Friday, 8 June 2012

Why Modric is not the missing piece of our midfield jigsaw

Hands up if you want to join United

An article from Neil Custis in the Sun this morning reports that Manchester United have secured the services of Croatian magician Luka Modric from Spurs and that the deal is almost complete. Far be it for me to pour scorn on the journalistic merits of Mr Custis but the media outlet he writes for does have form in the field of general transfer tripe so most observers will take the validity of such a claim with a gigantic pinch of salt.

To be fair, it is widely known that Sir Alex Ferguson has a long standing admiration for the silky Modric who has been the heartbeat of the Spurs midfield over the last couple of years so few would doubt that there is a semblance of fact that United aspire to capturing him but it is highly doubtful that a deal could be agreed for the reported £25 million.

The point of this post is to strongly argue that if Ferguson is looking to add the supreme talent of the Croatian to the much maligned and neglected midfield at Old Trafford, while welcomed without doubt, it is missing the point of what the club truly requires to restore itself to the top table of European football.

For me, what we need is a large portion of steel to compliment the undoubted silk that we already possess. In Rooney, Nani, Valencia, Young, Cleverley and the freshly acquired Kagawa, we have an abundance of youthful attacking verve and creativity. The missing piece of the jigsaw is the ying to that wondrous yang - the holy grail of the defensive midfielder.

"Football has changed" I hear you cry and the presence of a Makelele type patrolling the centre circle is an outdated model no longer required where possession and pressing are the new buzzwords. Flying recklessly into tackles and risking the wrath of the officials (I am looking at you Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard) is something that does not have a place in the modern game. I completely concur with this ideology, which is why we should literally (© Jamie Redknapp) move heaven and earth to acquire a "presence" in the central heartland of our team. Ideally, a box to box hard man who has ability on the ball yet a defensive mindset when a particular match dictates this role. If God created a player with a mix of Robson (Bryan, not Barry), Keane (Roy, not Robbie) and Touré (Yaya, not tubby Kolo) then there would be no better way for our generous or loathsome (delete as applicable) owners to reward their loyal subjects (Messers Ferguson and Gill) not to mention the long suffering fan base.

Before the men in white coats approach, I fully realise that firstly, no such player exists and secondly if he did then we do not have the funds to purchase thanks to our friends across the sea. We therefore often have to delve into the confines of the bargain bucket when it comes to transfers. Ideally, a young maestro making his way in the game can be persuaded to move to the glittering North of England whilst ignoring the overtures of our considerably richer near neighbours. Names mentioned include Kevin Strootman, Yann M'Vila and Kwadwo Asamoah but it is hard for me to discuss their individual merits as I have not seen enough to form a sensible opinion as to their suitability. A price of around £15 million has been touted which could be possible if offset by the sale of one or two fringe players who have still have some value in the market.    

Last season it was increasingly noticeable just how much over-reliance United had on Michael Carrick in the centre. Shorn of the energy and drive of Darren Fletcher due to his debilitating illness, the much maligned Englishman was a beacon of shining consistency among the injury ravaged Anderson and Cleverley and the waning influence of Giggs and Scholes. In the early stages of last season, when Carrick was out of favour and recovering from injury, his presence was much missed. This was masked somewhat by a flurry of goals and attacking fluidity but ultimately very little protection was afforded to our back four containing young players such as Jones, Smalling and Rafael learning their trade. If Modric is signed (and I would genuinely be ecstatic if true) then his only available partner would be Carrick as otherwise the centre of our midfield will be as open as Anderson's jaw waiting for his next KFC meal.

"Get in! We are selling Gibbo and Ando"
Above all, the signature of some steel in our central area would mean we finally have a "presence" right through the spine of the side to instil a modicum of fear in our opponents once again. With the return of Vidic (pray for Nemanja, fingers crossed) as skipper, the fear factor would once more be prevalent with the addition of an enforcer type player with Rooney ahead, relishing the battle once more after his wish for quality has finally been granted. For almost the first time since the departure of Keane, United could take to the field and strike fear into their opponent as they line up in the tunnel, knowing that our midfield department is not simply a haven for beauty and serenity. A bit of nastiness is never a bad thing.

The addition of such a strong player would also mean that the intended switch to a more fluid 4231 formation could be implemented relatively seamlessly. This would allow a pressing game led from the front by Rooney, Kagawa et al to be the first stage in retrieving possession of the ball, something that has been lacking for years. The visit of Athletic Bilbao in the Europa League emphasised just how far behind we have fallen in terms of the elite sides. To combine such pressure to an opponent and then have the ability to release the forward thinking quality to inflict serious damage, was a joy to behold even if it was in our own backyard. I have no doubt that the purchase of Kagawa, well versed in a pressing game with Dortmund, will see us at least attempt such a strategy in the early stages of next season.

Closing out the game is also another option that the acquisition of a more defensively minded player provides which was something sadly lacking at times last season when Scholes tired after the hour mark.United's football does not have to be all "gung ho" despite the traditions of the club and some solidity would not go a miss in an attempt to secure a vital three points. At least having that option (even from the bench) would be a bonus and another string to Ferguson's bow.

One hopes that impressive performances in the Euro 2012 tournament does not leave the boss to regret not acting quicker as prices will inflate in July. Getting their transfer business completed early and quickly is always the preferred way to proceed but it is naive not to point out that it is not always as easy as that. Signing a new all purpose midfielder as mentioned above would leave the possibility of a utility full back as the only other area to consider for reinforcement. Talk of Baines arriving from Everton would mean that Evra's prospects look bleak but I personally cannot see the Frenchman being replaced just yet. A decent summer break after the travails of the last few years will surely see him return to peak form.

The sensible purchase alluded to here along with the Kagawa signing would ensure United remain competitive both at home and in Europe. Coupled with the much mooted change in formation and playing style, the club may be capable of returning to the lifelong ethos of attacking verve coupled with defensive solidity that could once more see us become a potent threat feared throughout the land.

Do you agree with what is written above or am I wide of the mark? Either way, please leave your comments below and I will respond to each one.

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  1. De Gea
    Rafael Ferdinand Vidic Baines
    Carrick Modric
    Valencia Young


    1. Jones for Rafael and Martinez for Carrick.
      Would want Alba though but we lost to Barcelona, and Modrìc is attacking mid, not a defensive mid.

  2. I suspect you are correct Sandro would be a much better buy fom Spurs than Modric.

    1. Sandro is a great shout. Better than Parker for me but Spurs will never sell.

  3. and where is robert lewandoski?? ;)

  4. Modric does not score enough goals to be world class - 4 goals this year just is not good enough...

  5. And you lot actually believe that we are gonna sell you Luka!!!!!! Did you forget what Danny boy said after the Berbatoss affair?
    You really are a deluded arrogant bunch of tossers.

    1. agreed.

      I also think Spurs would have held on to Kranjcar if Modric was leaving.

  6. Have to agree with my Spurs mate.. he's on a 4.5 year contract anyway, so we don't need to sell and our chairman (the best) has already said he won't be sold!

    1. My opening paragraph is basically saying that I take the rumours with a pinch of salt is it not?

      However, after last year's unrest and uncertainty, if he wants to leave this summer then it may be tough for Levy to withstand the pressure.

      What is sure is that he will get top money for Modric if he is sold. The best chairman around at getting good prices for players.

  7. Any article that considers Rooney one of United elite players, one of those with 'attacking verve' and 'creativity', is hardly worth giving a second thought.

    Take away the deal ball efforts from the last campaign and just how many goals did boy wonder contribute to the side, particularly on a goals to minutes played basis, and then also ask yourself how many of them were scored against teams in the lower two thirds of the competition? Then take the equation one step further and ponder the question regarding how many goals Rooney created for himself, rather than putting away simply efforts laid on a plate for him by others who have to pander to his few strengths? Top all that off by toting up the plethora of missed opportunities that are his trademark.

    All of that only encompasses his goal scoring efforts. As far as his 'verve' and 'creativity' (I laughed my arse off when I read that) the guy can't beat ANYONE on-on-one with his non-existent dribbling skills, and has to pass the ball away constantly the minute a defender comes even remotely close to him in the final third of the pitch, on the few occasions he tries he looks embarrassingly lame as he's invariably dispossessed. His other option is to try and 'scythe' his way through the defense with his abysmal passing efforts, which put him up there with Ryan Giggs for being the team profligate where possession is concerned. His technique is so poor that he constantly loses precious milliseconds trying to trap the ball or set it up for a team mate, and as far as vision on the field is concerned, Helen Keller would have had more situational awareness than this over-rated idiot. Playing opposite Rooney's has become a striker's graveyard, so bad is he as a partner that one of the most talented footballers in Europe, Berbatov, found himself consigned to the wilderness because he couldn't adequately mesh with Rooney or adequately compensate for his considerable inadequacies - no one can. The flip side is that he's even worse up front on his own, not only because of his technical deficiencies, but because he doesn't possess the physique or the strength to cope with modern football's big central defenders, meaning that he spends most games against the quality teams a virtual and frustrated passenger.

    I've watched United play for over 40 years, ever since the last days of the Busby era, and I cannot wait to see the back of Rooney, because he drags the team down with the fact so much of the team effort has to be place on pandering to his play. Great players make their team mates look better. Rooney diminishes those around him by sucking up all the team's drive and focus and squandering it through his abysmal and over-hyped play.

    1. He makes a good point!

    2. I am not Rooney's biggest fan myself and apart from goals, I agree he has been poor at times.

      However, we have relied on him for creativity for most of his time and he can be incisive with his passing.

      To be fair, I did mention others when it came to talking about creativity too.

      To call him a flat track bully is wrong, look at the goals scored against Arsenal, Chelsea, City, Liverpool, Spurs and others in recent years

    3. Wasn't Rooney just voted the player that most pl mangers would sign if money was no object?

  8. Nonsense! Why not him? He's arguably one of the best in the league and the sort of player Man U are to have... He's gonn fit in perfectly... If it's true though

  9. If the news of Utds approach for Modric is to be believed then these are exciting times. I totally know where you are coming from with this post, we have been missing a midfield general, an enforcer to break up play. However, one thing that has been very evident from UTD this season is the issue in the central midfield area highlighting lack of ability keep possession and movement that causes problems to the opposition.

    I see the area of passing / movement over breaking up play as the area Fergie wants to highlight first. I will give you 3 examples of what I am talking about.

    In my opinion there were 3 games which will have ruffled Fergies feathers more than most. Obviously there was Man City at home, suicidal defending when behind in the game, and Everton which was the most frustrating because it ultimatley cost us the championship however, the result was down to really poor defending and concentration rather than our midfield play or combination, because we had the ability to retain the ball and unlock Everton at ease but slacked off when it really counted.

    I think Fergie sees the problem that we have been having, is the area of not only good passing/ball retension/movement but these attributes in areaa that can hurt the opposition, no more evident than in following games this season.

    1) Athlectico Bilboa at home and away.

    It is fair to say that we were comprehensively outplayed by a team who had guile and great movement. They passed us off the park when they had position, they had clever players to move it around intelligently and hurt us too. There work rate was also exceptional which helped them to win the ball back. However We had times of possession, but because of the lack of movement and pace, passing ability we easily lost possession and this ultimately cost us the game

    2) Man City Away.

    Facts often stand up for themselves. Because we didnt have a single shot on goal in a game of such importance says a lot. I am not knocking Carrick but he is a water carrier a good passer. However he hasn't got the ability to make driving runs, or execute clever one twos/ passing triangles to hurt the opposition, and when him and Scholes sit together in the midfield you offer very little going forward through the middle

    3) Wigan away

    Again an issue of lack of ideas/energy through the centre to hurt the opposition.

    I believe if we had Modric and Kagawa in our midfield last season the outcome of the above games would have been very different.

  10. Is it any wonder that people hate Man U - the club Matt Busby built is long gone replaced by an arrogant mentality that you can do what you want, take whoever's players you need - and get this Ferguson was moaning about the amount that will be asked for ... So happy Man City beat you to the league ... Yes you can have Modric - £40 million and Berbatov sounds fair ..

    1. Where is any sense of arrogance in my post? I am not saying we will just buy Modric. Look at the first paragraph where I doubt any validity to the story.

      There are plenty of rumours saying he will go but I have no idea where and certainly I am not arrogant to say he would want to join United. Some would argue he is better off at Spurs than coming to Old Trafford.

  11. Why is rubbish being repeated again, as it has no validity at all. I say this for the following reasons:- Point 1) Mr Levy will never sell another player to Manure after Old Red Nose's conduct over the Berba transfer. Point 2) If Luka were to leave Spurs for a big fee or a loan it would abroad because Spurs would not wish to make another PL club stronger and themselves weaker. Point 3) Spurs do not have to sell Luka, Bale, VDV, or any of their top players, because all the players are on long contracts. Manure have in past taken players like Carrick and Berba only because they had less than 18 months on their contacts. Point 4) The arrogance of Manure towards most PL clubs, They believe they can state an interest in a player in the media, turn his head, put in a silly low bid before coming back with a slightly better offer to get the player and then tell the selling club they are doing them a favour by taking the player off their hands! Under Red Nose Manure are the worse team in the PL for "Asset stripping" other clubs in the league of their best players, Ashley Young and Phil Jones being examples this time last year, but I feel they will not get their own way in the case of Modric this time.

  12. The Spurs fans commenting on this article seem awfully sensitive for some reason. Its like the sheer idea of losing Modric is genuinely heart breaking to them. I can just about hear the tiny violin playing in the background!

    For starters its The Sun that broke this Modric to United story for £25m. I repeat The Sun! Now even if United have expressed some sort of interest in the player Spurs fans are the least people who should whining about this whilst you still have 'Arry as your manager. He is notorious for doing this time and time again!

    Great article by the way. I agree with practically everything you have said and if i had it my way i'd rather we didn't go in for Modric at all. Sign a more of an midfield enforcer type and then another passer, creative type whilst shifting out Anderson if possible.

  13. You bought Carrick and Berbatov off Spurs just by offering a lot of money.

    But Spurs have not sold a star player since Redknapp arrived. Because like any football man he wants to keep his best players. So you are up against it while he is in charge.

    Modric is worth the hunt though. He does dig in if the team is in trouble and tackle and compete in the middle. But he thrives in posession in left central midfield with a license to roam so his ideal partner is a right sided CM who does a larger % of the holding work. Would be a great add to United and respond well to Fergie as he has to Harry.

    Lovely player to watch too. Reminds me of players like Bergkamp, Cantona, Zola, and Hoddle in that he plays on another level to everyone else on the pitch.