Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for James Maddison this summer, but the player’s services should no longer be a priority.
Creativity in the middle of the park has been an issue for the club in past seasons, with the team missing that key link between the midfield and attack, to get them rolling inside the final third. Paul Pogba has the qualities to do this, but he isn’t an orthodox playmaker.
United’s need for a natural number ten in between the lines is what led to their concrete interest (via MEN) in Maddison, who has been performing in such a role for Leicester for the past two seasons. He has been an integral aspect in the Foxes’ hunt for Champions League qualification this campaign, developing from a raw, exciting talent, to one of the league’s top performing midfielders.
Despite Maddison’s qualities though, United have simply found their creative answer in the shape of Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese international joined from Sporting Lisbon in January, taking no time at all to settle in.
Fernandes has scored three goals and assisted four in his opening nine games for the club, winning a Premier League Player of the Month award along the way.
Operating in front of the two central midfielders, who tend to sit deep, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has granted Fernandes a free license to drift in-between the lines and dictate his side’s play. Similarly to Maddison, the playmaker enjoys popping up in the small pockets of space in-behind the opposition’s midfield, keeping his team on the front-foot.
His arrival has transformed United’s attacking shape, as he is able to release the likes of Anthony Martial and Daniel James into space. The positions he takes up inside the final third have naturally pushed the Red Devils further up the field, with the whole team feeling the benefits of their new recruit.
On paper, it’s hard to see exactly where Maddison would slot in with Fernandes, as Solskajer prefers to operate with two sitting midfielders. Despite this, the MEN report above notes that the club are still interested in the Leicester playmaker, with the player also being keen.
Further, as per the Sun last month, it has even been suggested that the England international is desperate for a move to Old Trafford.
Ideally, United should be looking for a more central option, who can provide added security to their attacking frontmen. Both Maddison and Fernandes like to occupy the same positions on the field, with both players being experienced in operating as their side’s sole playmaker. They enjoy drifting from flank to flank without much positional discipline, so having two of these same profiles could create an unbalanced feel to the side.
The Red Devils remain keen on Maddison though, so it’s an interesting to follow.