Manchester United’s sustained period of success under Sir Alex Ferguson will always be remembered as a golden era for the club.
Given that the Red Devils achieved under the legendary manager, it is no surprise that fans look back on those times with fondness.
One of the standout performers was Paul Scholes – a midfielder who was the best of his generation, despite what Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard fans may argue.
Former Arsenal midfielder Gilberto Silva faced all three players during his career and is no doubt that Scholes is head and shoulders above the rest.
“He was hard to play against because he played tough, but he was also a very smart, very intelligent player,” Silva told Betway. “You had to be smart when you played against him.
“It was great for me because when you play against tough opponents, intelligent opponents, they drive you to become a better player.
“You want to improve to be them, you want to improve to win against them, to win the tackles, to win the ball, to win the game.
“I’m fortunate enough to have played against those great players like Scholes and Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.
“They helped to improve my game because I had to push myself on a daily basis to face them at the weekend.”
Silva’s comments highlight a glaring issue in United’s current squad – where is the modern-day Scholes? The club defied sports betting odds to mount a possible title challenge in the first half of the season and are still ahead of their pre-season expectations with an expected top four finish.
However, the bookmakers won’t rate United’s chances for next season highly until they can bring in a dynamic midfielder that can control games as well as win decisive moments for them.
There are several potential options for United this summer. Here are three players we think could fill the void.
Ryan Gravenberch – Bayern Munich
Gravenberch made a name for himself under United manager Erik ten Hag at Ajax to earn himself a move to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Things have not panned out as expected in Germany, but there is still plenty of time for the 20-year-old to fulfil his potential.
Reuniting with Ten Hag at Old Trafford could be an appealing prospect for Gravenberch and it would be no surprise to see the club move for him this summer.
Nicola Barella – Inter Milan
Barella has been strongly linked with Liverpool, but he would be an ideal signing for United if they decided to make a move for him.
The 26-year-old was superb during Inter Milan’s recent Champions League victory over AC Milan, with his performance bearing plenty of similarities to Scholes at his best.
Questions have been raised over Barella’s spiky character, but Ten Hag would have little difficulty in getting him to toe the line.
Sandro Tonali – AC Milan
Tonali was overshadowed by Inter’s midfield last week, but that does not detract from the fact he is a player with massive potential.
The 22-year-old boasts a superb range of passing and is not afraid to get stuck in. He doesn’t score at the same rate as Scholes, but there is time for him to develop that side of his game.
If Milan fail to qualify for next season’s Champions League, their top players may be easy targets during the summer transfer window.