Have a gander at our rolling review of our goalkeepers and defenders, too.
Recent troubles with Morgan Schneiderlin have seen Michael Carrick play three full matches since our last update, with United looking fairly unimpressive in all of them: the penalty shootout defeat to Middlesbrough, and the slender victories over CSKA Moscow and West Brom. In truth, Carrick hasn't been conspicuously bad, but his passing is pedestrian, his defending flimsy and his movement non-existent. Would United really suffer by playing Ander Herrera instead?
Poor, poor Memphis. Outshone and displaced by Jesse Lingard, he's so far failed to live up to expectations. Having said that, he's clearly a massive talent with the right sort of attitude. Those writing him off already are, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, egregious blockheads, and he deserves much more time to become attuned to the demands of English football.
Has filled his usual role as the man Louis van Gaal throws on when the merde hits the Vent-Axia, though without any success. For some strange reason he's tended to play more as a midfielder than as a penalty box pain-in-the-arse, and the result is he's added absolutely nothing when he's appeared. Unless we're going to be slingshotting crosses into the box, it's hard to see how he's any more use than, say, Memphis or Andreas Pereira.
Herrera delivered a man-of-the-match performance as an attacking midfielder in the 3-0 win over Everton -- perhaps United's best performance so far this season -- but first-team football is still a novelty for the Spaniard. He's played only seven minutes in United's last two games, with Wayne Rooney still hogging the No. 10 slot. A sad state of affairs, through no fault of his own.
Revelation of the season is a bit of an exaggeration, but Lingard has certainly been the revelation of the month. Since dislodging Memphis, Lingard has looked pleasingly competent out on the left flank; the highlight coming with his perfect finish to break the deadlock against West Brom last time out. On the ball his contribution is still patchy, but knowing van Gaal's reluctance to change a winning formula, expect to see more of Lingard over the next few games.
Mata holds a slightly odd status in this United side: he invariably plays out of position and is frequently unproductive, yet there is very little dissension from the belief that he should be one of the first names on the teamsheet. For what it's worth, we agree; it's not ideal he's sandwiched out on the right, but his incessant movement and tidy passing makes him the necessary yin to Rooney's clumsy yang. Even though he's not been racking up the assists or notching the goals, he's one of the few players in United's midfield that always looks a nuisance.
He saw action in the win over Wolfsburg at Old Trafford and the defeat to Middlesbrough. Patchy but talented and still a teenager. Give him time.
Don't give him time. He's had plenty enough. Frankly useless, and a very expensive useless.
Schweinsteiger's undoubtedly a component of United's strongest starting lineup, with his ability to link the defence and attack with sharp passing and an industry belying his age proving very valuable. He seems capable of commanding a game with his mere presence, and it's been a long time since we've been able to say that.
Another player who has waltzed into United's strongest team since arriving in the summer, Schneiderlin has been wowing the Old Trafford crowd by his ability to do such things as 'tackle' and 'run'. He's certainly not a spectacular player in the sense that he's not particularly exciting to watch, but he appears to do all the boring things really quite well. He's stopped United's midfield looking about as steely as soggy paper, and for that he deserves plenty of acclaim.
He missed most of October through injury, though has started United's last couple of games as a full-back. He's been about as solid as you'd hope, but the bottom line is that he's not a defender. It's rather alarming that van Gaal's lost sufficient faith in Matteo Darmian to believe Young to be the better option.