Frequent watchers of Manchester United this season will know only too well that one of their most fundamental weaknesses is lack of creativity in the midfield.
When on the attack, their front three of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James are as menacing as any other in the whole of Europe let alone the Premier League. United have also looked resolute defensively on occasions.
But it’s in the midfield areas that Solskjaer’s side lack the necessary quality, considering Paul Pogba has been on the treatment table for most of the season and with McTominay also joining him, United’s need for options in midfield have never been greater.
Without Pogba, United look bereft of ideas and lack any sort of inventiveness when trying to break down deep defensive blocks. It’s no wonder why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is heavily interested in the services of Leicester City’s James Maddison. A January move for the player is highly unlikely but United are reportedly looking to make their move come the end of the season.
The former Norwich man ticks all the boxes for United’s scouting team in terms of his age, his footballing DNA, and the fact that he is a young British player, and a goalscoring midfielder who can effortlessly create opportunities for others around him. Statistically, Maddison is the fifth most inventive player in the Premier League so far this season.
He finished the last campaign as the top creator with 100, more than ex-Chelsea man Eden Hazard. It’s no secret of Manchester United’s desire to sign the midfielder who already has six goals and three assists so far this campaign. United’s supposed creative influences in Pereira, Lingard and Juan Mata combined haven’t come close to matching James Maddison’s numbers.
What has been evidently clear of James Maddison under Brendan Rodgers since his appointment in February, is his influence in much of Leicester’s attacking play. A conductor and an orchestrator in such a well-rounded and finely balanced team. Whether playing in the most advanced position of a midfield three, or as a more deep-lying playmaker, or tucked in off the left-wing or in his more natural role directly behind Jamie Vardy, he is the man to set and maintain the tempo of their attacking moves.
Since the start of last season, Maddison has provided four assists for Jamie Vardy in the league and you can imagine the kind of relationship he could build with the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who could profit handsomely from having a player of Maddison’s intelligence and craft behind them.
Rather than scouting for midfield talents elsewhere around Europe who will need ample time to bed in and settle in a new league, Maddison could instantly be added to United’s starting XI and majorly impact their style of play, like Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have swiftly achieved so far.
However, with Leicester sitting admirably in second place in the Premier League table and United languishing in fifth, there is a case for Maddison to reject United’s advances and become the bedrock of what Brendan Rodgers is trying to achieve at the King Power. There is a clear personality, direction and ethos under the former Celtic coach, something United are lacking at this current point in time.
Additionally, Maddison will – if Leicester keep up their good form in the second half of the season – have the luxury of playing in the Champions League for the first time. Every young footballer dreams of playing against some of the best footballers in Europe and the Champions League will provide Maddison with the opportunity to mix it with the best.
Manchester United are part of the chasing pack and there is no guarantee of European football next season, so why would Maddison sacrifice his continued development at a stable and progressive club to join a club still trying to identify their philosophy.
However, Maddison could be the key to United unlocking their potential. The midfielder will certainly become a central figure for Solskjaer if he is to move on. The lure of playing under the Old Trafford lights is tempting for any young English footballer, especially for someone as ambitious and self-confident as James Maddison, but the lure of Champions League football will be difficult to turn down too.
James Maddison would need to weigh up his options with much caution, and avoid getting distracted for the remainder of the season with the European Championships taking place in June, and Leicester’s place in the top four still not guaranteed yet.
A place in Southgate’s squad is up for grabs when the announcement will be made in May, and Maddison can ill-afford to become wrapped up in a decision which could shape his long-term future. His immediate future with Leicester City and England should be his main priority.