Molby: RVP a coup, but United need a midfielder

Liverpool legend Jan Molby says Robin van Persie is a great signing for Manchester United, but they won't win the title unless they sign a top-class midfielder.


The signing of Robin van Persie is obviously a huge coup for Manchester United, and gives them renewed hope of taking back the Premier League title from Manchester City, but it doesn't address one of the fundamental weaknesses of Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

The player United actually needed to sign was an out-and-out midfielder, not another forward. I am really surprised that they haven't decided to do anything about that area and I think if they don't before the transfer window closes then it will cost them this season.

Ferguson needed to recruit a player like Bastian Schweinsteiger or Javi Martinez, who is on the verge of joining the Germany international at Bayern Munich in a 40 million euro deal from Athletic Bilbao. Those two look like players who are made for Manchester United. Instead they have overloaded in the No. 10 role.

United might outscore City, particularly with Van Persie on board now, but I just think City's strength in the middle - personified by Yaya Toure, who has now become the main man of the Premier League - gives the reigning champions an advantage and it will eventually see them retain the title. It is pretty amazing that United have shown so little urgency in signing a new midfielder.

In certain away games, including visits to places like Everton who they play on Monday night, they will get dominated in midfield, which is not what you expect from a club of United's calibre. It has never really been the case in their recent history: United have had players like Bryan Robson and Roy Keane, who take control of a game; all-action midfielders, not deep-lying playmakers or No. 10s.

As things stand, there is a danger they will be heavily over-reliant on Tom Cleverley. As much as he has shown he is a real talent, it would be his first full season for a club like United, which is a big ask. Furthermore, you can't rely on Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs across a whole season anymore. Anything they give you is a bonus. Scholes will be able to dominate some games next season but there will be some occasions where he may not be up to the task.

It is a shame Darren Fletcher is ill but of their other options, Anderson isn't quite top drawer and while Michael Carrick is a great player, he performs a very specific role. Carrick doesn't win you games at Anfield or Stamford Bridge.

Still, we shouldn't be too negative. United's capture of Van Persie is a huge deal for the club. It was probably the one transfer we thought couldn't happen this summer: Arsenal don't sell to Manchester United. But it was the wish of the player to go to Old Trafford and in the end Arsenal had to give in.

Getting £24 million was good business for Arsenal and there is no doubt that Manchester United paid over the odds, especially when you consider Van Persie's injury record and the fact that he had only one year remaining on his contract. But whatever the price, they have signed an excellent player. While I think City are still favourites to win the title, what the signing of Van Persie does do is put United back in the race. Without the Dutchman, United may have finished six or so points behind their rivals. Now it is game on.

It remains to be seen how Van Persie will fit into the United team though. We always say that great players will find a way to play together but Van Persie is not an old fashioned No. 9 - he likes to find the space like Rooney, drop deep and get involved. That could be a problem and they will end up in each other's space from time to time and they will have to work it out between themselves.

They have also signed Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund this summer who also likes to play off the front man or in a free role, creating and scoring goals. United have more than enough players for that role behind the striker and the trick is accommodating them all now.

What is certain is that with Van Persie set to join Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in United's ranks, I think it is right that comparisons are being made with the treble-winning attack that boasted Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham. The first thing you always think of when you think about Manchester United is the options they have available in their squad.

Ferguson can look down his bench and see three, four or five top goalscorers and that is a great thing to have. But I maintain that it is actually great midfields that win you titles, and in that respect United still lag behind City.

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