Five cracking creative midfielders for Manchester United
Louis van Gaal’s decision to keep skipper Wayne Rooney confined to a deeper midfield role, when Manchester United’s strikers are struggling for goals, has left both fans and pundits bemused.
The Dutch coach recently stated that his captain is the only player in the squad he feels is capable of bringing ‘balance’ between defence and attack in that position.
Having forked out substantial fees for the likes of Ander Herrera and Daley Blind last summer, it seems Man Utd (3/1 with Coral to win the FA Cup) are still searching for a more dynamic presence, who can help them dictate play.
Speaking ahead of United’s FA Cup clash with Preston North End, Van Gaal said “Of course that’s the case. I’m looking for balance and I need it in midfield.
“The last games I played with Adnan Januzaj and Angel Di Maria in the midfield positions. Then you need a certain balance for those kind of creative players,” added the 63-year-old.
When asked whether a creative midfield maestro should be a priority on his summer shopping list, the Red Devils boss replied “Yes, of course”, which got Coral writer’s thinking of which players could bring both style and steel to Old Trafford?
Here’s who we came up with.
Ilkay Gundogan (Borussia Dortmund)
Having just returned from a long and serious injury lay-off, United may be prudent to monitor guileful Gundogan’s progress until the end of the season.
In his pomp during Dortmund’s run to the Champions League final in 2013, the 24-year-old was perhaps Europe’s best holding midfielder. Able to spray Paul Scholes-esque passes and shield the ball with aplomb, Gundogan could solve all the Red Devils problems in the middle of the park.
Considering his club’s struggles, dangerous distributor Gundogan could well be available for a cut-price fee and would surely be worth a punt, despite his fitness concerns.
Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Said to have been a target under former boss David Moyes, composed Koke has become a vital component in Diego Simeone’s side, and with good reason.
Combining tactical awareness with work-rate and the vision to be able to carve open La Liga defences with a single pass, the Atleti academy product would be a fine fit at Old Trafford alongside compatriots David De Gea, Juan Mata and Herrera.
Should he prove too tough to prise from Spain, Van Gaal could turn to Valencia playmaker Dani Parejo instead, who has been quietly and effectively developing into another top Los Che talent.
Kevin Strootman (Roma)
Van Gaal has already brought former Netherlands charge Blind to Old Trafford, and has made public his interest in snapping up another of his most trusted ex-Clockwork Orange men, Strootman.
The ex-Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss spoke of Strootman, who is nicknamed ‘the washing machine’ for his ability to recycle and retain possession, after the Dutch international suffered a knee injury that ruled him out of the World Cup.
“Strootman is a player who brings a balance to the entire team,” said Van Gaal, and the Roma box-to-box maestro has certainly proven him right, adding goals, assists and invaluable interceptions to the Giallorossi cause.
Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord)
Should Strootman’s injury issues scupper a summer switch, Van Gaal could do worse than look towards compatriot Clasie as a cheaper alternative.
The crafty conductor, who Van Gaal also selected for his Clockwork Orange World Cup squad, seems ready for the step up to a bigger stage.
Perhaps not quite the finished article, exciting anchorman Clasie is both a tenacious tackler and silky passer, able to contribute effectively at both ends of the pitch.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)
Whilst Schneiderlin could be described as more of a midfield shield, with his anticipation and ability to read the game vital to high-flying Southampton’s superb defensive record, the France international is no slouch creatively.
Just as comfortable in springing attacks as sitting deep, Schneiderlin could be the perfect foil for United’s abundance of forwards, and seems to be keen to move on from St Mary’s. He is 2/1 to help Ronald Koeman’s Saints finish in the top four.
The Red Devils have been heavily linked with Schneiderlin’s compatriot, and former academy graduate, Paul Pogba. While the powerful Juventus dynamo has the potential to be one the most complete midfielders in Europe, he would likely command an eye-watering fee, making Southampton shield Schneiderlin a potentially better bargain.