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Central Midfield. Important or not?

I remember Steve McClaren being a guest on Super Sunday one weekend last season, during his time on the show he gave away one or two little snippets of how Sir Alex Ferguson ticks and shared them with the world quite innocently. The first was about how Sir Alex would know his team upto 6 (six) weeks in advance. The second however was a far more eyebrow raising statement.

‘Sir Alex’ McClaren said ‘puts a huge onus on three positions within his teams. The goalkeeper, a central defence partnership and a goalscorer’.

Surely his former No2 wasn’t suggesting Sir Alex Ferguson didn’t feel central midfielders were as important as them, was he?

It certainly sounded that way, and it certainly went some-way to explaining why United’s midfield has been so openly neglected for a few years now with little or no real drive or purpose pushing the team in the way a Bryan Robson, Paul Ince or Roy Keane would’ve done in years gone by.

I read one of our most loyal and ardent readers comments this morning and began to pencil a reply, that reply soon became this post. I think @Moscow – however over zealous his words may be – has a very valid point.

Read his comment below and also the importance I place on a central midfield partnership, or at least one outstanding performer within it before having your say on what’s become an almost laughable situation amongst many United fans at the game, in their homes or on blogs and forums like these.

The @Moscow Post

So after the lies and stubborn arrogance, Fergie gets his just desserts, and the noisy neighbours he made fun of just a couple of years ago are now a far greater force than we are. It is so surprising that even with his working class roots he is prepared to side with corporate leeches in extorting money out of the club while bleeding our squad dry, leaving the fans spending their hard earned cash on pathetic displays of cowardice and ineptitude.

Leave this club before you betray your fans any further or bring down the Glazers. You are embarassing yourself you washed up old coot, I for one would be ashamed to face the Old Trafford audience to congratulate the team after blowing an 8 point lead in little more than 2 weeks and making sure Balotelli lifts our damn trophy. This capitulation is probably unprecedented, but perversely it is probably what our pathetic, spineless players deserve. However, it is not their fault that they are 37 or 38, it is not their fault that they were signed up for marketing reasons, and it is not their fault if they are not as naturally gifted as the cream of footballers’ crop. It is completely and utterly Fergie’s fault, no value in the market. I hopelessly wish he spends the summer transfixed in front of his TV watching Euro 2012 to try and pick out the best players in the world for our club to atone for his failings, but who am I kidding?

I personally refuse to watch any more of this shit shower of a team until I see someone else in central fucking midfield. Despite what many of you think, I hate being negative but I am furious with the current state of affairs at the club and won’t give the respect Fergie demands until he gives us some back, because I am not a dog who laps up everything he has to throw at me. Honestly, why did you let it come to this Fergie?

20yrs of Premier League football:

PL Winners CM Player/s who made 20+ app’s during the season: (in brackets United’s CMs when league lost)

92/93 – Paul Ince
93/94 – Paul Ince + Roy Keane
94/95 – Tim Sherwood + Mark Atkins (Paul Ince + Roy Keane)
95/96 – Roy Keane
96/97 – Nicky Butt + Roy Keane
97/98 – Patrick Viera + Emmanuel Petit (Nicky Butt + Paul Scholes with Roy Keane only 9)
98/99 – Nicky Butt + Roy Keane + Paul Scholes
99/00 – Nicky Butt + Roy Keane + Paul Scholes
00/01 – Nicky Butt + Roy Keane + Paul Scholes
01/02 – Patrick Viera + Ray Parlour (Seba Veron + Nicky Butt + Paul Scholes + Roy Keane)
02/03 – Seba Veron + Nicky Butt + Roy Keane + Paul Scholes
03/04 – Patrick Viera + Gilberto Silva (Roy Keane + Paul Scholes)
04/05 – Makelele + Frank Lampard (Paul Scholes + Roy Keane)
05/06 – Makelele + Frank Lampard + Michael Essien (Darren Fletcher)
06/07 – Paul Scholes + Michael Carrick
07/08 – Paul Scholes + Michael Carrick
08/09 – Michael Carrick + Darren Fletcher
09/10 – Frank Lampard + Deco + Michael Ballack (Michael Carrick + Paul Scholes + Darren Fletcher)
10/11 – Michael Carrick + Darren Fletcher
11/12 – Yaya Toure + Gareth Barry (Michael Carrick)

This list proves how important a settled and decent central midfield combination is to win the league (imo) and how at least one quality central midfielder with drive is a prominent figure within the team throughout a season. This season Yaya Toure has been the difference for City, his stats back that up too. If they don’t have him or they lose him, their next option is Nigel De Jong who offers very little in the way of going forward like YT and days like yesterday don’t happen.

The list doesn’t comprehensively prove anything (I wish it had) but some of the years do have obvious peculiarities/similarities. 05/06 Darren Fletcher was our only CM to have 20 apps’ and so too this season with Michael Carrick, on both occassions we went on to lose the league/possibly lose the league, whereas most other years we’ve had at least two.

Other years you have to tip your hat to the opposition. 94/95 Tim Sherwood and Mark Atkins. 01/02 Viera and Parlour. Neither of these is the greatest looking combi but it overcame a decent United one.

Others such as the Gilberto Silva/Viera combi you just have to admire, but their feat was a pretty remarkable one when you see the CM combi’s we had with Veron, Butt, Scholes AND Roy Keane making 20 apps’ each.

Growing up in the 80’s the team winning everything was Liverpool. They had a midfield combi of Steve McMahon, Jan Molby and Ronnie Whelan. Before that they’d dominated Europe with Callaghan, Sounness and Kennedy amongst others. At the time United were driven by Bryan Robson – where from? – central midfield of course. It’s always been a pivotal position for me and probably most of us……so it baffles me why we spent £30m on on a new kidney in 2008 at a time that that kind of money could’ve bought us a new heart, it wasn’t as if the clamour for a new, dominant central midfielder hadn’t already started back then. It’s also ironic how the same day we did that, a certain Luka Modric and Marouanne Fellaini were purchased elsewhere…..have you read the papers lately? Have you watched their recent performances?

Fans talk about how much they want spending each summer, personally I’d like to see our scouting results improve (see Cabaye, Tiote and Cisse this season), so too our coaching results and so too our teams continuity. Too much chopping a changing looks to have us cost this season and it’s been caused by not having the right players/quality players in the right positions to call their own.

People have mentioned Paul Pogba as the possible answer in central midfield, so too did Sir Alex last summer when he used him as a reason why he wasn’t delving into the transfer market for a new central midfielder. Fast forward to New Years Eve – and a midfield partnership of Rafael and Ji Sung Park – coupled with a costly and to some (unfortunately) humiliating defeat to relegation threatened Blackburn Rovers – it’s absolutely no surprise that Paul Pogba, shortly after, begins to make overtones about moving on; if he can’t get in the team ahead of an erratic young right back and an industrious but somewhat one dimensional winger (that’s what we purchased him as), then what future does he have?

Surely this summer has to see United operate and transplant a new heart into it’s wounded beast?

If they do, who’s got what it takes to grab the team by the scruff of the neck and push us on to challenging our loaded neighbours?