Manchester United are suffering from midfield inertia
Sir Alex has yet to identify suitable replacements for Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, writes Kieran Beckles
Manchester United’s defeat to Liverpool in a bad tempered North-West derby last weekend highlighted the frailty currently undermining their title bid: Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are suffering from midfield inertia.
United have now slumped to consecutive defeats on the road following last week’s loss at Chelsea – and in both games their midfield has looked fragile.
Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick endured a torrid 90 minutes at Anfield, where they were dominated by Liverpool trio Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard and Raul Meireles.
Scholes has been a wonderful servant for United but the 36-year-old is fading, and Ferguson desperately needs a creative midfielder to act as the linchpin between attack and defence in the centre of the field.
Carrick, who joined from Tottenham for £18m in 2006, too often slides into anonymity and lacks the ability to stamp any kind of authority on a match.
Darron Gibson, meanwhile, has yet to prove himself as a contender to fill Scholes’s boots.
The 23-year-old Republic of Ireland international, who has only made nine league appearances this season, has been unable to cement a place in Ferguson’s side and looks unlikely to be the man to drive United forward as Scholes edges closer to retirement.
Another cause of United’s midfield malady is Ferguson’s failure to bring in an adequate replacement for former captain Roy Keane.
Darren Fletcher has gradually grown into his role as United’s holding midfielder since Keane’s exit in 2005, but despite possessing grit and tenacity in abundance he lacks the Irishman’s world class ability.
Anderson is yet to fulfil his potential since arriving at Old Trafford with great promise in 2007 and Owen Hargreaves -who went some way towards filling the void left by Keane in his first season with United -has seen his career brought to a stuttering halt by a string of knee injuries.
If Ferguson intends to leave a squad capable of winning trophies behind when he eventually steps down at Old Trafford, finding worthy replacements for Keane and Scholes is key.