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Ben Pearson – Giving the midfield a bit of bite

A brave new world awaits under the stewardship of Louis van Gaal next summer, but regardless of who the Dutchman moves for in the summer, an existing flaw looks set to carry through into his reign: a weakness in midfield.
Even if reports are to be believed that Kevin Strootman could be on his way from AS Roma—a deal that Manchester United somehow failed to combat, let alone hijack—it will take more than one man to suitability protect the middle from the secondary threats of injury crises and suspensions.

Fortunately, the perfect understudy for the Dutch box-to-box midfielder could already be at the club, and judging by the reaction to his performance in the final of the U-21 Premier League against Chelsea, his days of being a lesser-known academy gem may well be over.

Ben Pearson may not be as fated as Adnan Januzaj, but he could be a similarly influential figure in United’s future, and van Gaal’s restructuring of the squad.
The incoming manager should find plenty to like in the midfielder, whose tidy passing doesn’t need to be used as a compliment to hide any timidity, as can be the case with Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley at times. Tenacious is the word that always seems to follow him around wherever his name is mentioned; in scouting articles, post-match reports and think pieces about the youth talents yet to emerge from Carrington.

He isn’t a footballer who becomes spooked by the close-quarters combat sometimes required to secure the middle of the field, but neither is he some brutish destroyer or reckless ball-winner. Pearson looks likely to become a player in the mould of Owen Hargreaves or Darren Fletcher, whose abilities as a box-to-box all-rounder have always been overlooked due to his brilliance at dismantling Arsenal and other sides unable to cope with his industry.

To some, such players are considered to be work horses, damned to be considered merely as battlers and runners by this faint praise and accompanying, pejorative label. Yet one of the common hallmarks of United’s very best players has always been that touch of hard labour required to marry together skill, imagination and intelligence into a devastatingly complete package.

Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were always more than just gifted footballers. They played with a work effort, producing their best work through unfussy and elegance brilliance rather than blasé tricks and unnecessary complications. Their football could never be considered long-winded, with even the most outrageous passes and dribbles produced by the pair coming about through a sense of genius necessity rather than showboating. The same can be said of Eric Cantona. Regardless of how sublime his goals and swagger on the field may have been, there was a kind of ruthlessness running through him that turned his rarefied excellence into such an irresistible force to be reckoned with.

That sort of driving mentality has been missing from United’s midfield perhaps even more so than the kind of player with the attributes to add some dynamism to the mix alongside passers such as Carrick or creators like Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata. Phil Jones arguably brought it during is midfield cameos, even if he didn’t have the skill and invention to be more than an enforcer.

An appetite for a battle isn’t what defines Pearson, but it does perhaps help to differentiate him against the current crowd in United’s first team, especially as van Gaal takes stock of his resources after the World Cup. Having been the man to hand Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Thomas Muller their debuts while at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, he has one of the best eyes for young talent around, and would happily offer chances to those with the technique and attitude he requires. Pearson isn’t the biggest 19-year-old around, especially for a box-to-box midfielder, but that’s unlikely to hold him back under a manager who seeks out those with the necessary fundamentals of brains and good feet over brawn to fit in his fluid, attacking systems.

As last year’s recipient of the Jimmy Murphy Young Player of the Year award, he is clearly fell thought of at Old Trafford. Should Strootman or a similar sort of box-to-box all-rounder arrive in the summer, Pearson could be a ready-made apprentice to study and develop behind such a player, ensuring that the club’s midfield never loses its bite again.




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65 Comments

  1. Tommy says:

    @Gary

    I really rate Garay, He would be the defender I go after, a proper beast of a man, Ive never really seen him have a bad game, Id sign 2 CBs myself, due to the amount of injuries our current 3 get

    @Unitedtillidie

    Id hate it if we miss out on Carvalho, I really rate that lad

  2. united till i die says:

    @ Tommy

    I think Carvhalo would be perfect in a central midfield role for us. Pair him with good box to box player and a playmaker and it would make the world of difference.

  3. Sushi says:

    Don’t get your hopes up people. don’t buy into the shit these fucking journos spout about targets, confirmations etc. Remember last season?? the Thiago and Fabregeas bull shit that turned out to be just that.

    Best to ignore all the drivel and wait for official lines from the club.

    AS a side note what the fuck is the hold up with Appointing the manager? if it really is Van Gaal how the fuck is the daily circus of sky fucks hounding him with questions not disrespecting National side anyway? surely getting it out of the way ASAP would be best for all?

  4. Justin10RvN says:

    lol everyone shits on the eredivisie then goes on to praise players in Portugal’s league, which is just the antithesis of the eredivisie. Dutch=lots of attacking Portugal=lots of defending. Both leagues are fucked by the lack of cash though, the germans, spanish, and english clubs take the best players often times before they’re even in their 20′s. On topic(ish) Strootman in Jan. would be my preferred signing if he’s recovered, he’s everything we’ve wanted in midfield for a while now, he scores, defends, good passer and a great work rate, not to mention he’s captained Holland. Martins Indi is a solid player but he’s better as a CB than RB but im not sure if he has the aerial ability for the PL. Pearson looks a solid player, but with our CM luck im not going to get too excited over him just yet. So long as our new manager signs players we need instead of getting ‘names’ I will be cautiously optimistic about next season.

  5. Dan Young says:

    why are people assuming we will only be playing 2 in midfield? LVG likes 3 in midfield

    fletch – Transfers:
    Think we will bring in 2MF and 2CB. Probably 2FB and a winger. 5-6 Players

    holy shit thats alot of transfers. for me i tihnk we have had far too many centre backs for a while now and it has taken stability out of out defensive game. we now have 4 centre backs ready for first team football, getting 2 in would be a huge amount added to the wage bill for what will effectively stall the progress of jones smalling and keane.

    2 fullbacks i agree on. i think 1 will be shaw but i think the right back spot will be contested by varela or valencia. 2 midfielders we definitely agree on. as for the winger i have been wanting to see reus brought in for some time now .. but then i saw janko the other night. the lad is young but he can match any fullback in the league for strength and his technical ability is right up there for his age group. a better crosser of the ball then young and valencia put together. to put it into simple terms

    first team squad –

    de gea, amos, johnstone
    rafael, varela, jones, smalling, evans, keane, shaw, buttner
    carrick, fletcher, kagawa, kroos, mata, powell, carvalho (or another DM that can cover the defense at the bottom of a midfield 3)
    valencia, januzaj, janko, welbeck
    RVP, rooney, wilson

    4-1-4-1

    ———–de gea
    rafael, jones, smalling, shaw
    ————-carrick
    valencia, rooney, kroos, januzaj
    —————RVP

    ..young team with plenty of running, we’ve sat on our laurels for too long now and because of that we have been so pedestrian in our play. also hopefully janko will take over for valencia throughout the season

  6. Tommy says:

    @Justin10RvN

    The dutch league is a far weaker league than the portugese league, Benfica and Porto can hold their own with most teams around europe, they might not always win but you rarely see them being walked all over, Avarage sides always abuse Ajax in the europa leage and the rest are really poor, thats not to say you cant find good players in Holland, you can anywhere, but if you look at all the famours leagues around europe, the SPL and eredivisie are by far the weekest (Im not including the likes of the cypriat league or other minor nations), Its not their fault theirs no money in Holland, but the standard is clearly worse in Holland than it is in Portugal

  7. Tommy says:

    @Dan Young

    Id sign 2 CBs the reason being Jones, Smalling and Evans are never fit, if we only sign 1 dont be surprised if Carrick has another spell at CB at some point, I wouldnt be taking any chances with their injury records the last 2 years

  8. The_red_devils says:

    Dan young
    carrick can’t play the ’1′ role in that 4-1-4-1. You need dynamic midfielder, carvalho type.
    I would put mata for rooney and a new winger for valencia(if we sign).
    Atleast 1 CB is needed, garay would be a good buy.

  9. Chris says:

    Valencia at RB? Please no; like Carrick he can do a job covering in emergency but he is not a defender and we need to get away from the square peg round hole syndrome continuously playing people out of position.

  10. Chris says:

    I would take Robben in a heartbeat, he may be a one trick pony but its a bloody effective one – he and Ribery have been the best wide men in Europe (I don’t count Ronaldo or Bale because they play all over the place) for a couple of seasons now.

  11. wayne barker says:

    Really don’t think transforming Tony V into a wing back is that far fetched he was much better in the position than Smalling and Jones and a lot more steadier than Rafa who was so erratic this year.If Utd are going to do away with wingers going to need fast attack minded fullbacks imo

  12. Chris says:

    Hi Wayne. How’s it going mate?

    I take your point re Tony but really believe that we need to be playing specialist players in these positions, I do think he can cover if and when required but not sure I would want to see him playing there all the time.

  13. wayne barker says:

    Chris hi mate,i guess my point is he’s played better or just as well as the Utd defenders playing there right now although he’s only a fill in so if he was converted and coached right and knew that was going to be his position would improve
    The modern day fullback are no longer necessarily good defensively Evra,Baines,Johnson just 3 off the top of my head who all lack defensively but who all are considered top players,none has the pace or stamina of Tony V who covers the pitch quicker than anyone else,he’s also decent in the air
    Just feel his strength and pace with the mindset of a winger although he’s also very disciplined makes him tailor made to become a hybrid

  14. Paschal Agwunobi says:

    I agree with Wayne on that one, Valencia is a better) than smalling, he covers more ground and also attacks effectively.

  15. Paschal Agwunobi says:

    Read somewhere that giggs was handed the no.2 role, but he wants the class of ’92 to be among the backroom staff..hmmmm, if giggs is not content with no2 role, he might as well fuck off. We don’t need his distractions.

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