Manchester United boast a variety of talent in the central-midfield positions, with each player capable of dictating a game on their day; yet, as has been the story under LVG, such times have been scant, and the Reds are lacking in someone who can bring energy and legs into the midfield on a regular basis.
For all Michael Carrick’s vision, his stamina is found wanting, and as he continues to age past thirty, this will only become worse. Andrea Pirlo was, and still is, the master at adjusting one’s game to their age, carrying the ability to control matches at his own pace. However, Carrick is no Pirlo.
Morgan Schneiderlin was the subject of much expectation when he arrived at Old Trafford in the summer, but apart from a few glimpses of his true quality, he has failed to meet such hope. The Frenchman appeared to have all the qualities that was craved for at United: strong tackling, initiating attack from defence and controlling a midfield. Perhaps these attributes will become more transparent if he is given a consistent run of games, but the former Saints man still has a lot to prove.
Fan-favourite Ander Herrera is continually, and quite absurdly, snubbed by LVG. Herrera provides intensity and a creative spark that has failed to ignite in a United team that has only scored one more goal than relegation battling Sunderland. However, his erratic nature is an issue: the Spaniard is suited to a more advanced role, rather than one which requires composure and finesse.
Whilst Schneiderlin presents some hope for the future, Carrick is advancing into an age that seldom treats players kindly, and Herrera is not suited to a central midfield role.
Step in, Joe Allen.
Jurgen Klopp has been exceptional at Liverpool since taking over from the faltering Rodgers. Guiding a relatively weak squad to two finals, whilst maintaining a semblance of form in the league without bringing in any major signings in January should be applauded. However, he has failed in one respect; in not recognising Allen’s talent, fully. It should be said he admires the Welshman, but it is transparent that Klopp does not trust Allen in high-pressure matches. Last Thursday’s Europa League semi-final is a prime example as Emre Can, recently returned from injury was preferred.
Allen has one year left on his contract, and United should look to capitalise on this. The former Swansea man would be a perfect fit; replacing the fatigued Carrick, Allen would bring control and calmness to the midfield, assuming Carrick’s responsibility, but with a higher degree of energy and intensity.
Alongside a tenacious Schneiderlin, Allen would be given a license to command a match in his own fashion: playing ‘Joe Allen football’, as Klopp recently remarked. It may seem an unusual move, but it would be a shrewd one.
On a side note for United fans, taking one of their rivals’ top players from under their noses would live long in folk-lore. A condition of folk-lore, however, is brilliance; Allen would certainly deliver this given a suitable environment and the freedom to play and express himself.