Just last season Manchester United had a midfield where their fans and manager would ask “whom to chose?” as they owned a midfield which performed progressively worse week after week, but they now face a problem of “whom not to choose?” after their rebuilding under Louis van Gaal.
Even the under-performing players last season look to be playing much better and could force their way into the starting eleven. This piece will be concentrating on Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini.
He is one of the players who is brought into Manchester United in their new project, after making the £28million move from Basque side Bilbao. Traditionally an attacking midfielder but can also play as perfect central midfielder who’ll track the full length of the field for 90 minutes. He was one of the players who went into the pre-season and was pivotal in the midfield. His appearances were cut short from the start of the season due to a knee injury that he suffered early on in the season, and after a couple of matches upon his return, he suffered a rib fracture which he is seemingly still recovering from.
He got two goals and earned an assist in his five appearances, and he completes nearly 71 passes per 90 minutes with 42 of them going forward. He attempts a lot of forward passes which is very important for United as Louis van Gaal seems to have the amount of sideways passes United are making slowly reducing. He looks to be creating a lot of chances and gives around one key pass and creates 1.24 chances. He is also known for his attempts on goal and he never seems shy of goal. Furthermore he has 1.73 successful take ons this season.
Coming to his defensive duties, fans have been a bit concerned if he can cope up with the physicality of the premier league and could he help out the defence. Until now he has done very well when tracking back. He averages up to a decent 2.23 successful tackles per game. He intercepts 1.48 passes and blocks 0.74 shots. Standing 5’11 he is not the tallest but wins 0.74 of his aerial duels, in total he wins a ‘not so bad’ 50% of his aerial duels.
Whenever he plays it looks like he combines the whole team together. The link between Rooney, Angel di Maria and Mata seems so much better when he takes to the field. He will be utilised more if United continue to play in the diamond as him and di Maria act as the shuttlers and it is very important when you play the four predominantly central players.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the last January transfer window. He signed for United in a club record deal when the team was struggling. Many reports suggest he is not what Louis van Gaal wants and the media always speculates him with a move away. The reports suggest that the Iron Tulip prefers the workaholic player in that position and that is Wayne Rooney. Juan Mata doesn’t provide the extra protection in the back neither he has got the pace to amaze someone. But still he is one of the best in his position. He has played quite a few games this season but hasn’t lived up to his potential with just glimpses of his talent in the highlights so far. He has played couple of matches as a central midfielder in a 4-3-3 set up.
He has got three goals and an assist in the season, but he was not able to show LvG why he needs to be in the starting line up ahead of Rooney during Rooney’s three match ban.
He has averaged up to 51.13 passes per 90 minutes and only 21.83 of them go forward. He has 1.35 key passes and created 1.50 chances. This is very low when you compare it with players like David Silva. You would certainly expect more from an attacking midfielder of his stature. He tries 1.5 shots per 90 minutes and completes a mere 0.75 take ons.
Now onto his defensive duties – He is not a player who tracks back a lot and defends. Not being tall, he only wins 33.33% of the aerial duels.
Though his stats don’t say much, if he comes back to his form he can rip apart any defence with his clever runs, positioning, passes and some fancy skills.
Cited by Squawka, unlike Rooney he stays much closer to the attacking areas. When Rooney plays he tries to go to help out the defence and this confuses the strikers whether to go back or stay forward.
Maybe the biggest flop last season for Manchester United. He came in with David Moyes from Everton for a hefty fee of £28m. All the money seemed to sink in water as he turned out to miserable. Sticking elbows on opposition players, but the biggest problem was that he was used as a defensive midfielder. He came in from Everton as an attacking midfielder and sometimes used as a central midfielder. His lack of composure, rusty tackles etc seemed to trouble him. He was uncomfortable the whole of last season.
This season he started with a bang. He netted the late winner in the preseason against Valencia after coming on as a sub to silence some of the ‘sarcastic claps’. But again, at the start of the season he got injured which kept him on the sidelines until he came on as a sub against West Brom to score his first official Manchester United goal which further silenced some of his critics. Herrera’s injury and his form compiled well. After the West Brom game he started each and every game and gained more and more claps and this time it was not sarcastic.
He played as a central midfielder in all the games and helped the defence and attack. You wouldn’t expect much from him to contribute to team in the attack but he can individually take on shots and create chances for himself. He attempts 2.45 shots per 90 minutes.
With his physicality you would expect him to win a lot of duels and he’s done it really well so far. He averages 3.06 tackles per 90 minutes and intercepts 1.84 passes. Standing 6’4 he wins an immense 61.36% of his aerial duels and wins more than 5.5 aerial duels per 90 minutes.
His physicality can destroy a midfield just like he did against the weak Arsenal midfield. His ball out to di Maria which led to Rooney’s goal only shows he is getting better with his overall game.
So coming to my opinion on whom to be a starter and whom to be reduced to a bencher, it was a tough decision. But I eventually made my mind up and it differs with the formation. If Van Gaal plays 4-2-3-1 or the 4-4-2 diamond then I will go with Mata and Herrera to start and Fellaini to be reduced to bench. Playing a Diamond means you would need a shuttler central midfielder which Herrera can do and Fellaini can’t. I prefer Rooney as a striker to be honest and that would free up the spot for attacking midfielder which Mata would take. A 4-3-3 would mean Mata dropped and other two start just because Mata is not defensive enough to play as a central midfielder and is ineffective in the right wing.