The history of Manchester United’s midfield since the early 2000’s

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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.

Player Position Arrival Manager Caps Departure
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.