After what looked like a promising transfer window at the beginning of the summer, Manchester United are in crisis mode just two games into the season, having failed to sufficiently bolster their squad.
Erik ten Hag did a tremendous job to blend pragmatism with his principles in his first season in charge at United, coming in off the back of the club’s worst-ever Premier League campaign and securing a top-four finish and their first piece of silverware since 2017.
Work was needed in this summer’s transfer market, however, to address areas on the pitch that were clearly cause for concern. Mason Mount arrived from Chelsea early on in the summer and Andre Onana followed soon after to replace the departed David de Gea, but United now find themselves out of money, unable to move on fringe players and plunged into an injury crisis, with new centre-forward Rasmus Hojlund unavailable due to an existing back injury.
Crucially, though, the Red Devils look extremely light in midfield. Fred has been sold, Mount underwhelmed in his opening two games and is now injured, leaving Ten Hag in desperate need to find an improvement with extremely limited options.
We’ve identified four possible solutions to their growing midfield dilemma that doesn’t involve signing anybody – although they should probably do that. Like, they really should.
Hit the McTominay button
The Scottish international has proven to be a very useful asset in ebbs and flows and plays his best stuff on the break when allowed to attack the box. But, he has a lot of limitations and the general consensus is that – like Fred – now is the time for McTominay to move on.
He might still before the window shuts, but before that, Ten Hag could get one final use out of him. Drop him in alongside Casemiro, compromise on the total football principles for a few weeks and give McTominay one last chance to re-capture his lockdown Zidane form where he turned into a brutish scoring machine and the lynchpin to United’s counter attacks.
Shut up shop and hit on the break. It’s what they’re brilliant at. Desperate times, desperate measures.
With Kobbie Mainoo injured, the 18-year-old is more than deserving of his chance in the deep-lying role he impressed in throughout pre-season. We’ve already told you exactly why.
Not ideal, this. Not because Eriksen is no good – he’s quite the opposite – but because he simply can’t do it for very long these days.
United played some of their best stuff with the Dane at the heart of it in his newfound number six role last season, but they also looked at their worst when he was deployed there and ran out of steam after about an hour. These days, you’ll probably get 45 minutes of him at his very best alongside Casemiro like he did last season.
Give him a half as the playmaker, do the damage and then shut up shop after the break with McTominay.
Four midfielders and hope for the best
United have four senior midfielders available. Playing all four is a bit of a risk – especially considering their luck at the moment – but if might be their best chance of dominating a game and protecting themselves through the middle efficiently, which they’ve failed to do so far this season.
Bruno Fernandes can operate from the right wing at a push, and a trio of Casemiro, Eriksen and McTominay should be able to hold down the fort between them, if not with a little bit of assistance from an inverted full-back. Win the ball back high up and cause some chaos.
Four midfielders on the field when out of possession should surely be enough to stop them from being sliced open in a matter of seconds. Or at least you’d hope so.