With Louis Van Gaal set to begin his reign as Manchester United coach after the World Cup, the one position he is in desperate need of sorting out is midfield. With Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick seemingly in the twilight of their careers, and Tom Cleverley not living up to his potential, a new man in the middle of the park is needed. With Van Gaal already at the World Cup, he will be in a great position to see who can fit the mould at Old Trafford. Here are five midfielders to keep an eye on in Brazil.
1) Marco Verratti (Italy):
Verratti is a small, fiery and aggressive central midfielder. Does he remind you of a former Red Devils captain? Verratti has been playing, and starring for Paris Saint Germain and is highly regarded despite being just 21 years old.
Playing as a defensive midfielder his passing skills are well documented, leading to some in Italy pointing to the PSG maestro as a potential successor to Andrea Pirlo. High praise for one so young. A good World Cup would see his stock rise even more, but a player who can win the ball back and then spray it around is exactly the sort of player Manchester United need.
2) Koke (Spain):
Koke played a vital role in Atletico Madrid’s league triumph. Twelve assists in the Spanish league has seen him earn a lot of praise over the last year and he would fit into the Old Trafford squad seamlessly.
Koke can play across the midfield or in the attacking and defensive midfield roles and at just 22, Louis Van Gaal may well be able to help him flourish even further. An excellent passer and set piece specialist, it will be interesting to see if he can hold down a starting spot in Spain’s midfield at the World Cup. If he succeeds in doing so it will cap off a fine year for Koke and show how well respected he is.
3) Miguel Veloso (Portugal):
The Portuguese defensive midfielder is currently lining out for Dynamo Kyiv following spells at Sporting Lisbon and Genoa. At Sporting he attracted interest from English clubs, but ultimately signed for Italian side Genoa. At 28, Manchester United fans may prefer someone a tad younger but Veloso’s quality is clear.
The Portuguese has starred for his country in recent years alongside Joao Moutinho (another man who could do well at Old Trafford) and is the type of combative, aggressive midfielder United need to put some bite back in their midfield. Playing alongside Marouane Fellaini, the duo could offer some serious steel in United’s defence.
4) Axel Witsel (Belgium):
Witsel is another star to emerge from this current golden generation of Belgians and is currently fighting with Fellaini and Steven Defour to start in midfield. Witsel is known for his ability to win back the ball and contribute to attacks. Currently playing for Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, Witsel has made 36 appearances for the club and scored four goals.
At 25 he should be hitting his peak, and the chance to test himself at Old Trafford would unlikely be passed up. The move would be a risk however as he is yet to star in big club, but a good World Cup could convince the Old Trafford faithful of his potential.
5) James Milner (England):
This is the wildcard of the selection. It seems Milner has been around forever but he is still just 28 and possesses as much tenacity as ever before. Reports say he wants to quit Manchester City in order to get more playing time. People complain that Milner doesn’t add enough to a game, but this writer would argue the opposite.
Milner sets up and scores more than his fair share of goals never stops working. He is as tenacious as they come and there is a reason he is so frequently selected to appear at international tournaments. Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield, another consistent World Cup will only add to his value and Man United would do well to pick up such an experienced Premier League star. Whether or not Man City will sell him to their neighbours after the World Cup is another question.
Check out Milner’s incredible accuracy here:
Steve Neville, Pundit Arena.