I was going to write an angry post to ventilate the anger after the City game, but deleted it last second. Believe me, it was not good for anything but self therapy! So we’ve decided a post about the CDM (or lack of) at United is next up, so here goes.
We used to be spoiled
Remember Roy Keane? Nicky Butt? What a main CDM and what a backup. The vacuum after Keane left the gates of Old Trafford was filled with the presence of a promising Ronaldo, a Rooney, exciting youngsters like Guiseppe Rossi and the feeling that the future was bright. Sir Alex had put his faith in young Darren Fletcher to become a main man, and the year after, Carrick was bought. We had one of the best teams (atleast on paper) that I can remember, and the urgent need for a CDM was kind of gone. We played a smart type of football, and the Scholes+Carrick partnership was one of the best in the world. We rarely lost the ball in midfield, and had offensive players that created chances left and right.
Fast forward a few seasons
And look back at last seasons embarassing defeats in the ECL. Game after game we were punished super hard through the middle. Teams just ran through our midfield, or exploited the space behind Patrice Evra. We had nobody to rule over the space between the defense and midfield, and every opponent knew it. Some were good (and fast) enough to exploit it, allthough we did decently in the league considering injuries, and won a decent amount of games, but especially in the international games, we were destroyed.
This season, Cleverley has done a lot of the dirty work on the midfield. With his crazy energy, safe passing and high work-rate, he has been a huge factor in Carrick having the season of his life. Tracking back, tackling, starting attacks and generally being a driving force in our midfield.
This picture (from february) illustrates my point pretty well. The next question has got to be if he is suited for the defensive midfielder role, and is he really? Yes and no. Playing for England, he shows his best side with a more free and attacking role. Taking part in link-up plays and controlling the flow of the game seems to be his strong cards. On the other hand, his defensive stats appear very impressive.
Has been brilliant this season. He is about to be 32 years old this summer, and that is the only issue when it comes Michael. Our best player is old. And don’t get me wrong, I think we can expect to see a very good Carrick for atleast a few more seasons, but perhaps we should start thinking about a long-term replacement, that either Cleverley (preferably) and Carrick, can play next to, or one that fills in for either Carrick or Cleverley throughout the season, if we want to run a 2-man midfield. Until then, we have the opportunity to play in a 3-man midfield, which is something that has been overlooked a bit this season. Phil Jones has done a brilliant job as the third man on several occations this season, so why not go for another player that can do the job Jones did so well for us? Jones is going to be a CB in the long run after all, and we can’t rely on him filling in on the midfield as Rio and Nemanja gets older.
The different kinds of CDMs
You got the type that Carrick is. A “used to be”-CM pulled back in the pitch to control passing and defend with his intelligence rather than sheer strength. Xabi Alonso and Lyon midfielder Gonsalons are other examples on this kind of player. The difference in Xabi Alonso and Gonsalons’ play, and Carricks role, is mainly the fact that the two first ones usually play with two midfielders around them. The players around them do a lot of the dirtywork, and Xabi Alonso for instance can focus on positioning defensively and start attacks with smart passes. Carrick is often seen using his energy tracking back way more than ideal for a player with his qualities.
You also have the choice to use a more physically oriented midfielder to do the role as a CDM. That giving space for a player like Carrick to focus on the constructive parts of the game, rather than the defensive ones. This can be done, either by playing with a formation like a 4-2-3-1 or by letting him play as an anchor in a 4-3-3 kind of formation. The latter one is meant to look like Real Madrid or Chelsea with Makelele. Fletcher did this fantastically for us, but as we all know, we can not count on that in the future. Good examples would be Tottenhams fantastic brazilian CDM Sandro, Roma star Daniele De Rossi, or Citys’ Javi Garcia.
Last, you got the player that is good both ways. There are not many of these out there, but Steven Gerrard used to be one, aswell as Gundrogan at Dortmund. They are (used to be, Gerrard) potent defenders and great offensive threats in a team. That is where Cleverley fits the best for me. Having a player like this in the team, brings forth a challenge in which you need to utilize their potential to the maximum. That is by my own opinion best done with having a designated defensive midfielder (Macherano), a good both ways midfielder (Gerrard) and the passer type like Xabi Alonso was back then. I am sorry for using Liverpool as an example, but you have got to admit that the midfield they had back then fits perfectly into what I am trying to explain here!
If Cleverley isnt having an amazing game, like the sub par one he had against Chelsea in the cup, their three-man midfield just crushes our two man midfield. We have nobody to put on when that is the case. We can not put our faith in Anderson or Fletcher anymore. Granted, the situation with Fletcher is rather unfortunate, but Anderson has had plenty of time to make the midfield his own. We need a new player in. A player we can trust and that does the job. I would like Man United to have the possibility to play with both 2 or 3 in the midfield. To play with wingers or in a diamond. To have the flexibility to be unpredictable.
Questions up for discussion
1. Who can fill the space next to Carrick and Cleverley when we need a third midfielder?
2. Would you prefer us to play in another way than the two suggested formations in midfield. If so, which formation and why?
We’ve been recruiting heavily the past couple of days. I am happy to announce that both Shnieder88, JS1000boy aswell as my stepbrother Stian(without a reddit account!) will be writing posts in the near future. Which brings me to another question; would you like to write for rreddevils.wordpress.com ? Let us know. We want as many good writers as possible, so that content can be published regularly and with high quality!