On first sight, Manchester United’s summer transfer business looks slightly negative, defensive and uninspiring. Marouane Fellaini has been added to the Premier League champions’ squad at the inflated cost of £27.5 million, with the Old Trafford outfit failing in attempts to sign other players to strengthen their contingent.
One of the briefs for David Moyes over the summer was to add a creative player capable of bringing graft and guile to the United attack from the centre of the park. Attempts to bring Cesc Fàbregas, Thiago Alcântara and Ander Herrera ran ashore, and the search will surely continue in transfer windows in the future.
However, despite Fellaini’s versatility to play as a forceful second striker, the Belgian’s physical attributes will predominantly be used as a defensive midfield enforcer. Inadvertently, the introduction of the ex-Everton holding midfielder will actually make United a more attacking team though, and could end the lack of creativity.
With limited options in the centre of the park, Moyes has opted to play three players there in the form of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley and Ryan Giggs. As a result it has restricted the side to only three attacking players – striker Robin van Persie and two wingers/forwards.
However, Fellaini’s presence as a designated battler will allow Moyes to unshackle some of his more offensively minded players further forward and should mean a change in formation. To date this campaign the side have been playing a bespoke 4-3-3 or 4-3-2-1 line-up, but with Fellaini’s addition expect this to change to 4-2-3-1.
With Carrick’s natural instincts to sit in deep-lying positions in front of his back four, picking passes, and Fellaini’s instruction to wreak havoc alongside him while the opposition are in possession, United have defensive cover in midfield. Previously the lack of a specialist defensive midfielder meant an extra man was needed in the boiler room.
With two defensive-minded midfielders to cover for the attacking intent of others, Moyes will likely play two wingers today and one number ten behind Van Persie. United fans will have their fingers crossed that the player that is inserted into the hole between their new-look midfield and attack is Shinji Kagawa.
With Wayne Rooney unlikely to play due to his head knock, the stage is set for the Japan international to show that he is the creative player that United need to give their attack a shot in the arm. Many have been puzzled by the fact that the ex-Borussia Dortmund man has not been utilised to date during Moyes’ tenure, as he is the most naturally gifted, technical creative player at the Scot’s disposal.
Expect Kagawa to put in an excellent performance today if he is allowed to play in the number ten role. In the long run the Asian superstar will need to battle Rooney for the starting berth in this position, but all of a sudden United’s supposed lack of creativity is no longer an issue.
As far as Fellaini goes, he has all the attributes to be an overwhelming success at Old Trafford, and although not contributing overly to the attacking emphasis himself, his presence makes United a much more creative and rounded side.