Transfer Talk: The 'Scholes replacement' needs to be a regista, not an attacking midfielder

Please don't go.

There has been little indication as to whether or not Paul Scholes will retire for good at season's end. Either way, Manchester United do need to eventually find themselves what many have describe as the 'Scholes replacement'. If the ginger prince does decide to hang up his boots again at season's end, then United need to find that player during the upcoming summer transfer window. That player though, is not one like Wesley Sneijder -- a player who professes to not even being a central-midfielder:

"I don’t like playing in central midfield at all. I am an attacking player not a central midfielder. I always had the ball, it’s true, but I like to be further forward closer to goal. Better a second striker than a central midfielder."

- Sneijder

What United need is a midfielder that can spread play and dictate matches from a relatively deep central position. Perhaps only legendary maestros such as Xavi and Andrea Pirlo can rival Scholes as a deep-lying playmaker -- Pirlo though is probably the better comparison due to his propensity to hit long and direct diagonal balls to the flanks. The squad does have this sort of player in Michael Carrick but when he was suspended for the final and fatal group-stage match versus FC Basel in this season's UEFA Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson's side were woefully out of sorts without a player to bring stability and control into midfield (this was prior to Scholes return). United are a club that expects to compete and defeat foes on multiple fronts each season, therefore, having another player of this ilk is a requisite if Scholes is to retire. A club with this type of ambition cannot be exposed like this if a single player is unavailable -- especially for the tactically important role of midfield general.

If we're being quite honest, United need a makeover in midfield. Their lack of a combative and energetic central-midfielder has already limited tactical options this season and Fergie coped well by deploying Carrick and Scholes together for this season's run-in. While they did control nearly every match they started together during these past few months, they were always going to be vulnerable without an enforcer to protect them from physical and mobile counterparts. Yaya Toure exposed this in the likely title-decider a few weeks back and he even exposed the frailty of the Carrick/Scholes midfield axis last season as well during the FA Cup semi-final tie at Wembley. This isn't a gripe about either United playmaker, but they are vulnerable without a battler patrolling the space alongside them.

Without Scholes, Carrick would be the only regista -- a deep-lying playmaker that dictates the tempo of games -- left on the squad. Tom Cleverley is a fine passer and a very promising young player but at this point, he's more of an attacking midfielder that provides drive from the center of the park. A deeper-lying player is required behind him. Despite Ryan Giggs being deployed more often in the center of the park during these final stages of his glorious career, his performances were quite inconsistent this season. Rather than control matches, the Welshman tends to attempt the more risky and incisive passes that hope to split the opposition's defenses. Anderson is an energetic player that can pick up the ball in both deep and advances positions. However, he's more of a short-passer and another player that looks to get forward when he can with late-arriving driving runs. None of these players are the registas that are vital to United's build-up play.

In this writer's opinion, I do have the perfect player in mind -- but it might require £30-40 million and also the player's desire to join United -- Luka Modric. He may not be a regista exactly as he likes the freedom to roam, but he isn't an attacking midfielder either. Fergie has already publicly lauded the stamina of the Spurs' playmaker and at 26-year-old, he would be the perfect player to rebuild the United midfield around. He's mobile, a decent enough defender, his technical ability is world-class, and maybe outside of Scholes' goalscoring ability, Modric may be the Premier League's best comparison to Scholes over the past decade.Their passing statistics from this season are very similar.

The Busby Babe

KP

AVG P

PS %

C

C %

LB

LB %

TB

Scholes

1.1

64.6

92.8%

0.0

-

9.4

88.3%

0.1

Modric

2.6

70.7

87.5%

1.3

38.1%

7.7

83.6%

0.5

Table 1: KP = key passes/game, AVG P = passes completed/game, PS % = Pass completion %, C = successful crosses/gm, C% = successful crosses %, LB = successful long balls/game, LB % = successful long ball %, TB= successful through balls/game

Now, I doubt we are able to acquire the superb Modric -- he would be the perfect 'Scholes replacement' though -- but a player of that ilk is certainly needed. Although he probably plays about 3-5 yards higher than where Scholes plays now, the tiny Croatian also dictates matches from deep, times his runs well as a late-arriving goal threat, and he's able to spray the long diagonal ball that is a necessary supply for United's wingers. This is the exact sort of player needed. If we can't land Modric, perhaps Fergie could phone up Jose Mourinho and see if the underused, but terrific, Nuri Sahin is available...

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