With Manchester City seemingly stock-piling midfielders, and United struggling to sign anyone, would they be better off with the Blues' second-string?
“I think we have the best squad in England.”
Those were the words of Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini yesterday, as he continued his preparation for the beginning of a season in which he hopes to wrestle the Premier League title back from Manchester United.
City have certainly been impressive summer shoppers. While David Moyes is yet to make a major signing, the Blues have wrapped up deals for Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, bringing both competition and talent to a squad that already had plenty of both.
When Moyes first arrived at United, he immediately identified the need to rejuvenate his midfield. It was something outside observers had known for years, something Sir Alex Ferguson inexplicably ignored. And yet while City have added goals and creativity to the core of their squad, United continue to flounder.
After their long and ultimately fruitless pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, the club are now said to have turned their attention back to Luka Modric. But with each passing day, the likelihood of beginning the new season as they ended the last seems increasingly likely.
That they did so as champions should not be forgotten. But they also did so with a midfield considerably less impressive than City’s…or Chelsea’s for that matter.
While both those clubs appear to have recognised that midfielders are every bit as vital as goal-scorers, that catalysts are as important as end results, United may be about to pin the majority of their hopes on Robin van Persie for a second season.
At times last year, most notably in cup games against Real Madrid and Chelsea, United lacked the spark needed to conjure a vital goal. For all Michael Carrick’s impressive form, he is the only midfielder available to Moyes with a history of performing at the highest level and the ability to continue to do so.
Ryan Giggs has the former, but approaching his fifth decade, his importance is now a different (if no less vital) one.
So here is the simple fact: City can call on Fernandinho, David Silva, Jesus Navas, James Milner, Yaya Toure, Javi Garcia, Samir Nasri, Gareth Barry, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair.
Of those, the first seven would make a good claim to walk straight into United’s starting line-up, meaning some of Pellegrini’s left-overs would make Moyes’s main course.
There is hope: that Shinji Kagawa will be played in his best position, and that young players like Nick Powell and Adnan Januzaj will blossom.
But in an age when managers are building midfields with more stars than starting births, when Bayern Munich can add Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara to arguably the best midfield in Europe, and when Fabregas opts to remain at Barcelona and fight for his place rather than be the star-turn at Old Trafford, United are falling short.
When Pellegrini picks his first match-day squad of the season, Moyes may just be casting admiring glances at the ones who don’t even make the bench.
He has certainly tried to rectify the situation, but trying is only the beginning.
Do you believe United would be better off with City's second-choice midfield? And will Moyes ultimately succeed in bringing in a major signing this summer?
image: © Jason Gulledge