Manchester United's midfield can flourish if they are ambitious enough this January.
Michael Carrick's array of passing won the Red Devils a thriller on Boxing Day over Newcastle in an end-to-end match which ended 4-3.
His pass to Javier Hernandez's goal saw the Mexican win the day, but United should really have had it wrapped up even earlier.
Carrick's earlier passes provided opportunities which Hernandez spurned and one which led to a chance Van Persie should have buried. It was a virtuoso display of attacking from the midfielder, for which Newcastle simply had no answer for.
At the other end, it wasn't so great. United's midfield offered little protection to their defence, and Newcastle could have won the game themselves had Ameobi hit his shot a fraction inside of the post.
While their league position and seven point lead at the top may refute such suggestions, the game illustrated United's need for a defensive midfielder.
Carrick, 31, may have been excellent going forward, but Newcastle were allowed 15 shots on goal, three which went in and two which hit the woodwork.
It is far too much for a team like United to be giving away, and if Real Madrid are permitted the same kind of opportunity come their Champions League encounter, it will be hard to see the visitors not rattling in vital away goals and swinging the tie in their favour.
West Ham's Mark Noble is the Premier League's top tackling midfielder this season - with 74 so far. United's top tackling midfielder is Michael Carrick, who has made 37 and ranks 85th in the Premier League tackling stats - which also includes defenders.
While his contribution from a defensive point of view is adequate, Carrick's true talent as he displayed against Newcastle is his range of passing.
Surely United should be trying to figure out a way in which to get him more involved on the ball?
If he were able to spend more time picking out passes as opposed to trying to win it back, he would really flourish even further and supporters would see the best out of him on a more regular basis. At the moment he is trying to do it all, and getting most of it done, without pulling off a perfect job all round.
If a defensive midfielder like Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender were brought in, it would enable Carrick more time and space from which to implement his passing and assist United's goalscorers.
Bender is only 23 but has emerged as one of Germany's brightest prospects. He has helped lead an exciting Bayer Leverkusen side above reigning champions Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga into second, behind Bayern Munich.
He has made 68 tackles so far this season, almost double Michael Carrick and made 36 interceptions compared with Carrick's 39. Having the pair partnered in midfield would provide perhaps the perfect base from United to build from, with Bender also having a keen eye for a pass.
Bender is an exciting talent, valued at around £20 million, but Leverkusen are famed for being a selling club and if the right offer comes in there may be a deal to be made.
It isn't one we expect to be done this January, Sir Alex Ferguson has openly said he is unlikely to make any transfers, but if he really did want to make a statement and fix United's midfield problems and shield their leaky defence, signing the German is exactly what he should do.
If it allows us to see more of the dynamic defence-splitting Michael Carrick we saw against Newcastle, it has to be worth considering.
image: © marcel sigg