Mourinho's Defensive Midfield Options at Manchester United

Mourinho's Defensive Midfield Options at Manchester United

With the January transfer window approaching, clubs in the English Premier League will look to tinker their respective squads – be it adding depth or getting rid of deadwood and free up the wage bill for the Summer in order to give themselves a fighting chance to achieve what they want to achieve in the second half of the campaign.

Manchester United, for the first time in a few years, do experience having a surplus of requirements in the middle of the park so much so that the manager is now looking to offload a couple of them in the coming weeks. Recent reports suggested that Morgan Schneiderlin had asked for a transfer out of the club due to the lack of playing time and Mourinho has in his most recent press conference confirmed them which probably means the France international has already played his last game for the club having only made one substitute appearance in the league this campaign. The Portuguese said,

“He’s a great professional, a fantastic boy. He’s very honest and very open. To be honest, he opened his heart a couple of times, and my answer is simple; if he’s playing regularly with me, I have the right to say ‘no way’. If he’s not playing regularly, I have no right to tell a player who wants to be happy, I have no right to say ‘you are going nowhere. My answer was: if the offer is right, and our board thinks the offer is a good offer in relation to the quality of a very good player like Morgan, then I would not stop him going.”

And that offer may have already been placed on the table by Everton and West Bromwich Albion. Given that United will inevitably miss a deep-lying midfielder in this window and the fact that United have been playing their best football with Pogba and Herrera supported by a 35-year old Carrick in midfield, it’s imperative to look at the potential alternatives for Mourinho and Manchester United should they face the need to rotate the squad, especially when it comes to finding an adequate cover for Michael Carrick.

1) Daley Blind 

Very early into his reign at Man United, Mourinho was determined to stress why and how his methods were different to that of predecessor Louis van Gaal, citing his preference for ‘specialists’ rather than ‘multi-functional’ players as one of the many examples. Daley Blind, having graduated from the school of Ajax’s total footballing system, has shown that he could be put in different positions across the back four and in defensive midfield without hesitation and he has repaid that faith many a time in his time at United. The Red Devils have benefited from his intelligence and passing range from left-back, a position that normally comes under less pressure than the sitting role admittedly as the Dutchman played an important role at United several times over the course of last season and it’s hard to think why he cannot do a decent enough job for the team if he’s ever asked to fill in for the 35-year old.

2) Ander Herrera 

Ander Herrera has become a mainstay in the starting 11 at Manchester United in what Mourinho would call the ‘number 6’ role. Herrera’s strengths are his mobility and intensity – often initiates the press from midfield and has been one of United’s best players in 2016/17 so far. But in the initial months of the campaign when doubts were raised of Carrick’s ability to play more than one game in a week – it was Herrera that stepped in to play the shielding role in front of the back four. His best performance in that role came in the game against Liverpool at Anfield when he partnered Marouane Fellaini in a midfield two but was often the deeper lying midfielder two. He completed 11 interceptions and brought that extra pace and ferocity to the position that Carrick lacked meaning he could still be Mourinho’s first choice to replace Carrick, should an opportunity arise.

3) Bastian Schweinsteiger 

If Mourinho is looking for a like-for-like replacement for Michael Carrick, he could look no further than the German veteran. Despite the fact that the German International looks increasingly unlikely to feature in the starting 11 for Manchester United under Jose Mourinho, there’s no doubting his quality on the ball and experience that the 32-year old could bring to the table having had a distinguished career in football with Germany and Bayern Munich. But whether or not he will be match fit without enough minutes under his belt is a different conversation altogether.

4) Sean Goss 

Born in Germany, Sean Goss could be the next one off the conveyor belt that is Manchester United’s reserve team, tipped for promotion to the senior squad. His performances in the reserve team have not gone unnoticed even in the previous regime under the Dutchman. The youngster made the squad for the pre-season tour in 2015 and also started on the bench in the side’s 2-1 victory at Vicarage Road in the following October. The 21-year old showed great maturity and calmness that went down well with his Carrick-esque composure on the ball culminating in a goal from the spot in their recent win in the quarter final of the Premier League International Cup.

Reports suggest that the Portuguese has included the young midfielder, who has bounced back after a back injury, in Manchester United’s first team training ahead of the Boxing Day Fixture against Sunderland. With the games coming thick and fast in the coming few weeks, a fresh pair of legs could do no harm.