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Manchester United might need to sign three midfielders in 2022 – Manchester Evening News

If there’s one area where Manchester United fell short in the summer transfer window it was signing a midfield.

A controlling defensive midfielder was high up on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s wishlist, but it was a window where not every wish could be fulfilled.

In the end, signing Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo looked pretty impressive.

It was one of the most stellar windows United have had in recent years.

It’s added stardust to a squad that was already looking impressive and there’s no doubt it should be performing better than it is, but the addition of a world-class centre back, an exciting winger and one of the greatest goalscorers of all time has only exposed the midfield problems even further.

Having missed out on a midfielder this summer, it was always going to be the top priority for 2022 and that will remain the case — whoever the manager is when the transfer window comes around.

But in the first few months of this season, the question has moved on from which midfielder United should sign, to how many they actually need. Solskjaer has six senior central midfielders in his squad and aside from Bruno Fernandes, who is more of an attacker anyway, there are probably doubts about them all.

To begin with the most obvious, Paul Pogba is out of contract in June and can sign a pre-contract agreement with a club from overseas from January 1. The more time ticks by, the harder it is to envisage him staying at Old Trafford.

Donny van de Beek’s future looks grim at the moment, given he’s played 20 minutes of Premier League football this season and has failed to get off the bench in nine of 11 league fixtures — although his fortunes could pick up if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is replaced.

It’s worth saying Solskjaer has doubts about Van de Beek for a reason, however, and there’s no guarantee a change of manager would equal a change in circumstances.

Van de Beek needs to be playing regularly to get back into the Holland squad and we’re now only a year out from a World Cup, so if he’s not playing he’s likely to push for a move. Changing his agent was a clear sign that he’s considering an exit from Old Trafford.

Nemanja Matic will turn 34 next August and will probably see out the final year of his contract, but it’s unlikely he will play too prominent a role in the 2022/23 season.

Then we come to the regular starters. Scott McTominay still has plenty to offer United and while he might not be a certain starter under a new regime, he’s the kind of valuable squad player and rotation option that every successful United side has required.

In Fred, United have a £50million Brazilian midfielder who hasn’t pulled up any trees. He isn’t good enough defensively to play a sole holding midfielder but also lacks the quality on the ball and the passing range to really excel further forward.

It was startling to see the comfort every Manchester City player had with the ball last weekend, compared to several members of the United side, Fred included, who didn’t seem to be as natural with the ball at their feet.

Even with that quintet, United needed a midfielder. You’d expect at least one, maybe more, to leave this summer and a lot will depend on how a new manager wants to shape his midfield. If a new boss looks to play 4-3-3 it would mean Fernandes filling a slightly deeper role than in a 4-2-3-1, for example.

United’s priority is probably going to be a defensive midfielder, but their lack of quality on the ball in the derby highlighted the need for central players who can pick a pass as well.

The biggest challenge next summer for whoever the next United manager is will be improving a midfield that has been hopelessly exposed at times this season.

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