Is Manchester United’s priority a playmaker or an enforcer?

Manchester United remain in the transfer market to bolster David Moyes’ midfield options, with the Premier League champions looking decidedly short of match-winners in the centre of the park.

Michael Carrick’s importance to the Old Trafford outfit cannot be overstated – the England international is the only member of United’s midfield contingent good enough to go to-to-toe with Premier League and European rivals and at the top of his game. His wide range of passing is critical to United’s possession game and he adds experience and a steady hand in front of the team’s back four.

Tom Cleverley is full of potential but has failed to live up to his billing as yet in his short-lived career. The homegrown talent has shown glimpses of his ability and started this season positively, but is as yet not the finished article or at a level to succeed Paul Scholes in the United playmaker role.

With Darren Fletcher ill, Anderson inconsistent and Ryan Giggs ageing, United’s need for midfield reinforcements is there for all to see. One of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best teams in his tenure at Old Trafford contained a winning central midfield partnership of Scholes and Roy Keane. Since the pair have retired, United have not had a pairing to get close to the ability of this duo.

The latest transfer rumblings have United in the market for a number of central midfielders, including Marouane Fellaini, Daniele De Rossi and Ander Herrera. But what should the Premier League champions priority be – a playmaker or an enforcer?

Roy KeaneThere is an argument that United’s midfield lacks the personnel to be competitive in big games against top-class opponents, with a lack of real enforcer to break up opposition play and win the ball back. Keane in his pomp put United’s rivals under immense pressure with his combativeness, intensity and work-rate. At the moment there is no such player at David Moyes’ disposal.

Phil Jones was used as a defensive midfielder at times last season and certainly has the physical attributes to be a top player in this position. However, with the former Blackburn man predominantly a defender and needed in the side’s rearguard, United’s resources are spread quite thin.

One of the key reasons that United fans will be happy that Wayne Rooney is staying at the club is to offer up creativity. The striker has been slowly but surely dropping deeper over the last number of years of his career and is very effective in linking the side’s midfield and forward line in the number ten role.

Rooney’s presence is needed to add guile to an otherwise predictable United attack at times. This stems from the lack of a deep-lying playmaker to start attacks from midfield and run the game for the Premier League champions.

Someone like Cesc Fàbregas certainly would have fitted in well at Old Trafford and acted as a successor to Scholes. It is evident that in the long run Moyes will need to sign a player of this ilk, or trust Cleverley to make the jump to a higher level of performance.

With the resources that the Scottish manager has at his usage, there is an argument for the signing of both a playmaker and an enforcer. Each would improve United in different ways, but it may well be that one of each is needed for the Old Trafford side to contest for Champions League glory once more.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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