The news that Michael Carrick will be sidelined for six weeks is a terrible blow to Manchester United because of how important he is to the side and in his absence, United are going to have to line-up with a new midfield pairing in the middle – but who? Here are some potential partnerships.
Even with Carrick in the team, Jones is currently our best midfielder. His first half performance against Arsenal, who had the most in-form midfield in the league, was magnificent.
He might continue to insist that he wants to be a centre back in the future but when he plays as well as that, David Moyes will continue to use him there for the time being.
An absent Carrick means Fellaini has the floor to himself. It is time for him to shine. At the very start, he insisted that his favoured position was as a defensive midfielder and he can now have a run in that position before his wrist surgery in January.
On paper, this looks to be our strongest midfield pairing. Jones’ combative style should be matched by Fellaini so long as he sits deep, holds his position and reads the game well.
The only issue with this pairing is that it is very much tailored towards being strong defensively and wouldn’t offer too much going forward.
Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley
That’s where Jones and Cleverley step in. Jones’ role would have to change if he played alongside Tom as he would be the one to sit deeper and protect the defence. He has shown he is more than capable of playing in that position before.
What that allows is Cleverley to do what he does best – bring the ball forward. Tom’s form has been inconsistent this year due to a succession of niggling injuries but if he can get a run of games under his belt, he does bring a lot to the side. He is the best ball playing central midfielder we have in the squad.
This duo would certainly have the most energy out of any pairing on offer to Moyes.
Marouane Fellaini and Tom Cleverley
This is a risky pairing given that both have been inconsistent this season.
Fellaini has been improving but has still not flourished as much as United had hoped given his £27.5 million price tag and Cleverley has struggled with his form. You wouldn’t be able to consider this pairing overly reliable but given that Fellaini can play a similar role to Carrick, it could be one that Moyes experiments with.
I’m a big fan of the midfield three and this could really work very well if Moyes decided to use it. Fellaini would act as the pivot in front of the defence meaning there was less defensive responsibility on Jones and Cleverley. That would allow them to be aggressive and press the ball quickly out of possession and move the ball quickly up the pitch when in possession.
Moyes has shown on occasion this season that he is happy to play a trio in the middle and I think this is the way to get the best out of our current midfielders.
Special mentions – Anderson, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher
These three were not mentioned in the pairings because I don’t think that any of them should be considered starters, even in Carrick’s absence.
Anderson has gone from looking like one of the most promising players on tour to one that has receded back into a shell he doesn’t look like coming out of. Something changed. Moyes gave him plenty of minutes in pre-season but would now rather start Giggs there than the Brazilian.
As for Giggs, his best football comes in cameo appearances. It was the same last season and it is still the case now. He has the odd brilliant game from the start but to get the best out of him, Moyes needs to bring him on for the last 20 minutes to see games out.
Fletcher not being included in any pairings is obvious. His road to recovery is going well but to throw him straight back in the deep end would swiftly stop his progress. I hope he gets to play in the League Cup at least but he isn’t ready for the rigours of the Premier League again just yet.
Who is your first choice midfield pair in Michael Carrick‘s absence?