Paddy Power

Joey Barton: How will Manchester United ever replace Paul Scholes? (Not with Fellaini anyway)

The QPR midfielder goes through the Manchester United team and asks why they've got it so wrong this season...

by Joey Barton | January 16, 2014

Alex Ferguson has long been a master manipulator. I almost get the feeling he wants David Moyes not to do so well at Manchester United so he can come back and save the day. That wouldn’t surprise me, hence the reason he’s everywhere. When you’ve had that many years of power and control it’s difficult to let go. He threatened to retire for about 10 years before he actually finished up.

Moyes walked into a tough situation. Fergie was smart enough to think, ‘somehow I’ve won the league against all these teams with all this money, I’m not going to be able to do it again. This is my time to bow out at the top’. He left Moyes an incredibly difficult task. Not only Moyes, but executive vice-chairman Edward Woodward who seems to be handling the business side of transfers. First year as the main man.

HARD TO FERG-ET: The former United boss hasn't exactly been keeping a low profile since retiring. (pic:Inpho)

HARD TO FERG-ET: The former United boss hasn’t exactly been keeping a low profile since retiring. (pic: Inpho)

Their first attempt at improving the squad, last summer, was a nightmare. You never see Manchester United conduct business in such a shambolic manner. They were thrown in at the deep end and they didn’t manage to swim. They’ll be better this window for it but the title’s gone because of that.

You’ve got to at least let Moyes buy his own players and put his stamp on the team. If given time, Moyes is a good enough manager and will turn it round. And if he manages even a fraction of Fergie’s success, he won’t have done too badly.

Fell into the panic trap

Maroune Fellaini was a panic buy. He’s playing out of position, first and foremost. He isn’t a centre midfielder. He’s not a Michael Carrick who controls the game beautifully and dictates the tempo. He’s not a Claude Makelele-style player who can break up play. What Fellaini’s good at is he gets in the box and makes himself a handful and he’s got good link-up play. He’s probably better with his back to goal than facing the goal. If anyone knows that, it’s David Moyes.

Any of the games I played in against Fellaini and any of the games I’ve seen him in if he played centre mid and went up against you toe to toe you were quite happy because it took away what he was really good at, which was winning headers and disrupting defenders with his aerial presence.


Midfield has been United’s problem. When you don’t control midfield, it shows up in the ‘goals against’ column. I can’t picture Tom Cleverley as an effective centre midfielder. He’s a good player, but I don’t think he’s a centre midfielder. I could see him ending up as a left or right midfielder, coming inside and linking play up because he’s got a good eye for a pass.

The only actual centre midfielder they’ve got is Carrick. Ryan Giggs is a winger who’s now 70 years of age and has to play in central midfield. He’s actually clever enough and plays well in there, but United need other options. Phil Jones has played in there, but is Jones a central midfielder? He’s versatile across the defence, but you wouldn’t bank on him as a centre mid for a league winning team for anything more than a stop-gap solution in case of injury. Anderson? Well, he’s out of there now but he did nothing at the club.

Middle dearth

Shinji Kagawa is a great player but he’s playing out of position and he’s not playing every week. He can’t find his flow and he can’t find his confidence.  He was bought to replace Scholes but he was never, ever going to be a Scholes really. How do you replace Paul Scholes?

It’s all a bit ‘square pegs in round holes’ but when you’re Manchester United it doesn’t need to be that way. There’s plenty of players who would be perfect square pegs in square holes. If you’re looking for a Scholes type player, why not go after Ilkay Gundogan at Dortmund? He’s not Scholes but he’s as near as you’re going to get to him, as I wrote pre-season on this blog.

THE REUS STUFF?: He's good but not what United need (pic:Inpho)

THE REUS STUFF? He’s good but not what Manchester United need (pic:Inpho)

Koke won’t solve your problems

There are rumours of Koke from Atletico Madrid who is a very, very talented young player but he’s a Spaniard. He’s not really a tackling Spaniard either. Xabi Alonso did well here because his style was more English than Spanish. Cesc Fabregas was coached here. Fabregas came through the Arsenal ranks, Wenger moulded him. Koke is a top young player but is he what United need? I don’t think it is. They need a more combative version of Carrick – like City have with Fernandinho and Yaya Toure. Getting Marco Reus would be mouth-watering, but is it really addressing the main issue? I’m not convinced.

The defeat to Swansea was the latest bump in the road for Moyes, but he can turn it around – starting with a decent transfer window and improved performances. I’m not even saying better results, just better performances. Realistic fans will know major silverware is beyond the team this season, but that will be acceptable as long it looks like there’s progress being made and the manager’s ideas are taking root. It starts with getting the right personnel in. He says there won’t be much spending done, but I don’t believe that for a second. This is a big January for Moyes at Manchester United. The big question is, will it be his first and last?

Who do you think David Moyes should sign to get Manchester United back on track?

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Your comments and views


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  1. Irwin Boris Cowmilker said on January 16, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

    What about Barkley? Would he work?

  2. Anthony said on January 16, 2014 @ 1:26 pm

    Good article – although Darren Fletcher is back now and looked good alongside Carrick against Swansea on Saturday!

  3. Paul Mallon said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:00 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Anthony. Is Fletcher really the answer though – compared to other midfields?

  4. Paul Mallon said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:01 pm

    I know Mr Barton definitely has a lot of time for Ross Barkley – he’s doing a piece on England’s World Cup chances soon which features his thoughts on the young Everton star.

  5. felix said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

    Great piece…problem is,united is unattractive to players at the moment because it seems like a sinking ship,maybe they go for players in the epl eg,lallana?

  6. Cormac said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:43 pm


  7. Niall said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:45 pm

    Can’t say Fletcher isn’t the answer yet, he has always been playing in Scholes shadow in the midfield. He now has a chance to be playing regularly in a midfield lacking class on the ball. He doesn’t offer tonnes in attack, but possession wise him and Carrick with Rooney in front will be a hard trio to break down.

  8. PGR said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

    Why would Barkley go to United? Moyes have him no game time last season. He suits Martinez’ style of play and is flourishing. Playing for Moyes would not be a good choice football wise although obviously there would be financial benefits

  9. Anonymous said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:52 pm

    Yes we need someone like Gundogan also no matter how good they are we can’t hide the fact that Rio and Vidic are aging so defense could be improved, unless Jones gets a run of games at his best position. I think Reus would be a good buy as Young and Valencia aren’t consistent enough.

  10. The Anti-Joey said on January 16, 2014 @ 4:59 pm

    How is Alonso more english style than Koke is? I don’t even know what you mean by english other than the classic big-sam style play stereotype, so i’m guessing you mean tough tackling and puts in a lot of work. Koke is very much a hard worker, really versatile and special in attack. Atletico don’t play the way we associate with the Spanish. He would be a great fit in the premier league. I don’t think he would quite be the saviour of Utd but it isn’t as if he is a luxury player who drifts in and out of games. The rest I fully agree with. Good article.

  11. Parker said on January 16, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

    Fletcher is exactly the player we needed at this point in time. I’m actually astonished at how well he’s played, it’s like he’s never been gone.

    In the long term, I think Cleverley still has potential to be a good player for us, as he can link up play in the midfield well. Nick Powell also looks promising. What we really need is a high-quality defensive mid, not necessarily a destroyer like Makelele, but someone like Martinez or Busquets. Right now, I can’t really think of one that’s available.

    Also, Kagawa was never bought as a replacement for Scholes, that’s absurd. He was initially bought to play behind Rooney, but then Van Persie became available, so we had to fit him in somewhere.

  12. Anonymous said on January 16, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

    Good read..
    Definitely agree with you, United are rebuilding & in my opinion David Moyes ‘is’ the right man for the job providing he’s given the time.
    Some would argue that we don’t have time but one things for sure, the club needs to be fully behind Moyes and give him the funds as and when needed to build us back up.

  13. Del said on January 16, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

    Why not get Ravel back!!

  14. Frank said on January 16, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

    Why do people always overlook Yohan Cabaye. he’s exactly what we need and we’re never even linked with him. MADNESS!

  15. kickatinalong said on January 16, 2014 @ 6:58 pm

    Im available and better than Fellaini. I have to play with my labrador though and are white sticks allowed on the pitch?

  16. Brian said on January 16, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

    Good piece. Concerns are no champions league will seriously have an impact on what players will want to go to ManUtd. Also the management style & tactics of Moyes will be an issue.

  17. cal said on January 17, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

    Why do Utd not go for mata he’s not getting a game at chelsea and would add the flair utd need in midfield.

  18. Tony said on January 20, 2014 @ 6:25 am

    Good article. United are suffering from chonic lack of investment since around ’08. Due to this they are carrying way too many players. Would Smaling, Jones, Rafael, Evra, Giggs, Valencia, Nani, Giggs Young or Welbeck get near the starting XI at City or Chelsea? They have 6 players who are currently good enough to be regular starters at United in my opinion – De Gea, Evans, Carrick, Janusaj, RVP n Rooney. U can get away with carrying 1 or 2 players but not 5! Winning the league last yr was a fluke. They were carried by RVP n thr main rivals were a shambles. It masked a lot of their problems.

  19. tommy said on January 22, 2014 @ 12:03 am

    Vidal or matuidi. Great on both ends.

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