In recent years, the defensive-midfield has become crucial to both title-winning and Champions League winning sides. If you doubt this irrefutable fact then you only need observe that the crux of both Leicester’s incredible title triumph and Chelsea’s return to prominence was a certain N’Golo Kanté.
The importance of the holding-midfielder is not centred domestically, either, with even the star-studded side of Real Madrid also employing a rock in the position in Casemiro.
Despite the evidence suggesting that this position is crucial to success and silverware, Manchester United are somewhat lacking in this position and have been for some time. Old Trafford has seen some legendary players roaming just ahead of the defence, one recalls the likes of Keane, Scholes and Robson. But since Scholes’ second retirement in 2013, United have lacked a strong constant presence to sit in front of the defence. At this very moment, United have only 36-year-old Michael Carrick capable of fulfilling this role.
Whilst Carrick still has the quality, his stamina is his Achilles’ heel. Having played just 25 of United’s 38 Premier League games last term, and given Mourinho’s tendency to build an ever-present spine to his teams, there are serious doubts over his ability to consistently perform with United back on the biggest stage: the UEFA Champions League.
It seems the problem has not gone over the head of Mourinho who has been looking, if rumours are to be believed, for Carrick’s long-term successor. The current front runner for this position seems to be Nemanja Matic but who else could take up residence in front of Lindelof and Bailly at Old Trafford next season?
The ideal player, it would seem, is Tottenham’s Eric Dier. Should he end up at Old Trafford, the now-established England international would follow the same path as Carrick and his versatility in being able to play as a centre-half, defensive midfielder and provide back-up in a box-to-box role that Ander Herrera currently holds is attractive to a United side that was plagued by injuries last season.
As an improvement on the ageing Carrick, on average, Dier made more blocks and clearances per 90 minutes than Carrick as well as having the youth and energy to play every game for, potentially, the next 10 years, which at 23 is no exaggeration.
But therein lies the problem. In the current game, there seems to be a premium on young players, English players, transfers to English clubs and transfers to Manchester United. Once you’ve paired that with the contempt that Daniel Levy apparently hold United in, you understand why United had an alleged £60m bid rejected for a player who is rated at just £21.25m by transfermarkt.co.uk. It looks like this perfect match is maybe being scuppered by the belligerence of Levy.
Manchester United should remain wary of being rinsed of copious amounts of money and so to should they remain wary of being drawn into a transfer saga that distracts from the other problem areas in the squad.
Despite this, with the MEN reporting the player himself is keen on a move up north, maybe the solution to the holding-midfield problem that has plagued Manchester United since the days of Roy Keane is not far away?