes. Everything player has his place. Only weeks ago I was told by many MUFC fans that Jones had zero skill…that he was a destroyer. That he couldn’t pass, and…..wait for it…had no mobility. Then the lad started marauding through the midfield from deep…and all those poorly informed fans went quiet.
Jones is a superhuman talent….almost! A man-boy has the physique of a Vidic and the brain of a Ferdinand. Which in many ways could make you the best Frankenstein like midfielder you could want?? A player that tackles hard. Gets stuck in…yet can make a pass…run with the ball. Jones could give us what Essien used to deliver for Mourinho and Chelsea. He has the bloody lot. When you combine this with the natural artistry of a Cleverley, and the genius and guts of Rooney…Im starting to smell a midfield that could be the best in the Premier League…the very very best. Just seeing Roo make that last gasp header save against Liverpool made me think that maybe his ability is wasted as ‘just’ a forward…in the same way that when I see Jones move forward I think he is wasted purely as a defender.
Blending is the key in any midfield. You could have a team of world-class midfielders, but if they all do the same thing it’s not going to work.
Rooney, Cleverley and Jones would scare the life out of everyone, not just in England…but I think in Europe as well. It is only a matter of time until this current midfield crashes and hopefully not…burns. Fergie has always been the master of pre-empting these disasters before they happen.
He’s a lucky man that he has got the perfect answer screaming in his ..and our faces.
Or maybe…just maybe…the old dog has had this planned all along?
No luck involved.
These three can take United to new heights in the middle. It’s time we let them off the leash.