With Michael Carrick no longer able to control the midfield, Jose Mourinho should bring in Monaco’s Brazilian midfielder to bring the best out of Pogba
GOING into Manchester United’s 2017 pre-season tour, seeing new signings Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof in action was certainly the main reason fans were looking forward to the games.
But now the tour of the US has finished, most supporters have a different feeling.
We all knew that a new defensive midfielder was a necessity this summer, but our five matches have exposed the weaknesses in Jose Mourinho’s squad to the point where I feel a title push is impossible – unless we sign a new player in this position.
Take any game out on tour as an example, but Michael Carrick against Barcelona exemplified United’s Achilles heel. Carrick, now 35, didn’t have the energy to dictate in midfield and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic was able to run rings around him.
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were all able to run directly at Lindelof and Chris Smalling because we didn’t have a mobile defensive midfielder to protect them – but it wasn’t just in that game. United were overpowered in that same way against LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake, too.
In a way, it’s a positive that United’s glaring issues were highlighted so obviously on tour because it means Mourinho cannot ignore them.
He’s made it clear he wants to sign a defensive midfielder and fans are all crossing their fingers that will be the Brazilian midfielder Fabinho from Monaco.
His tenacious and energetic style would give us the stability in midfield we need to allow Paul Pogba to shine going forward and to protect our defence.
Without a new defensive midfielder like that, teams will always know how to get at United.
But it’s not all negative. Lukaku played well and his goal against Manchester City was nothing short of superb, so Mourinho and Romelu himself will be happy at that.
The pre-season is all about fitness and match sharpness, so Lukaku’s performances were a success in that respect.
One thing United do need to do, though, is cater for Lukaku more, play it into his feet more often and get the best out of him.
If we resort to kicking it long, we’re negating some of Lukaku’s best qualities, and if you sign a striker for £75million, you make it as easy as possible for him to score goals by complementing his style.
As for Lindelof, I am reserving judgement.
The Swedish centre-back was shaky and overall quite poor but some are already heavily criticising him. It’s pre-season lads, he’s played a few games. Calm down.
Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra took time to settle in and it looks like Lindelof might be the same, but if there is one position Mourinho gets his signings absolutely right, it’s at centre-back.
Fans need to back him to the hilt, not question him already. Trust Jose’s decision to bring him in.
On an individual level, there were some standout performers on tour.
Pogba was magnificent and I am wholly confident he will be United’s best player this upcoming season.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked more like the Borussia Dortmund version, Anthony Martial’s confidence was back in abundance and the progress of Andreas Pereira has seen him grow into a fine young central midfielder.
On the other hand the likes of Chris Smalling, Daley Blind, Lindelof and Carrick under-performed and Mourinho will have taken note of that, but first and foremost our players got lots of game time under their belt, that’s the most important thing.
There are lots of reasons to be positive about the shape of the squad and the overall feel of this team Mourinho is building but United have a crucial few weeks ahead of us. Sign a top-class defensive midfielder and a natural winger and our squad has real balance and depth.
If we don’t do both of those, especially the new defensive midfielder, then I fear for our chances next season. We need to sort that problem out before it becomes an epidemic.