The midfield French connection
By Matt Dodd
Although Manchester United have virtually sealed the signings of goalkeeper David De Gea, defender Phil Jones and striker Ashley Young, the chequebook could come in handy once again as United hunt for a inventive midfielder to fill the vacancy which Paul Scholes has left behind.
The announcement of the ginger legend’s retirement has raised concerns about the future of United’s central midfield. Doubts have been placed on Ryan Giggs’ ability fulfil the central role on regular basis, while the combination of Anderson and Michael Carrick is certainly questionable.
23-year-old Arsenal midfielder Samir Nasri has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford. The Frenchman has enjoyed his best season of his career so far, netting 15 goals – 3 more than he had scored in his two previous seasons at the Emirites added together.
Despite tailing off towards the end, Nasri was undoubtedly Arsenal’s stand out player of a season which could have, and probably should have, ended in glory with Arsenal still challenging on all fronts in February.
With just one year left on his contract, Nasri has expressed a large amount of uncertainty with regards to his future, and refused to rule out a move to United. This of course could be contract negotiations. If Skybet is to be believed the potential transfer appears likely, with 4/9 odds of Nasri signing for Man United and linking up with French compatriot Patrice Evra.
But would Nasri be able to slot into Fergie’s effective 4-4-2 formation which worked so well in the latter stages of last season’s title winning campaign?
The ex-Marseille midfielder has illustrated that he is best suited to play in a 3-man-midfield in a 4-3-3 formation, giving Nasri sufficient freedom to utilise his technical abilities, using both feet at his will.
But Sir Alex is almost certainly not going to break the mould of a two-man attack – with the partnership of Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney up front beautifully blossoming. Sticking with a 4-4-2 formation would restrict the Frenchman to the wing, or strictly a central role, which may not produce the same results.
Perhaps the answer, albeit untried, is to play a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation. The acquisition of Jones and the development of Chris Smalling could quite possibly suggest that Fergie is thinking of playing one of them ideally alongside Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic in a solid back three line.
The wing supply would come from Evra and/or the da Silva twins – all of which have proved glowing capabilities when going forward.
Thus leaving Nasri suited to his favoured position – possibly alongside Carrick and Fletcher, who would operate as slightly more defensive midfielders.
However, this may not suit probable signing Ashley Young, who is reportedly set to join United after his holiday. The English attacker has proved effective functioning from either wing, but would a wing-back role get the best out of him?
The purchase of Nasri may also open the exit door for current United players, namely Nani, who similarly enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2010/11. The arrival of Nasri would certainly have the greatest effect on United’s squad – and despite the fact that another big-money signing will please the majority of United fans, in the backs of the minds will be the old adage: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’
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