Nemanja Matić held down Manchester United‘s midfield for the past few years. He added a level of stability to the defense and often moved play forward with key passes. Through many of the center-back struggles, Matić at CDM was the unsung hero who kept Manchester United in games. However, he continues to age.
While he can still put a shift in from time to time, we cannot expect him to feature in the majority of games. This season, Matić played in only 35% of Premier League matches. Scott Mctominay and Fred took over the reins in midfield, but neither are true holding players. Scott tends to drift forward and get involved in the attack. While Fred can man-mark well, but lacks the qualities to fill the destroyer role.
Now, Manchester United has an option: Rework the midfield to compliment two players who are not true holding midfielders or bring in a true destroyer in the transfer-market. The question on Ole’s mind in regards to that must be, “how badly does United need a CDM this summer?”
Sign a Top CDM
Bringing in a quality holding midfielder would solve a lot of United’s issues at the back. The top names on our shortlist include Declan Rice, Wilfred Ndidi, and Sandro Tonali. While all three can push play forward, their main roles focus on stopping the opposing attack in its tracks.
Rice seems to be the most probable and effective to fix United’s issues, but the England International is currently captioning West Ham. The good news is that West Ham is keen on signing Jesse Lingard on a long-term deal, which could ease relations with the London side and pave the way to a deal for Rice. Declan is a long-term solution for United. He controls possession while remaining a true destroyer CDM. If Rice signed for United, then the issues in defense would likely calm.
Wilfred Ndidi and Sandro Tonali are similar players. Both fit Ole’s 4-2-3-1 formation well by performing best in a pivot. However, signing Ndidi would come at a large cost. Leicester knows that United can -and will- overpay for their prospects. Similarly, AC Milan will not want to lose Tonali. The deal would be a struggle, but it’s undeniable that signing Tonali makes absolute sense.
Work with What We Got
Manchester United has gaps to fill in the transfer market this summer. Most notably, the center-back and right-wing, positions need reinforcements. Due to the high priority of bringing in other targets than a center-defensive-midfielder, then Ole might decide to adapt our current midfield to a new style of play.
The midfield tends to appear flat when United lacks a true holding midfielder. However, the addition of a right-winger and center-back changes that. The traditional defensive duties of a CDM would be lifted by a quick center-back. This allows players like Mctominay to perform what he is best at, controlling midfield play, with support from the center-backs. Additionally, a right-winger takes some of the creative responsibility off of the midfielders, specifically looking for Fred. Often times Fred is called into attack where he struggles to get back into position. The right-winger solves this issue and gives Fred the opportunity to stay slighter further back on offense.
Assuming Pogba leaves this summer, van de Beek would be next up to fill into the midfield pivot. If a new center-back arrives, Donny would have extra protection on the backline, so he could develop into the CDM role. His creativity would be shown best though by adding a class holding midfielder to play alongside him.
How badly does Manchester United need a new CDM? Well, that depends on if United signs in a new center-back and right-winger. Assuming they don’t, then bringing in a new CDM is absolutely essential. Either way, adding a new holding midfielder can only help the Red Devils’ chances of securing title #21.
Glory Glory Man United.
Written by CJ Szaz.