Alex Ferguson would have loved to win a third European cup and confirm his place with the greats of football management. Unfortunately, time caught up with him and although he had his chances against Barcelona in 2009 and 2011, they denied him his chance for history.
Many believe that United could have beaten Barcelona in 2009 if they had not been without two key players; Darren Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves. As crazy as it sounds, these two players gave United something which has still not been replaced – a strong and dominant midfield.
What Hargreaves and Fletcher provided United was the extra defensive security and aggression in midfield which made United the best team in Europe during 2007-2009. Since then, Ferguson neglected to replace these injured players and because of this United have looked weaker, especially in Europe.
The security and defensive support has been lost with the absence of a tough tackling midfielder which has left United’s midfield looking timid and weak when out of possession.
Michael Carrick is an excellent player yet he is not a classic defensive midfielder. He is not strong defensively and what he needs is a player who can do the defensive work for him while he controls and dictates play. Since 2009, he has been left isolated from his midfielders too often and this has seen him exposed him on many occasions.
Now, for the past several years there have been rumours that United were looking for this type of midfielder. Reports this summer have linked United with Kevin Strootman and Thiago Alcantara yet both have left for other clubs, Roma and Bayern respectively. Both could have offered United something which they currently lack yet conceivably both of these players don’t offer what United lack – intensity, work rate and fight in midfield.
United have been craving this type of ‘complete’ midfielder – a player who is creative, positive and also strong defensively to support Carrick. If United were able to provide Carrick with a player who could support him, then it would aid United’s midfield and strength both domestically and in Europe.
This is why Javi Martinez would have been excellent for United yet £40 million was a significant amount of money (which has been justified by his performances at Bayern Munich).
Yet the best option for United could be Daniele De Rossi. The Italian has been linked with moves to England for a few years and now that Roma have bought Strootman, there is room for his potential exit from Italy.
Moyes should see signing the Italian as a priority. De Rossi is exactly what United need – he can provide them what they lacking defensively and he has proven capable also of moving forward to support the attack as well as dropping deeper to play in a back three.
De Rossi would offer United the midfield aggression which they have lacked and would also give Moyes the potential to add some tactical variation to their game which in today’s game can be invaluable.
For me, he is the answer to United’s midfield dilemma and if Moyes wants to start his United career with success, he should see De Rossi as an essential signing.
Photo: Caught Offside