For years, United forgot to buy midfielders. Then Alex Ferguson left and new managers realised they'd been dealt a duff hand in this area, and so the spending started. Marouane Fellaini turned up, and eventually found a purpose. The same happened with Juan Mata, and then Ander Herrera and Daley Blind. This summer, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have been added to provide depth and quality. We take a look at the prospects for United's various midfielders.
If he is fit for the season, or if he can be managed in such a way as to appear in United's most important 40 games of the season, then United stand a chance. He's made about 25-30 league appearances in the Bundesliga, per season, in the last four years, and had a relatively lengthy injury upon his return from the World Cup last season. He did, though, recover to feature for the second half of the season, and he appears confident that he is over those problems. Given United have depth in this area, there should not be too many times when he is forced into action when he's not 100%. It's worth remembering he had a storming World Cup, and could well be one of the best midfielders in the world - he's only 31. This is Manchester United's best signing of the window, and possibly the best player in the squad.
The other central midfield addition, he plays in a similar position to Schweinsteiger, but with a different approach. While Schweinsteiger is coming towards the end of his career and is affected by injury, Schneiderlin still has most of his yards to run, and appears in good health. He can clatter players, he can run and he can pass over short and long distances. If he can make the leap from standing out at Southampton to standing out at Manchester United - at 25, he has enough potential left for this to be possible, if not certain - then United will take the pressure off Schweinsteiger and Michael Carrick.
The best midfielder of the 2014/15 season. He was relatively fit. He worked out how to fit into the side, and so did Louis van Gaal. On the right of a three, teaming up with Antonio Valencia and Juan Mata, he made the right wing work after months of toiling. It wasn't perfect, but his industry and attacking intent should be elevated to a far higher level with Matteo Darmian and Pedro in the place of his previous teammates. He will want to provide more assists and goals this year, having finally established himself in the side.
Moves to Paris Saint-Germain, Newcastle and Inter Milan show two things: one, that with a move to Newcastle feasible, that he is planning for the end of his career. And two, PSG and Inter know that he is a player of quality and experience, who can still be part of a squad in a top side. United are, apparently, also planning for his exit, and Van Gaal has hinted that talks have taken place with Carrick to let him know that he won't be central to the team anymore, at least in every game.
Carrick has been unfortunate in many respects - for too long he was the only midfielder of merit, and he is also to blame for some of his troubles - you should not be as old as he is and as regularly shown up for defensive naivety as he is. Regardless, he offers a handy defensive shield for much of a match, and is excellent at releasing players ahead of him during a counterattack. In a better side, which is what United should be now, he has much to offer to the side, and his presence will be vital should United have to spread the workload of a European campaign.
Fellaini showed that he has determination and presence, and that he is capable of making timely interventions. His goals and disruption in attack for United came in vital games at vital moments. However, he did show that when it came to the things you want from a central midfielder - technique, pace, nous and reliable passing - he was still as lacking as when he joined. He appears to have the right attitude to be worth a place in the squad, and will have his uses over the course of a season, but it should be hope that those uses are much rarer than in 2014/15.
Remember John O'Shea? He's back, but handsome. He enjoyed his best games at left-back last season, teaming up effectively with Fellaini and Ashley Young to provide width and crosses, and despite his relative lack of pace, was rarely embarrassed defensively. His appearances in midfield came rarely, and were nothing special. It appears he will start this season in central defence alongside Chris Smalling, with his versatility and left foot getting him a place in the side until Marcos Rojo gets back to fitness after a passport nonsense and the Copa America. He's never going to get much better than this, and appears happy to play where and when necessary. Presumably he'll be here for a while, doing that job until someone decides another player could do it better.
Young, exciting and quick. He'll play more on the wings or when games are won, you'd imagine.