Midfield Options Who Could Help Keep The Feel Good Factor At United6 min read
Life under Ole Gunnar Solskjær isn’t so bad. Seven wins from seven since taking over which includes an away win at Wembley against Tottenham that has returned the feel-good factor around Manchester United. The players are beginning to show their excellence in abundance and the fans are singing from the top of their lungs.
Eventually their running win will end, though, and the focus will avert to how the Norwegian manager picks up the pieces and bounces back from defeat.
Nemanja Matić has been criticised for his performances towards the end of 2018 under José Mourinho and, while he has lifted them under Solskjær, the Red Devils will starting to think about how to offset some of the minutes the Serbia international is playing.
Here are two midfield options that can do just that:
Rúben Neves: Wolves
The whole world stood up and took notice when the youngest ever captain of a Champions League club switched life from Porto to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Championship in the summer of 2017.
With the Portuguese influence running through the English side, as well as Neves’ old coach Nuno Espirito Santo, the 21-year-old took the leap of faith in the hope that Wolves would once again climb to the Premier League.
It took only one season for Neves to achieve that and he is truly excelling in England’s top-tier competition. The Portugal international has been the heartbeat of an incredibly exciting and flamboyant Wolves side, that promotes its players to express themselves and cause damage to opposition defences.
In their most recent win against Leicester City – a match which ended 4-3 thanks to a last second winner from Diogo Jota – Neves played exceptionally well. Controlling the midfield battle, Neves had time and space to orchestrate his passes into the path of his attackers ahead of him. Which is exactly what he did over and over again.
For the winning goal, Neves sliced open a ragged-looking Leicester defence with a 40-yard pass that went in between the left back and central defender. Raúl Jiménez latched onto the ball and within a handful of seconds, Jota scored his hat-trick goal and the Molineux stadium erupted.
There will be plenty of clubs aiming to court Neves away from Wolves in the summer and Manchester United should be joining the long list of teams. The Portuguese has already shown, in a short space of time, that he is adept enough to handle the Premier League with his prime years well and truly ahead of him.
Ruben Neves to sign for Manchester United before 3rd February 2019
Rodri: Atlético Madrid
Atlético Madrid’s young, out-and-out defensive midfielder is certainly one to keep an eye on for the rest of the season. Rodri might have only joined Diego Simeone’s team last summer from Villarreal, but he has already made quite the impression in the Spanish capital, becoming a mainstay in Atléti’s midfield and consistently performing at a high level.
The Spain international has four caps to his name with many more yet to come. Having only made his debut in March, 2018, Rodri’s development has been magnificent and fast-paced, catching the eye of Atlético Madrid and forcing his way into the side as the anchor of their battle-hardened midfield.
Rodri, who is only 22 years old, has expert vision in order to pick out runners ahead of him and links Atlético’s midfield to attack incredibly smoothly. While he is always played more defensively than others around him, he has the ability to lurk outside the area waiting for a chance on goal, which he has taken on a few occasions this seasons.
The Spaniard certainly isn’t the finished article and can improve in certain areas such as spatial awareness and protection of the ball, but he has world-class potential that will be fulfilled if he carries on like he has been this season.
Rodri also poses a physical presence in the core of Atlético’s midfield and is in a similar mould to Matić with how he plays the game, so any hesitations over whether he can handle the physical aspect of the Premier League should be hastily quelled.
Manchester United have enjoyed watching Juan Mata and Ander Herrera strut their Spanish skills on the pitch over the last four years and wouldn’t mind another one joining them.
It’ll be a hard negotiation to prize him away from Atléti, but money talks and the club from Madrid are known to sell their prized possessions when push comes to shove.