Manchester United are currently being linked with Paris Saint-Germain’s Lucas Moura, Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann – each of whom are number-10 type forwards – despite the obvious array of attacking talent available to the Red Devils.
Three defeats in a row have thrown the 13-time Premier League champions into the kind of crisis that’s becoming customary since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement just under three-and-a-half years ago, but the biggest quandary United currently face often flummoxed the feted Scot.
Chelsea holding-midfielder N’Golo Kante claimed he received a plea to sign for United from boss Jose Mourinho over the summer, before completing his move to west London from Leicester, meaning the Portuguese identified the need for a specialist anchorman in his new squad.
Why he didn’t then pursue the likes of Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho or Southampton’s Victor Wanyama, who ended up moving to Tottenham for the paltry sum of £11m, is a mystery.
Neither Marouane Fellaini nor £89m re-buy Paul Pogba can operate effectively in such a role, while Morgan Schneiderlin and Michael Carrick have been afforded just five Premier League minutes between them under Mourinho.
The gap between the Red Devils’ midfield and defence was at its widest in the early stages of their 3-1 loss at Watford over the weekend, with the big Belgian in particular failing to provide an effective shield in front of centre-halves Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly, both of whom have had better days.
Fellaini was the odd man out not marking anybody for Etienne Capoue’s opener and left Juan Zuniga free to score Watford’s second, before conceding a penalty when tripping the same player in the last few moments of the match.
Considering Mourinho clearly doesn’t see either Schneidierlin or Carrick, who turned 35 over the summer, as answers to his defensive-midfield puzzle, going into the campaign with such scant options in the centre of the park looks a terrible decision.
Having been second favourites for the Premier League title prior to their 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester City, United have been overtaken by both Chelsea and Liverpool in the betting, where they now sit joint-fourth with Arsenal at 12/1.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.