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Manchester United mythbusting

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Manchester United have a big summer ahead of them, but they'll need to evaluate their current squad first. In order to do that, it's time to demolish some of the myths concerning this team.

Alex Livesey

The suggestions that this is United's greatest ever squad are absurd - instead, it might be interesting to see the results of a poll which asks whether or not this is United's weakest ever opposition. The problem with that, of course, is that if it were true, it would only be so over the course of the season. Manchester City and Chelsea have been an utter shambles over the year, but it would be absurd not to imagine at least one of them putting together a solid campaign next time out.

More from our team blogs: Manchester United blog The Busby Babe

The result of this means that United will likely have to improve in order to clinch the title on goal difference, let alone preserve the ridiculous margin by which they were victorious this year. In order to do that, they'll have to undergo a serious evaluation of their current status - and sadly, that seems to be clouded by a variety of myths which obscure the true nature of this United side. Step right up, it's time for some United mythbusting...

Wayne Rooney is the answer to United's midfield problems.

Nay, nay, and thrice nay. Against Aston Villa, perhaps. But Rooney's problem has never been that he is simply not good enough - instead it's a bundle of application, consistency, fitness and awareness where he lets himself down, all of which are required in central midfield. During his increasingly-lengthy spells of poor form, Rooney is a terrible waster of United attacks, highly skilled at finding anything but a red shirt with his over-ambitious passes, and either unfit or unwilling. The notion that a club of United's stature should be turning to a striker who is increasingly a burden to fill the most vital space on the pitch is, in short, utter nonsense.

Nani is Manchester United's most effective winger

In the same way that certain defenders, who shall remain unnamed, can often have a poor display at the back overlooked by virtue of scoring the odd header from a set-piece, so certain midfielders have had their flaws concealed by pumping the occasional 30-yarder into the bottom corner, or producing a decent hollywood ball once every four or five games. Usually, this is the status enjoyed by certain English players, but it also seems to fit for Nani.

Every time Nani has a good game, there seem to be renewed calls for him to be installed as first choice. For some reason, everybody forgets the astonishing incompetence he is capable of, seeming to combine his periods of being in the grip of an insane egotism and terrible form - when he's having a shocker of a game where he's incapable of hitting a barn door, it seems to also be the period where he elects to shoot every time he receives the ball. For a team that rely on patient football like United, who don't have the midfield to waste opportunities, it's a completely incompatible style of play. Combined with the likely booty from a summer sale, it's going to be the right decision to cut their losses here.

Michael Carrick is Manchester United's most important player

This is true and yet it is not true. Opinion on Michael Carrick has long been divided on whether he is England's Pirlo, an underappreciated master of passing and interceptions and a vital cog in United's machine, or whether he is a useless, craven waster guilty of futile passing and hiding in big encounters. Neither of these are really true - he's a solid, serviceable midfielder. And that's his problem.

If Carrick was so great, United would not be outmatched and outclassed in midfield again and again. That's obvious. Is he a decent player? Of course. Is he of the level a club with designs on the Champions League trophy should have as their best midfielder? Not a chance. It's been opined that Carrick deserves the player of the year award because he's more important to United than Robin van Persie is - but that owes far more to the fact that United have three very good alternatives up front and none in midfield than their respective abilities. After all, if United sold every goalkeeper in the squad and signed Roy Carroll, he'd be their most important player - but it doesn't make him Gigi Buffon.

United are just a midfielder away from completing the puzzle

Finally, it should be worth noting the scale of the rebuilding job United will probably require. Signing an excellent central midfielder would be the best way to improve their current team, but they will still be left with ineffective wingers, a strikeforce that can't be fitted into the same eleven, and a dodgy left-back. In addition, such a player would likely soon make himself so vital to the team that an injury would be disastrous.

It's true that the likes of Shinji Kagawa have suffered due to the painfully slow pace at which United's non-midfield ensures they must play the game, but wingers have in recent years been the way in which Alex Ferguson has gotten around that - the best example being Antonio Valencia's superb debut season, relying on the ability of wingers to beat a man and quality of crossing to break down even a defence that had been permitted to pack themselves in their own area. Last season, United's three wingers were all risible - Wilfried Zaha may improve things in that respect, but he's still extremely raw.

Combined with Patrice Evra's continued decline as a defensive player, and the increasingly few games that Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand are expected to play, United need much more than a solid midfielder. They've done remarkably well to lead such a flawed team to such heights - but it's a problem of their own making.

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