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Arsenal title-winner shines a light on what Manchester United are missing

Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva knows a thing or two about going head-to-head with top players in the Premier League.

The Brazilian was an integral part of the Gunners’ title success in 2003/04, playing in 32 of their 38 top flight matches during the campaign.

Arsenal famously defied sports betting odds to go unbeaten that season – a superb achievement given the strength of the competition at the time.

A feature of that era was the bitter rivalry between Arsenal and Manchester United, with the two clubs regularly battling for major silverware under Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson.

Silva played plenty of games against United’s famed midfield unit, so is better placed than most to comment on the quality they possessed.

In a recent interview with Betway Insider, Silva singled out Paul Scholes as the toughest opponent he faced during his time in the Premier League.

“He was hard to play against because he played tough, but he was also a very smart, very intelligent player,” Silva said. “You had to be smart when you played against him.

“It was great for me because when you play against tough opponents, intelligent opponents, they drive you to become a better player.

“You want to improve to be them, you want to improve to win against them, to win the tackles, to win the ball, to win the game.

“I’m fortunate enough to have played against those great players like Scholes and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

“They helped to improve my game because I had to push myself on a daily basis to face them at the weekend.

Silva’s comments can undoubtedly be used to highlight a glaring issue in United’s current squad – they do not have anyone with the same skillset as Scholes.

Casemiro has been likened to Roy Keane, with his ability to shield the back four and get United on the front foot reminiscent of the legendary midfielder.

The Red Devils are also well stocked for wide players, just as they were previously with Ryan Giggs and David Beckham in their ranks.

However, United do not currently have anyone similar to Scholes – someone who can run the show in the middle of the park and weigh in with a healthy tally of goals.

Jude Bellingham could certainly be that player, but it appears he will join Real Madrid when he decides to leave Borussia Dortmund.

There have been suggestions in some quarters that Bruno Fernandes may adopt a deeper-lying role in the future, but he does not possess all the same attributes as Scholes.

Bayern Munich’s Ryan Gravenberch may be an option, particularly as United manager Erik ten Hag is familiar with him from their time together at Ajax.

Prising him away from Bayern would not be easy, with manager Thomas Tuchel expected to integrate him into the first team next season.

On that basis, Inter Milan star Nicola Barella is the player United would be well-advised to pull out all the stops to sign this summer.

He has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool, but is the ideal choice to fill the ‘Scholes role’ in United’s midfield.

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