If there’s a man who epitomises Manchester United’s fall from grace this season, that’s Michael Carrick. The Geordie midfielder hasn’t performed particularly bad this season – certainly not when compared to some of his teammates – and even though he hasn’t reached the stellar standards he achieved last campaign, he’s had a positive influence on United’s midfield.
Carrick, however, symbolises the catastrophic bad luck United have endured with injuries this season, for having just returned from a six-week absence following surgery on his Achilles tendon, the 32-year-old will now miss up to a month after picking up an ankle injury in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup semifinal against Sunderland.
The injury means Carrick will most certainly miss the trip to Arsenal on February 12 and Olympiakos two weeks later, meaning David Moyes will now have to reshuffle his – ever so poor – cards in the middle of the park, where the United manager can now only count on Ryan Giggs, Phil Jones, Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini – remember him? The mop-haired fella we purchased a few months for an exorbitant price.
With dithering Dave trying to force his way to the table of the Premier League big spenders by splashing out £37m on Juan Mata, Carrick’s injury might force the United manager to spend some more between now and the end of the January transfer window and, hopefully, on a central midfielder.
Having scouted pretty much every single interpreter of the role across Europe, the rumours that want Moyes willing to purchase the sort of player United have desperately needed for years are growing louder and more insistent, with a host of names being tipped to be United’s number one target over the next nine days.
With Yohan Cabaye likely to either remain at St. James’ Park or to ditch the Angel of the North for the Eiffel Tower and Ilkay Gundogan a target for Real Madrid, thus largely out of United’s range, the latest name to emerge in “Moyes’ quest for a central midfielder” lotto is Fredy Guarin.
The Inter Milan midfielder had already been linked to United at the start of the month, before Chelsea looked set to bag the Colombian’s signature, only for him to remain in Milan, where he was then subject of the sort of farce that could only unfold in Serie A.
Inter and Juventus had reached a deal to swap Guarin for Mirko Vucinic, before Inter Milan’s president Erick Tohir pulled the plug on the swap, after Inter’s ultras had threatened to make life rather uncomfortable for all the parties involved.
A central midfielder by trade, Guarin can be deployed further up the pitch or deeper as defensive midfielder and possesses a good range of passing, coupled with an instinct for scoring goals – he has three in 18 Serie A games so far this season – and has easily been one of Inter’s best performers since arriving at the San Siro 18 months ago.
Reports suggest that Inter Milan would be prepared to open talks with United over a possible swap including Javier Hernandez, as the Italian outfit are desperate for a striker, which is what led them to then aborted attempt to swap Guarin with Vucinic, and Chicharito would fit the bill.
The Mexican has often been linked with a move away from Old Trafford this season, mainly due to his limited opportunities earlier in the season, but even after scoring twice in his last two appearances, Hernandez has struggled to reproduce the form he showed last season.
Chicharito has scored just two league goals in 14 appearances this season – although only four of those were starts – and with Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie set to return to the fold he could find himself on the bench again soon and, potentially, be deemed surplus to requirements by Moyes.
The question is – how far is the United manager prepared to go to strengthen his midfield this month?