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RoM Season Preview: Midfield

Before this season, no write up on our midfield could be given without focussing heavily on Cristiano Ronaldo. With him gone, it’s up to the rest of our midfield players to prove a point.

Park Ji-Sung – Is our unsung hero who has put in the performances on the big occasions for a few years now. He still has his critics but he’s more or less won our fans over. He’s not world class and I doubt he ever will be but he’s a worker and those type of players shouldn’t be underestimated. He will play when called upon but won’t complain when he’s on the bench. We didn’t hear a peep out of him when Ferguson didn’t even put him in the squad for the 2008 Champions League final. Fortunately for him, the occasions where he is dropped should be few and far between, with Park likely owning one of our starting places next season.

For him to keep that place, fighting off Nani and Valencia, Park needs to improve his finishing. More and more he gets himself in to good shooting positions but too often he doesn’t strike the ball cleanly enough. All our players are going to have to chip in to scoring more goals next season and Park needs to keep that in mind if he wants to stay in the starting team.

Antonio Valencia – Has rightly tried to distance himself from the Ronaldo comparisons from the moment he signed. What we’re buying here is not a 25 goals+ winger (how many of them are there in the world? Just the one…) but a talented young winger who will create a lot of goals for our strikers. He is exciting to watch and has no fear when running at his opponents. Already in the pre-season we’ve seen him take on two or three defenders and not bat an eye-lid. It’s great to see. He’ll score a few as well because he likes getting a shot away but it’s the assists we’ve bought him for. With Wayne Rooney playing a more central role, I expect him to get on the end of plenty of Valencia balls in.

Nani – A player most of us are desperate to see do well this season, following a poor second season at the club. During his first year he scored against Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as scoring a Champions League final penalty. But in his second year he fell out of favour with the manager and rarely got a game. When he did play he would usually be naff and then wouldn’t play again for another three weeks. Ferguson had to do what was best for the team but in not giving Nani time to prove himself, he certainly didn’t do much for the player.

Nani will now feel as though he has a point to prove in light of Ronaldo’s exit and should be given the opportunity to do just that. He has shown flashes of absolute brilliance in our shirt but they need to become a regular occurrence if he’s stick around.

Zoran Tosic – The jury is still out on this one for me. He showed some signs of promise in the pre-season but he is just so small. Ronaldo used to be a skinny little thing too and he managed to beef up, so hopefully Tosic will be able to manage the same. He gets pushed off the ball far too easily which is a massive problem. He’s very fast and he’s got a nice shot on him, but I doubt he will be getting too much match time this season until he’s been down the gym a bit more!

Michael Carrick – Is a player I like a lot. He’s dealt with the pressure and expectation his price-tag meant he was on the receiving end of and just got on with the job. He isn’t interested in the celebrity or the plaudits, he just wants to get the job done. One of our greatest moments of the season was his goal against Wigan with just two games left to play, after we’d gone a goal down within the first half hour. What a moment to step up a produce a moment of this quality.

It’s his defence-splitting passes that we will be relying on more than anything though. He has great vision and with Scholesy not getting any younger, it is Carrick’s creativity we will be turning to.

Darren Fletcher – Has gone from strength to strength over the past few years and we will be looking for him to step it up again next season. One of our hardest working players who just never seems to give up. Like Park, he’s not the most gifted player, but will win us games through his aggression and determination. He hounds his opponents and puts them under pressure from the first to the final whistle.

With Hargreaves’ future still hanging in the balance, Fletcher really has the opportunity to cement his place in our starting team. He has just the right attitude and I really hope we see more great things from him this season.

Anderson – Was the biggest disappointment from our players for me last year. He completely went off the boil. He looked like the dogs bollocks in his season and when he came up against the likes of Fabregas and Gerrard, he totally bossed the midfield. He pushed forward, he played great passes about the park, and had loads of energy. Last season though was a completely different story.

I’m hoping his freekick against Boca Juniors is a sign of things to come though and he can get his name on the scoresheet more often. That’s not the be all and end all of me though. I want him to keep possession and I want him to improve his passing. The goals will come, hopefully, but he needs to get the basics right again first.

Ryan Giggs – Surprised everyone in his PFA Player of the Year contribution to our season, making the central midfield role his own after lacking pace meant he could not longer cut it on the wing. Whilst still far too complacent on occasion for my liking, Giggsy put in some great performances for us, most noteably in our 3-0 victory against Chelsea, and it’s good to have a mature head in our squad.

You have to start thinking it can’t go on forever though and this will be his 20th season wearing our shirt. They’ll be lots of reds who can’t remember a United team which doesn’t include him in it and we really are approaching an end of a era with him. But if we give him one game on, two games off, then we should keep getting the best out of him and hopefully get another season on top of this one.

Paul Scholes – Is one of the most gifted players the club has ever had and despite now being past his best, he can still spray 40 and 50 yard balls across the park which land perfectly at the feet of a sprinting winger. He doesn’t keep possession as well as he used to and his tackling is as bad as ever, but he’s still a good player to have around. He is likely going to be coming off the bench more than he will be starting but that is why we have the strongest squad in the Premiership. Whilst Liverpool are bringing on the likes of Lucas Leiva, we’ll be bringing on Paul Scholes!

Owen Hargreaves – Is a player I’m desperate to see make a full-recovery. Since his impressive début performance against City, I’ve been a big fan of his and I think he could make the world of difference to our team. He is commanding and strong and versatile. Whilst of course the money issue is a concern, with Hargreaves going down as a flop (despite his European Cup winners medal!) if he doesn’t come back, I’m more bothered what it means for our squad. Fletcher is the only similar player to Hargreaves we have and it would be good to have a player like him ready to play, particularly on the big European Cup nights. Watch this space where Hargreaves is concerned, I suppose.

Darron Gibson – Didn’t impress me much to begin with but he is certainly growing on me. He’s obviously got a great shot on him and at just 21-years-old has a strong build. More often than not, he’s impressed during the pre-season, although he didn’t have his best game against Bayern Munich.

I’m sure we’ll be seeing quite a bit from him next season, not just the Cup games, although he still has a few years to prove himself.

1st choice: Park – Carrick – Fletcher – Valencia

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. manutdchampions2008 says:

    well your the first that agrees with me on park on this site who some are just blind how anyone can think park is awesome or good need to wake up in my view I just do not think he offers enough qualitys to be seen has a first 11 player or a united player. the front four in my book have to be of the higest quality, the defence and CM yes let them do the hard work but the 2 wingers and strikers they have to be top class. look at real madrid in the 02/03 season, they had work horses like makelele flavio and a bit of flair in guti etc but when it came to the front four they had top class attackers. another example 94 united side, in midfield again keane ince robson etc would do the hard work, but united made sure they had attackers the likes of kanchelskis sharpe giggs cantona hughes who all had a creative and goal threat about them. united seem to be settling for second best when they are content with park has a possible first 11 player.

  2. Ivo says:

    I think the one constant player in our midfield will be Fletcher for the EPL and European games. The rest of the midfield players will be chosen according to the opposition.

  3. Marq says:

    Park may not be amongst the goals and assists, but he often contributes the pass before the assist. How could you compare Kuyt to Park. Kuyt was bought in as a striker and considering his strike rate, he is a flop, blame Benitez for playing him wide, but thats their problem. Park was brought in for his energy, and for that, he has achieved what was expected of him. So in one way, Benitez flopped in his signing, whilst Sir Alex did good. If you think scoring 42 goals a season is needed to be considered a good player, well, you’d be better off playing your PS3. There are alot more things that contribute to team dynamics than just goals and assists. A simple question like this. Btw, Park plays brilliantly in tandem with Rooney if you haven’t noticed, won’t be surprised if you don’t notice, cuz you are probably watching Liverpool’s game most of the time.

    -> My advice to you, go be a Liverpool supporter, since none of our players and even our manager is up to your mark. And stop using your name please, you are not even a supporter, just a slagger, you are a disgrace

  4. manutdchampions2008 says:

    You are in denial and you know what it is my opinion it is not a disgrace. There are plenty of united fans who agree with me that park is just useless and not good enough. kuyt does the exact job to park he plays RW. They both work hard and you know what kuyt got more goals and is more effective has that certain job you seem to go on about, the joke is kuyt got more goals than berbatov and tevez in the premiership.

    I remember a time where united played two top class wide players like kanchelskis Sharpe giggs even beckham they are proper wide players. This is Manchester utd we are talking about not some run of a mill club. Like I said before do not let work rate mask the players real ability, that’s one reason why UK are awful at creating future world class players because they must work hard. Allot of fans some on here say he works hard so that’s the key to just hang around in a united squad has long as you run around like a headless chicken and nothing else he gets some sort of career in a united team.

    Park is a wide player, his job is to chip in with more than 3 to 4 goals. give more assists and put in crosses for the front players that is what a wide players job is about, maybe I got it wrong with berbatov with the service park gives down that side no wonder berbatov got so phew. This is the reason why united have not spread the goals about enough, A our CM plays to deep Carrick perfect example and that has not helped Anderson, B you add the fact that these work horses are spreading into our attack tevez luckily gone that is one less of a headless chicken in our team. C you add also Rooney and berbatov are dropping too deep because our CM is not dominating enough and they are also dropping too deep to try and win the ball, and when park also can’t go past players its a real problem. park is wasting that wide area better occupied by someone like nani tosic even welbeck who would offer more than park.

  5. atlimar 7 says:

    park is brilliant, he maybe not scoreing alot but he does what the gaffer puts him on to do , he taps in a few a year and buy the way i dont see fletcher scoreing more than park , mf nani/giggs, flecher, carrick, vallencia .

    but some one shud help nani to defend , everytime he loses the ball , he gets a yellow card for climbing on the back on the opposite team , hope he will step up this year , because you can see potentcial there

  6. blindkat says:

    I think I will trust SAF on park. He might know a little more about what the team needs than manunitedcha whatever. He has done enough for the boss to describe him as “invaluable to the club’s success”. That’s good enough for me.

  7. ScousersSuck says:

    Manutdchampions, up until now I thought you were bringing up a few fair points about park, and his shortcomings for europe. But when you suggested that welbeck, and tosic (who has barely played a competitive league game) would be better replacements, i think you lost the plot mate. For one, its evident that you are being irrationally prejudiced against the lad. Sir Alex trusts him in big games throughout the league, and that is reason enough for the rest of us to.
    Im not saying he should be our starting winger, but he is good to have as cover. United need depth in all areas, and it doesnt harm us to have an average, yet hard working player in the squad. To start him as a winger week in and week out would be daft, but SAF knows when to use him well (except the Rome final). So stop slagging off a United lad so much will you?

  8. Threelungedpark says:


    Mate you have no idea what youre talking about kuyt>park?!?Seriously you must have issues…we’re not blinded by parks workrate, yes he does turn in awful performances once in a while but mostly he does very well just that he doesnt get enough credit for it and so most ppl like you miss out the fact that he does turn in good performances…he gets back possession, covers the full backs and contributes with loads of forward runs and id shit myself if i were a defender because i cant get a moments rest on the ball…so if you think that welback/tosic is better than park then i think you really do not know much about UNTIED..

    Park = Legend nuff said

  9. Drabik says:

    I just wonder if people would think more of Park if he was from Europe or South America. I think that because he is from South Korea, some idiots automatically rate him much less. It is not only Park’s energy and defensive qualities that make him such a great player. His movement off the ball has been one of the highlights of his career in the last couple of seasons.

    Why you are comparing a united player to a liverpool player is beyond me! The two teams do not play the same way, so any comparison is useless.

    manutdchampions2008. Maybe you should uninstall any internet explorers and go buy FM09. Then everyone can be happy. You can prove that you are one of the best, most knowledgable fans around, and the rest of us can talk about football without someone trying to wind the rest of us up by stating opinions that seem ridiculous.

    Here is my opinion. Sir Alex is the best manager there is. I don’t think that the squad is made of players that would walk in to any team in the world (a few of them would, dont get me wrong). What Sir Alex has produced is a squad of players that work well together, to his tactics. He hasn’t won the league for the last three seasons by playing players that aren’t united quality.

    In fact, I hear a lot of people say that player x is not ‘manchester united quality’, but its not an individual that qualifies them for the team. It is how that players qualities fits in with his teammates qualities. Any player can be effective with the correct teammates (providing they’re fit). I dont think Fletcher, O’Shea, Brown, Park, Evans, (even Scholes, Giggs, Neville at their age) could walk into any team in the world. But Fergie uses each of these players to their advantages against different opposition. As someone said above, there is no best XI, it depends on which team you are playing.

  10. DanS says:

    Park isn’t a great player though ^

    I don’t rate him. He doesn’t have a good first touch, is always a few seconds behind the play, can’t keep balance…

    Upside though, he has a tremendous attitude. Wouldn’t start with him though. Would rather see Nani given a go.

  11. Micky says:

    I like Park.

    He’ll have a blinding game every now and again, and will always work hard – much like O’Shea.

  12. craig the red says:

    i remember watching a european game , psv playin milan n i saw this little korean runnin round the milan players , absolutley bossin the game , nxt i heard of him he had signed 4 utd 4 a fee of around 4 mil i think ..the signin of park really did please me , yes he has great work rate but hes mor than that , his 1-2′s in n round the box his tacklin is great , i reckon hed make a very gd full back …i dnt think we can say play him against so n so , we hav 2 take each game as it cums , c who is fit n whos in form n so on , but i cant believe ne1 slaggin that man park of , the likes of him n jos r the players that win us things , the players that wil sit n wait 4 there chance n r happy 2 play wen they r asked , y did park get the nod on the wings in the big games n cr7 up top , coz the boss knew who he cud trust out there 2 do the work he needed ..i also think last yr we saw an improvement on his attackin play n he was mor of a goal threat jan ljalic (bad spellin) cums 2 us , he looks a real player , but i wud luv 2 c silva at ot , he is 1 player i reckon wud improve us , remember that goal he smashed in against chelsea a while bak , also gotta get him now , or we risk losin out like we did wiv torres imagine silva there ???? but wiv the team we hav now , id hav nani on the left valencia rite n fletch n carrick centre ;)

  13. King Eric says:

    Drabik – Absolutely bang on mate. It is all about the “balance” of the team. Why do people think United should be made up of 11 “Superstars”?

  14. PG says:

    From an Arsenal Fan :

    Interesting squad and good balance. I think fletcher and park are very underrated just like Dirk Kuyt at Liverpool. Workhorses like them can spur the teams on as well as get opponents to make mistakes.

    I havent seen much of Tosic, but I think Nani is overrated and Anderson still has couple of years to go before he becomes a fixture. Carrick is pure class and so is Hargreaves, when fit. A good midfield which can win the ball and keep it. You would need Berbatov and Rooney to help in moving the ball forward.

    No powehouse like Essien, but again bulldozing is not your way.

  15. Macedonia_United says:

    Scott i think you forgot Obertan

  16. ash says:

    good article scott. but i dont agree with u on tosic. even messi is small . i eould give tosic a run this season. he is 22 now and he should be regularly starting. and also nani ahead of park. i love parks attitude and his intelligence but man if u are a winger u need to score goals. he needs to score goals this season. i would like to see ando,tosic.nani ,fletcher playing more games than giggs and scholes. to be honest fergi hasnt given proper playing time for these youngsters. but i still rate giggs better than park or nani. but we have to give these player chance .they are the future.
    nani carrrick ando/fletcher valencia.
    mate i agree with u for the first time park isnt great. i would prefer nani tosic valencia ahead of park. but man u cant compare kuyt with park. kuyt is a striker he is supposed to score goals. and to be he is more pathetic than park.
    Hey scott y didnt u mention about obertan. i would like to see him play.

  17. diavolorosso says:

    Nice article, Scott.

    Just one question, though : What di Ronaldo ever do for us in midfield ? Brilliant player, great goals, etc., but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t ever remember seeing him in midfield last year, unlike Rooney end Berbatov …

  18. manutdchampions2008 says:

    tosic and welbeck have impressed me on the wide areas unlike park they can make moments of brilliance, well let me re say that welbeck tosic and nani should be given more chances than park who for me got way o many undeserved starts like the champions league final. Anyone saying I am a disgrace for thinking park is not good enough then I am sorry they have serious problems. Well look at vidic he was not playing much a full season we think now he is the world’s greatest CB which he is in my view. Still the ones who disagree with me and bring up the same points to justify him playing in the team still come up with the same rubbish, he works hard that’s just not good enough still. I keep saying to everyone do not let work rate mask the players true abilities look at tevez. I will say again these work horses are spreading into our most important area of the team the attack. These work horses belong in CM and the back line not in the attacking front four which they wins united games.

  19. ScousersSuck says:

    Manutdchampions, there is no harm done by having Park in the team! We need all the depth that we can get. In a worst case scenario, lets say Nani is injured. For the sake of argument, since you are convinced that tosic and welbeck are better out wide, even both of the are unavailable. Giggs cannot play down the wing anymore, certainly not twice or thrice a week. That would leave us with simply Valencia as a winger.
    Now, dont get me wrong, Id play Park ahead of tosic and welbeck out wide, (given that welbeck is a striker). But for the sake of manutdchampions im making this far fetched assumption. Would you then agree, manutdchampions, that we need park in our squad?

  20. manutdchampions2008 says:

    ScousersSuck not really I do not think we do if fergie went into the transfer market and signed a wide player. read when I say I am not saying go insane in the transfer market like real madrid have done but united have an insane amount of cash to spend and for me fergie should be investing in the squad more and getting a wide player. I still think anderson nani tosic fails we are going to need a CM and a wide player or 2. giggs I still think can play on the left at times, but like I have said the front four need to be top class. berbatov still I am not convinced in a full season he is reliable enough to win us enough games to win the league like when ronaldo and rooney were at their best in 06/07.


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