The defensive midfielder, the number four, the midfield position so métier and subtle yet criminally undervalued in present-day football. They link up the defense to the attack, disintegrate the opposition’s play, and give cover when defenders run upfield.
Manchester United have tried and tested many different formations to accommodate the midfielders at its armoury.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has chopped and changed at times but has more often than not gone with his 4-2-3-1 formation, where Scott Mctominay and Fred sit in front of his back four.
The Norwegian has used other formations like the 3-5-2 against Leipzig in the Champions League with Matic and Mctominay protecting a back 3 of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, and Victor Lindelof.
Manchester’s best defensive midfielder from an attacking and defending point of view is Nemanja Matic. The Serbians ability to break the line was the best at the club, according to a stat at The Athletic.
The ability to pass successfully between the lines in the two most important areas of the pitch is the middle third and final third is vital for ball progression and is something that Manchester United need to control games better.
Manchester needs a defensive dictator. Declan Rice will cost north of up to £80m. If Manchester United wants to go elsewhere for a cheaper option
Here are 3 defensive midfielders Manchester United should sign before and when Matic decides to call it a day.
- Teun Koopmeiners – AZ Alkmaar
Some English football fans may not be aware of AZ Alkmaar captain Teun Koopmeiners just yet. Koopmeiners comes from the famed Cheeseheads academy with prospects like fellow Dutch internationals Myron Boadu and Calvin Stengs.
The 22-year-old Dutch midfielder can play in various positions but under manager Pascal Jensen in the 4-3-3 system plays left midfield or right midfield while also sometimes playing center back, most notably in the 1-0 defeat to league leaders Ajax.
Koopmeiners is prominently left-footed and tops every footballing metric at AZ Alkmaar for an outfield player. His ability on the ball and his distribution allow AZ to work their way out of the counter-press. An 86% pass completion rate means the ball is in safe hands when he receives the ball.
Like Nemanja Matic, Koopmeiners is more than capable of playing defense-splitting passes and possesses an array of passes in his locker. His poise on the ball is shown in his ability to dribble out of tight situations, which could come in handy when United plays Southampton or Liverpool.
- Manuel Locatelli – Sassuolo
You’ll be hearing more of Manuel Locatelli very soon. The young Italian midfielder left AC Milan to find greener pastures in the province of Modena.
The Italian has gone from strength to strength at Sassuolo. Under manager Roberto De Zerbi’s 4-2-3-1 formation, Locatelli can dictate play at will a bit like Andrea Pirlo used to do during his time at Juventus and AC Milan.
It may be unfair to label Locatelli as a defensive midfielder, but he does occupy a deep-lying playmaker role in the Sassuolo midfield.
This year in Serie A, Locatelli has attempted 1398 passes completed 1233 of those with a pass completion rate of 88%
The playmaker’s ability to play long balls across the pitch is a quality that few in the world possess, and if a team being pressed can use that weapon to switch the ball to the winger or fullback, it could set up counter attacks nicely.
- Aurélien Tchouaméni – Monaco
Admit it, you looked at that name and said,” Who”? Aurélien Tchouaméni is the latest French footballing conveyor belt that doesn’t seem to know when to stop. The midfielder began his senior career at Bordeaux but w make his way to Monaco after signing a four and a half year deal.
Under former Bayern coach Niko Kovač, Monaco is known as Les Monégasques usually line up in a traditional 4-4-2 with Tchouaméni right center midfielder in a double midfield pivot or a 4-3-3 with Tchouaméni the middle of a 3 man midfield.
READ ALSO: Top 10 African Midfielders Since 2016
Tchouaméni often drops in the space between his center-backs. Tchouaméni is very good at passing forward between opposition players and breaking the first line, a skill that Manchester United need. This season Tchouaméni has a pass completion rate of 82.1% and attempts 2.4 long balls per game.
One of his best qualities is his ability to dribble out from midfield when pressed. His awareness, coupled with his size and speed, gives him the advantage over his opponents.
The midfielder is also excellent at anticipating and reading the game and knowing when the right opportunity is to step out of his position and press the opposition in their own half. He has attempted 0.5 a game this season in Ligue 1
Tchouaméni could be the answer to United’s CDM problem and could be picked up for £16m according to transfermarkt
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big Elsewhere
The English Premier League has welcomed some of the best players in the history of football. Players from different continents have made a huge impact on the league with impressive performances. There are others who failed to impress and can be termed as flops.
The League is quite unique from other European leagues. It is more competitive, fierce, physically challenging in nature. Needless to say, a player who isn’t mentally and physically geared up for this will stumble under the pressure.
Established stars can fall by the wayside with their former successes and triumphs becoming nothing more than a footnote in the EPL. Impressively, some of these players put in impressive performances when they moved to other leagues.
3 Premier League Flops Who Made It Big In Other Leagues
Following the impending sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid, Tottenham bought several players, one of the players they bought was Paulinho.
Paulinho was signed from Corinthians in Brazil where he helped them win the Copa Libertadores, Brasileirao, and the FIFA Club World Cup.
They defeated Chelsea in the latter to lift the trophy. Importantly, he had just won the FIFA Confederations Cup with Brazil and was voted as the third-best player at the tournament.
He joined Tottenham as the club’s record signing in 2013, so a lot was expected of him. However, his performance was not as impressive as the club had envisaged. He was later sold to Guangzhou Evergrande in China at a loss.
The Brazilian’s transfer to the Chinese league resulted in a change of fortunes, as helped the club claim the Chinese league and the AFC Champions League title in his first season.
In the second, he was voted into the Chinese League team of the year in recognition of his performance. Also, he won the league, FA Cup, and Super Cup.
Although critics downplayed his performance, citing the standard of the Chinese league compared to the English league, Paulinho impressed in Spain too following a €40 million move to Barcelona.
Paulinho helped the club claim the league and the Copa del Rey trophy. His performance in his only season with Barcelona impressed Ronaldinho who said: “He really stood out.”
- Iago Aspas
Most Premier League fan remembers Aspas only as a Liverpool flop with the number 9 jersey. Aspas moved from boyhood club Celta Vigo to Liverpool for a deal estimated to be around £7.7 m, with Liverpool hoping to have unearthed a gem. However, that gem turns dregs, failing to score in any of his 14 league appearances.
After just one season, Liverpool decided that they have seen enough so they sent him on a season-long loan to Sevilla with an obligation to buy. In his season-long loan at the club, he was the joint top scorer in the Copa del Rey alongside Neymar with 7 goals and won the UEFA Europa League.
At the end of his season-long loan at Sevilla, the club signed him from Liverpool but sold him to Celta Vigo in the same transfer window. In every of his first 5 seasons at Celta Vigo, he scored in double digits.
In fact, in three of the 5 seasons, he won the Zarra Trophy awarded to the Spanish player with the most league goals in a season. As of December 2020, Aspas had won La Liga player of the month four times.
- Diego Forlan
Perhaps, the most notable and interesting English Premier League flop who became a star in another League. He was not just impressive in another league; he was extraordinary with his National team Uruguay.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Forlan in 2001 following the attacker’s impressive form at Independiente in Argentina. In his first season in England, Forlan made 18 appearances but failed to score a single goal. The two seasons after were not impressive either, hence his transfer to Villarreal.
Impressively, Forlan scored 25 league goals in his first season with Villarreal and won the league’s top scorers award (2004/05). Also, he was awarded the European Golden Shoe award alongside Thierry Henry the same year. He left the club two seasons later for Atletico with 59 goals scored in 128 matches.
In his second season with Atletico Madrid (2008/09), Forlan beat Samuel Eto’o to the Spanish league’s top scorer’s award. He scored 32 league goals in 33 league appearances that season which earned him the Pichichi trophy. Again, he won the European Golden Shoe but this time it was not shared with anyone.
The next season (2009/10), Forlan played a key role as Atletico won the Europa League. He scored six times in the tournament, including two in the 2-1 win over Fulham in the final. He was voted as the man of the match in the final.
With his national team, he was just as impressive; he scored the most goals at the 2010 FIFA World Cup alongside Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder, and David Villa.
Furthermore, he was voted into the FIFA World Cup dream team and won the Golden Ball and goal of the tournament title. By the time he retired, he was Uruguay’s highest goal scorer in history, a record which has since been broken by Luis Suarez.
Forlan eventually became so good that some Football fans think he is the caliber of player that could have won the Ballon d’Or.
There are several reasons why players struggle when they change clubs, especially to other countries. Culture, language, teammates, family are some factors that can affect their performances.
These 3 cases show that a player may fail to perform in one league but go on to become a star in another league.
10 Players With Most Own Goals In Premier League
Own goals are funny accidents that happen in the beautiful game, it’s a situation where a player advertently turns the ball into his own net.
A wrong leg at the wrong time or a miscalculated clearance can be the birth of any defender’s misery. Over the years we’ve seen footballers with their heads in their hands and in utter disbelief at what just happened.
Without a doubt, there is nothing more embarrassing than scoring own goals. When a player unwittingly scores on himself, he would’ve made the match pretty unfortunate for the team and would be left to face the ignominy that follows. Perhaps, he may be wishing that the ground opens and swallow him up,
There have been instances where the most experienced and best of defenders make such errors on numerous occasions.
Here, we will be looking at 10 Premier League players who have scored the most own goals
- Scott Dann – Crystal Palace (5 Own Goals)
The 34-year-old English center back joined the Eagles way back in 2014 and has scored 13 league goals, 2 FA Cup goals, and 1 league cup goal. His own goal tally stands at 5 and could still be increased before he calls time on his career.
Of Dann’s 5 own goals, none has come at Crystal Palace. He scored 3 for Blackburn Rovers, and 2 for Birmingham City.
- Henning Berg – Blackburn Rovers (5 Own Goals)
Formerly a Manchester United defender, Berg played mostly for The Riversiders as a Premier League Player. The Norwegian right back in his days recorded 5 own-goals for the Rovers and has delved into coaching after he retired.
Berg has managed at several club sides namely Blackburn Rovers, Legia Warsaw, Videoton, and Lyn to mention a few. The Premier League winner scored 3 own goals for Blackburn and 2 for Manchester United.
- Frank Sinclair – Chelsea (6 Own Goals)
Sinclair became a popular figure in the Premier League with Chelsea between 1990 and 1998 due to the number of own goals he scored: making him one of the top 10 players with most own-goals in the Premier League.
The former Jamaican international however didn’t play for the Welsh club and Chelsea alone, Sinclair played for a host of other clubs namely Leicester City, West Bromwich Albion, and Huddersfield Town.
Frank Sinclair scored 3 own goals for Leicester and 3 for Chelsea, a noteworthy player who gives both clubs a fair share of his error side.
- Ryan Shawcross – Stoke City (6 Own Goals)
History will remember Shawcross as one of the resolute and tough defenders in the Premier League. Shawcross, 33, started his career with Manchester United but couldn’t break into Alex Fergusson’s first team.
Having spent a couple of months on loan at Royal Antwerp in Belgium, Shawcross landed at Stoke City as a loanee yet again. His impressive performance propelled Stoke City’s promotion to the Premier League, ending a 23 years wait, and subsequently became the club captain.
Despite been a tough defender, the Englishman scored 6 own goals for The Potters.
- Phil Jagielka – Everton (6 Own Goals)
Jagielka dedicated his time and life playing professional football for two clubs (Sheffield United and Everton) – a thing that is very rare these days.
He’s one of the five players that have scored six Premier league own-goals, doing so in 5 times with The Toffees and once with Sheffield.
The Sheffield and Everton legend holds an incredible record. Jagielka has a few thunderous 30-yard screamers under his belt, as well as amassing an impressive 40 international caps.
- Johnny Evans – Leicester (6 Own Goals)
Evans is another former Manchester United player on our list. The Irish defender was at Old Trafford for fifteen years and played Premier League football for more than two decades.
Now 33, Evans scored in his own net six times, with 3 of them coming at Manchester United, 1 at West Bromwich Albion, and 1 at Leicester City.
- Wes Brown – Blackburn Rovers (6 Own Goals)
Like Evans, Brown played for long years in the Premier League. He had stints with Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United, and Sunderland. He was a defender to be reckoned with especially in the early 2000s.
Wes Brown scored 3 premier league own goals at United and 3 with Sunderland. But his own goal record would easily be mitigated by the fact that he won 5 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 2 UEFA Champions League titles at Old Trafford.
Basically, he won all that was there to win with The Red Devils before he left for Sunderland in 2011.
- Martin Škrtel – Liverpool (7 Own Goals)
Also with 7 own goals is another Liverpool legend, Martin Škrtel. Matching his former center-back partner, Jamie Carragher.
Carragher averaged an own goal once in every 72.6 games while Škrtel averaged an own goal once in every 34.6 games.
However, Škrtel currently holds the ignominious record for the highest total of own goals scored by a single player in a Premier League season with 4 own goals (in the 2013-14 campaign where Liverpool finished behind champions Manchester City).
After a 9 years campaign with The Reds scoring 16 goals and recording 79 clean sheets, Škrtel now plies his trade with Turkish giants, Istanbul Başakşehir.
- Jamie Carragher – Liverpool (7 Own Goals)
One club man in every sense, Carragher made more than 500 appearances for The Kop where he won everything but a League title and scored 3 times in the right net and 7 in the wrong one. (netting 2 of his 7 own goals against bitter rivals, Manchester United in 1999)
Despite that, Carra is a trademark of loyalty for The Reds because he currently holds the second spot for the second-highest appearances for Liverpool in all competitions (737).
These days, Jamie Carragher sits on SkySports as a pundit having played in the Premier League for more than 17 years.
- Richard Dunne – Manchester City (10 Own Goals)
When you think of the greatest goalscorers in the Premier League, you think of Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Sergio Aguero, Harry Kane, and Didier Drogba. But the real MVP is Richard Dunne, who on his bad days feels the passion to sink the ball into his own net.
The former Irish international is the highest own goal scorer and the only player to hit double figures of own goals in the Premier League. Dunne scored 6 own goals for the Cityzens, 3 for Newcastle, and 1 for Queens Park Rangers.
In his sojourn in the Premier league, Dunne scored 11 goals in over 430 matches and kept 107 clean sheets.
Did you know? Dunne also holds the record of the most sending-offs in the Premier League alongside Arsenal legend, Patrick Vieira and Duncan Ferguson.
- Michael Duberry – Oxford United: 5
Lewis Dunk- Brighton and Hove Albion: 5
Rio Ferdinand- England: 5
Federico Fernández- Newcastle United: 5
Zat Knight-Reading: 5
Gareth McAuley-Rangers: 5
Phil Neville- Everton: 5
John O’Shea-Reading: 5
Neil Ruddock: 5
Richard Rufus: 5