Manchester United’s central midfield has been an area of weakness for many years now. During the final years under Ferguson, there were already signs that the midfield needed reinforcements. Barcelona dominated Manchester United’s midfield in two Champions League finals (08/09 and 10/11).
Having watched those 2 games closely, I am of the opinion that midfield was the one area of the pitch where Ferguson could be out-coached. His successful teams thrived on pacy wingers and strikers who were mercurial on the counter attack. His style of play would see the wingers attempt to use the entire width of the pitch and whip in some deadly crosses or move infield to create in the box. Teams that were able to deny Manchester United width and control the midfield performed well against Ferguson.
There are 2 notable midfielders who featured for Sir Alex during his final years – Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. Scholes developed into a playmaking master passer under Sir Alex but he was known early in his career as a box to box player with a devastating shot from long range. Carrick has been at the heart of most things that United do well for many years. He is adept at disrupting the opposing team’s passing all while being an exceptional passer in his own right.
Both Carrick and Scholes were featured heavily because of their ability to read the game and make every pass conceivable. Almost all the remaining midfield players featured under Ferguson were high energy (box to box) players. They were not as polished as passers.
Since the early 2000’s these are the midfield players either signed or promoted by Manchester United.
|Michael Carrick||Defensive Midfield||06/07||Sir Alex Ferguson||459||—|
|Anderson||Central Midfield||07/08||Sir Alex Ferguson||181||14/15|
|Owen Hargreaves||Central Midfield||07/08||Sir Alex Ferguson||39||11/12|
|Shinji Kagawa||Attacking Midfield||12/13||Sir Alex Ferguson||57||14/15|
|Marouane Fellaini||Central Midfield||13/14||David Moyes||137||—|
|Juan Mata||Attacking Midfield||13/14||David Moyes||149||—|
|Ander Herrera||Attacking Midfield||14/15||David Moyes||124||—|
|Morgan Schneiderlin||Defensive Midfield||15/16||Louis van Gaal||47||16/17|
|Bastian Schweinsteiger||Central Midfield||15/16||Louis van Gaal||35||16/17|
|Paul Pogba*||Central Midfield||16/17||Jose Mourinho||62||—|
|Henrikh Mikhitaryn||Attacking Midfield||16/17||Jose Mourinho||45||—|
|Nemanja Matic||Defensive Midfield||17/18||Jose Mourinho||4||—|
*Paul Pogba came up through the ranks at United and left on a free transfer in 2012.
|Player||Position||Joined First Team||Caps||Departure|
|Darren Fletcher||Central Midfield||02/03||342||14/15|
|Darron Gibson||Central Midfield||05/06||60||11/12|
|Danny Drinkwater||Central Midfield||08/09||0||11/12|
|Tom Cleverly||Central Midfield||08/09||79||15/16|
|Ryan Tunnicliffe||Central Midfield||10/11||2||13/14|
|Jesse Lingard*||Central Midfield||11/12||86||—|
*Jesse Lingard is still with Manchester United.