After Manchester United compounded a bad week with a 3-1 defeat to arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday afternoon those associated with the Old Trafford club are again forced to dissect another poor away performance and fathom where it is going wrong. Defeats to Wolverhampton Wanders, Chelsea and now Liverpool in the past month threaten United’s position. Supporters will each have their opinion of course but one argument with credence is that United is missing a player in arguably the most important position: defensive midfield.
It’s been said frequently in the past two years – United is crying out for Owen Hargreaves in games such as that at Anfield. To put it another away, a Hargreaves-type player; an enforcer, a ball winner, someone who can take the game by the ‘scruff of the neck’ and drive United forward.
Hargreaves was the player brought in to play in the ‘Keane role’ at great expense, although injuries have limited his influence. In the 2007/08 season the Canadian-born midfielder was a regular starter in games against the ‘big four’ and more significantly featured in every one of United’s Champions League knock out games including the final.
Sir Alex Ferguson obviously thinks very highly of Hargreaves and the mere fact that the United manager has stuck with the midfielder through injury for the past three years says much. In the 2008/9 season Hargreaves’ absence was not as significant as it could have been – Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were still with United and the team continued to succeed, although United missed the enforcer in the 2009 Champions League Final in Rome.
United has missed him ever since.
Hargreaves is unlikely to return and there is now no point placing faith in a player who has been out for such a lengthy spell, and United now needs to find an alternative solution. Indeed, players of his ilk – Bryan Robson, Roy Keane – aren’t often available and there are few in the European Leagues.
Supporters are highly critical of the United squad but it is important to remember that the Reds remain top of the League because the side deserves it. United’s has not been the flowing football of the past but top is where the team aims for every season.
Moreover, United’s defence has continued to excell, with a better pair than Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic hard to find anywhere. The club also has some terrific wide and forward players. However, it is always the centre of midfield that receives the most criticism from supporters and pundits alike. The criticism is often justified, although the midfielders United possess do bring something different to the party. However, without steel in the engine room United’s creative players will always struggle to play their usual game.
United could spend heavily in the transfer market but within the club’s youth and reserve teams there is a player of this mould – Ryan Tunnicliffe. The youngster has impressed this year. He is not part of the reserves’ engine room, he is the engine room. So well has Tunnicliffe progressed that the 18-year-old midfielder has been called into the first team squad this season.
This is not to suggest Tunnicliffe is ready to run United’s midfield just yet but it is positive to realise somebody is coming through that may just fit the bill in the years to come.
Fans of Hargreaves hope for a sensational and unexpected come back but it is less likely by the day. In fact Ferguson will almost certainly fill the gap in the summer, with Hargreaves out of contract and not likely to earn a new one. The question is, where the Scot will find a suitable replacement.
In the meantime the team now has a week to recover from a damaging brace of results. United has some huge games ahead, with the return of players such as Ferdinand, Park Ji-Sung and Antonio Valencia key. United is still marginal favourite for the Premier League title.
As for the long-term solution to the club’s ‘enforcer predicament’ – it is a key question for Ferguson to answer this summer.
53 thoughts on “A “Harg” one to take”
i liked hargreaves but lazarus type comebacks are beyond him now……..
Give carrick time on the ball and he looks like zidane. Close him down and all his weaknesses get exposed. He turns slower than a bus, scared to get stuck in when it matters and constantly gets us in trouble by letting midfielders run off him. When hes under pressure he is at his most frustrating, he becomes scared to turn with ball sharply, therefore constantly passses it sideways or backwards instead of turning and supplying the front players. This stops us playing and puts more pressure on the defence. Hes a dream to play against in my opinion. A good squad player but thats it.
100 percent right and were going to have to put up with him for another 3 years
hargreaves will never don our shirt again
the guy’s crocked – hate to say that but it’s beyond even my most optimistic view that he will come back to playing for united again
makes you wonder why Fletcher did not start today.
I think it’s important to note the amount of time Hargreaves actually spent out of his natural position. In those instances, we didn’t really have a ‘Hargreaves type player’ either.
There is no point in having another debate about Hargreaves
Nathan, you are absolutely correct. I was thinking the same thing during first 10 minutes of the match when Liverpool had sustained pressure on United. Hargreaves could have sat at the base of a 5-man midfield and help out the unfamiliar back four by screening them and breaking up Liverpool’s attacks.
Carrick getting more stick….here’s an interesting article
Ed, you forget that Hargo failed to really impress in central midfield in that first season of his and played most of his minutes in the later games at right back or right midfield. Super player, but just didn’t seem right for us in the middle. Still a fabulous DM, of course.
What a load of tosh.
That’s a constructive response.
It was all that abject idiocy deserved!
what were lacking in midfield is not a particular type of player- its quality.
This is a good post!
do people still count hargreaves as part of the squad? his career is over ffs. he relied on his stamina at the best of times, what’s he gonna do after so many injuries?
Its another point that Hargreaves wasn’t just a defensive midfielder, enforcer fat guy in the middle of the pitch. He was TENACIOUS! It’s that tenacity that we so deeply miss.
He was faster than Ronaldo in all of the time trails when they were both fit. He was so nimble, strong and indefatigable as well as being technically very gifted. He was very good at fair tackling but he added bite to them.
He was absolutely unique and his importance to any team in the world if they had him is great.
I referred to him in the past tense in the above statements simply because it is dawning on me that maybe, there is more chance of him not returning than returning. At the same time, I refuse to give up hope. He was a joy to watch and even if we don’t sign him up to a new contract and he gets fit after he’s released, I would watch whatever team he plays for, just to watch him run around.
It really does bring me sorrow, I don’t even have to touch on the effect it has had on him mentally. He played his heart out for us when he was playing and played a big role in our most successful season in the last 10 years. He can walk proud just for that.
Do you think Fergie is still holding out on the hope that he’ll be able to play again? It might explain why he never bolstered the midfield in the summer. That and his apparent faith in Scholes, Carrick and Gibson could explain alot.
I think most people on this board have put an unfortunate line through Hargreaves career at United – he might as well not be on the books to most of us.
Just can’t believe we’ve played 4-4-2 in both Chelsea and Liverpool away games! Suicidal!
I would love to know Fergie’s thought process with the midfield, because it’s just inexplicable.
The only possible explanation is that he’s mad keen on Defour and has planned to bring him in since about 2009 but can’t becuase he keeps getting injured.
Hargo is ten times the player now than when he was playing. By which I mean I think people remember him being a lot better than he actually was. We are crying out for another DM though, someone with energy, can kick people, win-at-all-costs mentality and influence a game – with quality on the ball too. Not easy to find but Fergie’s had long enough to look now.
Aye, to play 442 away against em you have to have a very good midfield (as in the past)…any chance of getting CQ back again?
CQ opened Fergie’s mind up to some new ideas in terms of tactics, and Phelan still thinks its the 90s with the typical English basic coaching philosophies. 4-4-2 and tally ho!
Steven Defour would be a MUCH welcome addition to the squad. We all know Fergie loves him, I just don’t know why he still hasn’t brought him over.
And yes, we need CQ back. My guess is, Fergie called him up a few weeks ago to invent another new way of playing football and CQ is now working that out before joining the backroom staff again.
The problem with Carlos Queiroz is, he has ambitions beyond his ability… he’s an excellent assistant, and it seems a clever tactcian… but he doesn’t have the man management skills neccessary to be the big cheese… maybe he’s just too nice a guy to make the ruthless decisions… I don’t know, but I don’t think he’s capable of managing the big egos and personallities of the top sides… I’d love to have him back as Fergies assistant… but I don’t want him taking over when Fergie leaves, and I think he’d bugger off again the first chance to be the boss elsewhere came up.
I think it’s because he also shares Robbo’s habit of serious injuries as well as his playing style. I think he’s been fit most of this year though. He’s still the most likely central midfield signing at the moment.
He’s the Portuguese Steve McLaren, but a bit more sophisticated and without the brolly! It might be hard for Fergie to bin Phelan off so it looks like we are stuck with him.
I don’t mind us playing 4-4-2 in home games, but unless you have top quality personnel its a risky business.
Phelan is a lazy appointment… it’s the appointment by a manager who can’t be arsed to bring in a proper assistant, cause he knows he won’t be in charge much longer anyway… what worries me, is whether or not Phelan is a Glazer yes-man… could the Glazers be grooming him to be the boss, in the knowledge that he’ll do as he’s told.
Where does this Phelan dislike come from? What I mean is, what do we know about the guy and his methods? I always find it odd when people have a go at Phelan, because I don’t know the first thing about him, so I wonder what these opinions are based on.
I agree the team’s not been as fluid and exciting as when CQ was here, but there’s a fair few players missing from that time too. I also remember CQ getting a hell of a lot of stick in about 05-06.
Phelan is judged on his 2 minute post match interviews
He’s a boring cunt who sticks to the official club line like all good pros. He gives the media nothing – no juicy bits whatsoever. Therefore he’s an unimaginative cunt.
But obviously he’s not. He runs training everyday while Fergie is sat in his office. He creates the programme for players, he makes it fun, interesting, technical, knackering etc. He works with the players more closely than Fergie. So it’s the players who should judge him, not us.
Also, he’s only doing those interviews in the first place because Fergie refuses to, so he’s clearly bodging.
And it’s worth remember that Queiroz aka “Queer-arse” was, for a long time, hated on the original Rant all those years ago. He was blamed for the negative, boring 451 bollocks that didn’t work. Then, he was “too cautious”. Now he’s “tactically astute”
Glazers “grooming” phelan to be a yes man, ffs. You are taking your Glazer conspiracy to new heights.
So Malc was also responsible for Nani’s gash, Hargo being a balsa wood cunt and Fergal up another FA charge? Bollocks mate.
Can’t you make anything not a Glazer conspiracy?
The hypocrisy of your stance is that when we do win you have a wank over Fergal, the star player you miss out the club owners then.
You pcik and choose mentality – if in doubt blame malco – is just wrong.
I wasn’t around for the original forum, but football evolves and CQ is simply a better coach/assitant than Phelan. English football is miles behind Europe in terms of technique and tactics – that’s a fact as far as I’m concerned.
Phelan does a solid job, errmmm that might be acceptable at Everton or Bolton, but not a OT. We should be employing the best, its a simple as that. A good coach/manager is worth his weight in gold as he can improve every player on the roster. Ok there is a place for Ray Wilkins style go between who’s coaching is ok, but for that you need charisma – not something you’d associate with Phelan!
CQ is an example of a very good assistant/coach, but he might be too much of technical wizard to do the basics of the main manager which is man management and picking teams. Everyone has their vocation.
Learn to read you malicious cunt… I was just asking a question, not stating an opinion…
Are you not concerned about the criteria the Glazers will apply, for replacing Ferguson?
Judging by the transfer policies we’ve experienced recently, I’m not stretching the imagination much to suggest they’ll take a value first approach…
Would you want Phelan becoming our new manager? And he wouldn’t be the first employee, offering to blow the boss for a promotion would he?
But, right, my point is we don’t know anything about these two fellas because we’re not on the training pitch everyday
We know very little about how much they contribute and in what way, so its all speculation
What little I know about what goes on in training (where these men earn their money) I have picked up over years of reading articles and interviews here & there. For example I know that the older players – especially Giggs – help pick the team. Well, I think the word used was “suggested” ideas, presumably to Fergie. So it sounds like the tactics, the approach, the attitude, the formation, perhaps even the players chosen are the result of a collaborative effort from which Fergie has the final say, obviously.
Basically, right, United are a bit shit at the minute and Phelan is in danger of becoming the scapegoat because he is a drab boring nodding dog type cunt in the 2 minutes a week we get to see him work (doing a job he’s not meant to do)
Similarly, in 2005/06, United were a bit shit and Queiroz – then “Queer-arse” – copped the blame for making Fergie play cagey, foreign, 451 bollocks football. That was until we won the league in 06/07 and the rest is history
It’s true that we probably don’t really know anything about it, but I still have the feeling that Quiroz knew how to get the best out of players like Carrick.
I take your point, but CQ has been manager of Real Madrid and Portugal – they must have seen something to appoint him in those posts. Would Phelan be considered for the England or Chelsea job!?! I think not! Phelan should be in charge of the reserves, that’s about his level in my opinion.
Fergie splash the cash and sign Bastian Schweinsteiger, luka modric and Gareth Bale that will take us to our rightful position.
We need real leaders in the middle of the park. we were bullied by chelsea, liverpool and they simply got away with it. we lack leader in the middle.Bastian Schweinsteiger has a lot of character and steel in his game and can stand up to any opposition. He tackles, he passes, he scores, he simply looks a united player. I would love to see him soonest next season playing on our side.
Schweinsteiger is going nowhere. He is vice captain and is from Bavaria, he is unlikely to leave Munich. He is on over £100,000 a week plus United wouldn’t pay the fee which is likely to be over 30 mill. This isn’t the early 00s!
Bill this doesnt deny the fact that we need leaders in the team. That could match the aggression of these teams. I lost count on the number of fouls on united players in the chelsea game perpetraited by Essien an co.
Carragher should have seen Red in his challenge on Nani and the united players couldnt stand up to him or the referee. Rafaels tackle on Lucas was met with fire on the kid by liverpool players. I could imagine Keano,Gary in that sort of atmosphere, it definately wouldnt have gone their way. All i am saying is we are being bullied systematically by the opposition especially chelsea.
Schweinsteiger will fit the bill.
The team are now suffering from the massive under investment of QUALITY players by the Glazers. It will be interesting this summer to see what is spent on players ( if any ) by these scumbags who are leeching our club. Ferguson has done fantastic with both hands tied but even he must be sick to the teeth of this situation. We can still win 3 competitions which in itself is tremendous, forget the FA cup, the big ones are the other two and we wait with bated breath !
right from when CQ left in the summer of ’08 I did mention that we would be in trouble. It was so obvious that he took us up a level when it came to tactics and preparations before games. He was also not hoodwinked by the hullaballoo of ‘legends’ and such rubbish. He was responsible for the clearing of the likes of Pip Nev, Nicky Butt and co. Quinton Fortune played his best football for us under him when he used to play centre-midfield or LB as the lad was never a winger. We went to away grounds and fought the opposition and then asked the speed of Ronnie and Rooney to do the rest. He made the gaffer accept the wisdom of three-man central midfield especially away from home.
Now, we go to Stamford Bridge and Anfield with a central midfield duo. And then start matches with so many slow players. I can not imagine him agreeing to the purchase of Berbatov because it was as plain as day that he will not improve our speed of play. NOT one bit. You watch us now and there is no way you can see ANY improvement in the team as per Phelan’s tactics. If you have seen then please do point out.
I totally agree, we need leaders in the side. Rio & Vida were sorely missed at Anfield, those two definitely lead. The problem is that with Scholes ageing our midfield leader is Fletcher, who is good, but not in the same class as Gerrard & Lampard.
Despite all this due to the Glazer’s financial hold on the club we won’t be buying many if any of the players in the £30 mill+ world class bracket.
But… We won the league when Queiroz left – when Phelan was coach
But… We played 442 under Queiroz in 06/07 with a two man central midfield and played the best football we have played in years, and won the league
Also, previously this season we’ve played a 3 man midfield against the shittest teams in the league, and been outplayed.
Well, aisde from winning the league the year Phelan became coach, no, I haven’t seen much improvement.
You have a weird view of the Queiroz era. Red tinted specs.
Also, you talk of tactics… but like I’ve already pointed out none of us really know who determines the tactics. There is evidence to suggest the tactics are born of a collective effort from which Ferguson has the overall say. Phelan’s primary role at the club is not to figure out some genius tactical system, it’s to make training fun & effective. He has a closer, everyday relationship with the players than Fergie, who doesn’t do training sessions anymore and hasn’t for years.
tbf the drop in our quality of football between quierozs last season in 08 and the next season was fucking dramatic whether it was to do with him or not, id say more signing berbatov and promoting park and fletcher to first teamers over scholes and giggs
easy to see why people would prefer quieroz to phelan though, fucking silver fox who has golden skin and goes on secret sojourns to portugal and comes back with us having randomly signed anderson and nani, whereas phelan just makes it clear we’re gonna have to put up with the likes of oshea for many years after hes retired, and phelan was a crap player
I agree with Cal, bring back CQ.
I don’t care… I think there’s more important problems… get rid of the Glazers… everything improves from there.
in ’06/07 what is generally forgotten was that we had Louis Saha and had Rooney playing behind him. Wayne was a proper ‘hole’ player that season and it was Carrick’s first season. Scholes had his last proper season and so we were able to play with a two(ish) central midfield. Rooney was a vital vital link plus saha’s movement and Ronaldo’s pace.
He would not have sanctioned the purchase of Berbatov cos that Bulgarian slows EVERYTHING we do down.
I always liked the man and felt he was vital to us.
To be fair… Carlos and Fergie seemed to compliment each other well… and there was a genuine friendship, I think.
I know. That’s what I said to you; we played 442 under Queiroz, who, now, is apparently solely responsible for 451 which with red tinted retrospecitive glasses on worked really well
But how do you know?
Berbatov doesn’t slow us down. You don’t have to run when you can pass the ball. Ando “the ball moves quicker than you”
Actually, weren’t we tracking Berbatov before and during his time at Tottenam. So we must have liked him while Queiroz was at the club.
People are creating fictional narratives here based on nothing. Queiroz is now a tactical genius who was responsible for playung the (in)effective 451 that we all loved (hated). And Phelan, because he’s boring, British, ugly and nods a lot is a useless, thick cunt who doesn’t have a clue
in the big games in 06/07 giggs went inside and rooney wide