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Our Best Midfield Four – Who Is It?

There is always apprehension ahead of travelling to Fratton Park due to their recent good history against us. When looking at the players we had available to us, the worries increased.

No Ryan Giggs, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, Park Ji-Sung, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves, with Anderson supposedly exhausted after 6 games in 18 matches in China.

“We wanted to play a system in which the players we had would be comfortable in their positions and I think we used our players the right way,” said Fergie after the match. Anderson wanted to play and I think he showed it was a very good decision – he was fantastic. Paul Scholes looked to control the game and I think he did that. We also had the energy and the qualities that both John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher bring to the team. I don’t think Darren will complain about the goal [if it's taken off him] and neither will I! He’s not playing in his favourite position, but he still makes a lot of good runs and has such fantastic energy. I’m really pleased to see him get the credit he deserves.”

Fletcher has two goals in two games now, amusingly, United’s highest scorer. But is that enough to earn him a starting place in our team?

When we have a fully fit squad, deciding on our best midfield is almost impossible. When you consider the midfield difficulties we had a couple of years ago, it’s rather ironic we have more quality midfielders than we know what to do with. Not that I’m complaining!

Whilst I know Fergie will rotate the midfield, I think our best starting 4 should be Ronaldo, Scholes, Hargreaves and Nani. I think Giggs, Carrick and Anderson all still have an incredibly important part to play, but I believe those 4 to be the strongest in the squad.

Which midfield 4 would you like to see starting this season?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. Stephen says:

    I agree Scott, but how about putting Rooney out wide instead of Nani, and if we get Berbatov playing him up top with Tevez?

  2. sebastiancp1 says:

    I think there is no doubt in my mind that the best four in our midfield at this moment is Giggs, Scholes, Hargreaves, and Ronaldo.

    That midfield has skill, work rate, savvy, and some tenacity too. Everything you want in a United midfield. I really like Anderson, but I think you need Hargreaves to anchor the middle of the pitch and help out the defenders.

    For me, Nani still has to become a more mature player to be a first choice player.

    I think that once Hargreaves comes back to full fitness, he should get a shot at right midfield. I love his crossing ability and work rate.

  3. azza says:

    hargreaves anderson scholes n ronaldo

  4. 7Bestie7 says:

    For now it’s definitely Ronaldo-Hargreaves-Scholes-Nani. I’m extremely interested in seeing where Anderson ends up once he is a major player for us. Tim Vickery is constantly talking about him playing as either the number 10 (I guess Kaka role) or the Ronaldinho/Ronaldo out-wide and cutting in type player. In fact the old Vickapedia has said that when we let Ronaldo achieve his dream, Anderson is the ready made replacement.

  5. jockewe says:

    Hargreaves Carrick Scholes Ronaldo

    But if we get Berbatov, I´d like to see Tevez on the left With Rooney and Berba on top.

    Ronaldo Carrick Scholes Tevez

  6. Stephen says:

    Anderson is an old fashioned box to box centre mid, in the mould of Robson and Keane, the great thing about him he does have skill and a great pass, but he can’t finnish over a hooker face, so playing him more forward in my view is not worth it, Rooney does that forward who can’t finnish thing for us already!!

  7. Tim The Red says:

    I agree with Ronaldo, Scholes, Hargreaves and Nani.

    I think Anderson is a great prospect and will improve further this year (especially on last night’s display) but I think Scholesy still gets the nod for this season.

    Stephen – I think we’ve got to leave Wayne up top this year. If we do, we’ll see him back to his best. Putting him out on the wing has taken away his edge in front of goal. If we get Berbatov, then he can rotate the three main strikers depending on the fixture.

  8. North Stand,Tier 3,Back Row says:

    It ultimitely depends who we are playing against, if its home or away, what two are up front and what jobs they are expected to do. I liked the midfield in Moscow of Ronaldo, Scholes, Carrick and Hargreaves, but if we are looking to go with two wide players Id prefer to keep Carrick there holding (we’ve won two leagues and a European Cup with him there – he’s proven, even if alot of what he does goes unnoticed), with Nani for Hargreaves. In time, Anderson for Scholes…

  9. Ole P. Pedersen says:

    What is important for Nani this season, is a marked improvement in decision making. I don’t expect him to be perfect, but when in a position where he can a) blast the ball from an impossible angle or distance or b) make a quick pass in order to keep the pace of the attack or set up a better positioned team mate, I would be pleased if he chose b) in 3 out of 10 occations. The remarkably improved decision making is a vital reason why Ronaldo is the best player in the world, and not just a trick maker any more. Noone makes the right decisions all the time, but Nani’s awareness needs to improve a lot. If it doesn’t, I worry that he will end up a wasted talent, which actually is rare for young players under Sir Alex’ wings.

    My top 4 would be Anderson and Scholes in central positions, with Ronaldo and Fletcher(!) on the flanks. Fletcher offers a lot of mileage, and in 2008 his attacking play has improved significantly. It’s no fluke that he’s been at the end of (sort of) two low, near post crosses in these two games. Those runs have been too rare in his game up until now. Also, with Ronaldo in a free role based out left, Fletcher would offer excellent defensive stability.

  10. Drew Vader says:

    I’d go with

    Ronaldo Scholes Carrick Nani

    And the only questionable one I have really is Anderson in for Scholes. I think Carrick has done enough to be one of the first names on the teamsheet for big games to be honest. I think his injury really slammed the brakes on what could have been a huge season for him, with goals being added to his already impressive displays.

    But a fully fit Hargo gives another selection problem, I just don’t think we’ve seen him at the best of his ability yet.

    And for games at home against maybe easier opposition, how about a CM partnership of Anderson and Possebon?? Cant wait to see that

  11. Tim The Red says:

    Good point about Nani, Ole. His decision-making definitely let him down last season. He looked great in the Community Shield – let’s hope for more of the same against Zenit St Petersburg on Friday.

  12. Kevin says:

    I agree experience trumps potential and United’s starting 4 in midfield have to be Giggs – Scholes – Carrick – Ronaldo. In the coming years I think will see that become Nani – Anderson – Carrick – Ronaldo. I think Hargreaves can be a good option coming in for a defensive style, he can also be used on either flank, and can play in the defense. I like Hargreaves but Anderson is a potential world class center midfielder and Carrick has been United’s best midfielder the last 2 seasons and as North Stand… said he has proven himself worthy of playing over Hargreaves. Hopefully Hargreaves can perform so well he can force the other ahead of him to raise there game or lose there spot.

    Anderson needs more time, obvioulsy, to develop and I disagree that the lad shouldn’t play in an attacking role. He makes dynamic runs, plays good balls (like the one to Evra to get the goal), and he can finish he just needs to develop more. United look a lot more dangerous going forward with the predator joining in the attack.

    Nani is another future talent and will use this year to really develop so next season he can become the go to left winger. He has such a deadly striker, great crossing ability, and can beat anyone when he can face up to the defender.

    Once again I think moving Rooney or Tevez to midfield hurts United more than it helps, as there best position is up front where they can roam. Bringing in Berba may not solve any of the problems United have, as I still think Tevez and Rooney are a better partnership than Berba + ??? is.

  13. JPF says:

    Ronaldo – Hargreaves – Anderson – Nani, I’d have to bench Scholes I’m afraid.

  14. Red0rDed says:

    Nani – Scholes – Anderson – Ronaldo

    My only dilema would be Nani or Hargreaves but if I was going to play an orthodox four it would be as above. Carrick and Giggs are great options to haver. It won’t be long before Possebon is pushing hard for regular inclusion in my humble opinion. I would love to see him getting a few starts in ‘easier’ games like League Cup etc

  15. Stephen says:

    Funny it has been a bit quiet today with regards to Arsenal fans on this site, mmm wonder why, oh Jeoff here art thou?!?!?

  16. DMC says:

    Agree with JPF.

    When all are fit:

    Ronaldo – Hargreaves – Anderson – Nani

    The pace and running power of these four would overcome most midfields in the world.

    Sorry Scholesy, we love you but with Rooney dropping back less we need stronger legs in midfield.

  17. SJS says:

    Ronaldo (left), Scholes, Carrick, Hargreaves has the perfect blend of pace, creativity, experience and tenacity. I believe Ferguson employed it for the CL final.

  18. Kevin says:

    I can not believe at the lack of support for Scholes. Not only is he a United legend and has been a constant performer for United for the entirety of his career. Besides his past accolaids he was nearly perfect on Monday. He hit a quality free kick forcing a good save from David James, placed almost every ball at the feet of his intended target, surprisingly tackled well, chased players down, and set up numerous attacks for United. Anderson has a bright future and that future is near but he has not done enough to overtake Scholes’ nearly perfect performances. His role needs to be in certain games but Scholes is the go to guy when you need a good performance and he has been are best midfielder so far this year.

  19. Kings says:

    I would go with Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Carrick and Nani as my strongest quartet, when all are fit. Hard decision to leave out Anderson from that after his brilliant display last night, but he has plenty of time to make one of those central midfield berths his own, and that time will come very soon. It is great to see the strong depth of midfielders we have at our disposal now, especially with the addition of Possebon who I thought made another excellent contribution last night when coming on – just shows the confidence Fergie has in him to bring him on in the two games where the games has been tight.

  20. Kings says:

    In addition to my previous comment, there’s potential in an Anderson/Possebon partnership in years to come – I would love to see that – both look very strong on the ball, both can track back and both have very good distribution of the ball. Maybe Fergie could go with that in the Carling Cup this season.

  21. denton davey says:

    What a delightful dilemma ! Arguments can be made for six players – Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Hargreaves, Nani, Ronaldo, and Scholes (in alphabetical order) – and the two left out are still outstanding; and this is not to mention the goal-machine-that-is-Fletcherinho or the outstanding potential that is Rodrigo Possebon. And, of course, there’s the much-maligned John O’Shea and, in a pinch, Patrice Evra.

    Considering that quality and depth of talent, it is simply amazing to recall that two years ago there was a general sense of foreboding that no one would replace Keane-o. Well, no one has replaced the-legend-in-his-own-mind, but the alternatives available to SAF are so strong, varied, and versatile that the passing of Roy-o seems like a complete irrelevancy.

    For what it’s worth, my top three are Anderson, Nani and Ronaldo – and that means leaving Carrick, Hargreaves and the evergreen Scholes to fight it out for the fourth spot. While both Anderson and Nani are “potential” superstars, it seems to me that they exceeded expectations last year and are likely to do so again this coming season – and I really, really look forward to seeing that.

    If push comes to shove, I would go for Scholes to be the fourth-man although I am less enamoured of his play as the “midfield bridge” than the more offensive role he played when he was younger. Too many sideways passes for my liking.

    Such an abundance of riches ! Such a variety of options ! and there are some punters who believe that this is not the best collection of midfielders in the EPL !!!!!!

  22. Jimmybob says:

    ronadlo scholes carrick hargreaves

    although anderson maybe pressing for a spot v soon as well

  23. Taehr says:

    Difficult very difficult…in easy premiership games…i would go for nani,carrick,anderson,ronaldo…when theyre a bit tougher ronaldo,anderson,carrick,hargreaves and these would rotate either way anderson must always play,hes our best midfielder then carrick…when anderson and carrick were a partnership we played our best football.

  24. OMelhorDoMundo says:

    Carrick over Hargreaves in my opinion. Hargreaves’s energy is valuable but the ease with which Carrick spreads the ball, his perfectly weighted passes, selflessness, and the distance he covers (which besides Park Ji Sung, is consistently the highest) distinguish him from any other “defensive midfielder” out there.

  25. Tom F says:

    That question is just far too difficult to answer. I will attempt to anyway:

    Ronaldo – Carrick – Scholes – Nani

    One thing I’d say though, is that I’d still rather have Nani starting on the wings over Rooney or Tevez, even if we do sign Berbatov.

    After years of us moaning about Rooney being played out of position, to deny Nani a chance to get a few starts under his back flips will be crazy!

  26. kramer says:

    I’d like to see just two midfielders, Carrick and Anderson, behind a front 4. The wingers, Ronaldo and Nani should not be burdened with too much defensive responsibility.
    It’s real fucking hard to choose though. I’d like to crowbar Scholesy and Hargreaves in somehow, but it seems very hard.

  27. denton davey says:

    Amazingly, I forgot Three-Lung Park.

    So, make that six first-choice players – Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Hargreaves, Nani, Ronaldo, and Scholes [in alphabetical order] – and the two left out are still outstanding; plus THREE squad/depth players: the goal-machine-that-is-Fletcherinho, the outstanding potential that is Rodrigo Possebon, and the energy bunny that is Ji-Sung Park. And, of course, there’s even more depth with the much-maligned John O’Shea and, in a pinch, Patrice Evra.

    As I said before, choosing four from that group is a delightful dilemma.

  28. suhayl says:

    choices choices choices..hmmmmmmm tasty

  29. Tre says:

    There are so many good midfield combinations at SAF’s fingertips this season, and last season, and great arguments could be made for many of them. But when Scott asks which is our best line-up, as in a must win, backs to the wall game, we want a balance of experience and attack. In that case, the tried and true four of giggs, scholes, carrick and ronaldo should be top of the list. Scholes, ronaldo and giggs offer some great attacking verve while Carrick anchors the midfield brilliantly. Could easily substitute Hargreaves in there for Carrick, where he would just win the balls and distribute immediately.

    We don’t want Nani and Ronaldo in the same midfield against stronger opponents because neither offer strong defensive cover. Against lesser sides, in home games especially, those two can absolutely terrorise teams with less of a need to get back and help on defense.

    Anderson is on the verge of something great, I’m just waiting for him to nick his first goal for the club. He’s a great weapon to have off the bench and once he shows more consistent attacking ability he will be able to replace Scholes, once Scholesy heads of for Oldham.

    For all the competitions we want to win, it’s great to have Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick and Hargreaves in the midfield pool, because any one of them have the ability to change games on their day.

  30. Drew Vader says:

    Tre i disagree man….One of Nani’s best qualities I think is his determination to work for the team. I am always impressed at how hard he tries to win back possession after he loses it, which is very unlike his Portugese teammate who just throws his hands up in the air and looks at the ref.

  31. Patrik says:

    Park-Scholes-Hargreaves-Ronaldo. We haven’t lost a bloody game the last two seasons when Park has been on the pitch, and even if he isn’t on the same level as Ronaldo for example it isn’t exactly a coincidence that we are hard to beat when Park plays. He runs more than anyone, he’s got good decision-making and he has experience. Nani could take his place in games when we need more attacking options, and Carrick and Anderson should get a lot of games as well, but against Chelsea, Arsenal and other tough teams this is the four players I’d prefer. Btw Giggs is possibly one of the best players ever, but I don’t consider him a regular starter anymore even though I love the guy.

  32. Rxpaul says:

    @Patrick..thats exactly what I was telling one of my freinds last weekend about Park that we hardly ever have a bad game when he plays.. The guy was awesome against Barca and didnt give up.. I hope he gets fit real soon, as he is a class act especialy for European ties.
    About Nani I agree with the comment that his decision making needs improvement (quite a bit) as he’s too much of a cowboy (headbutt anyone?) though he works hard no doubt. Carrick though should start ninety percent of our matches as he is easily our best midfielder.
    The first choice starting midfield is too complex for me.

  33. DK says:

    Choose who ever you want to choose but dont leave carrick out. This guy is exceptional, he plays well both defensively and offensively, he is by far our best miedfilder altough he is very underrated by the english team. The rest have some catching up to do


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