With 2021 coming to an end and January upon us it only means one thing. The January transfer window is here and clubs are ready to spend money to salvage their season or bring in players to sustain their success. United fall into the first category as reinforcements are certainly needed to achieve something this season and those reinforcements are needed in the middle of the park.
Two players in the midfield that we have been linked with are Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig and Boubacar Kamara of Marseille. The two are different styles of players yet both are needed at the club. While it would be ideal for United to get both in because the club needs lots of new midfielders it is unrealistic to get more than one in January. Since only one can realistically join I will discuss who should be higher on the priority list and why.
An important part of being a midfielder is how you do in possession especially at Manchester United as they control most of the ball in the majority of their games. Haidara takes the edge in possession stats as he is better on the ball and progresses the ball better as he is a more offensive-minded midfielder. As seen in the chart below Haidara ranks in high percentiles among midfielders when it comes to progressive carries and passes. Also ranks high in touches of the ball which is great as it shows he does not hide in possession and wants the ball.
Based on his pass completion he does like to take risks with the ball but does create lots of chances for a box-to-box midfielder. Kamara on the other hand is more of a defensive-minded midfielder so he does not progress the ball as much and keeps his passing safe. As seen in the chart for Kamara below in the article he ranks 91st percentile in terms of pass completion. Shows he is very accurate with his passes. He lets his partner in midfield handle the ball progression duties which would benefit him at united as his partner would be Paul Pogba who is one of the best ball progressing midfielders in the world.
While the stats favor Haidara in terms of what United needs for right now, Kamara might be needed for possession as United has box-to-box midfielders in possession but lack a more disciplined 6 in possession.
Another important trait for midfielders is how they defend off the ball and if they can win the ball back well to give to the more creative players on the team. In these metrics, Kamara beats Haidara as Kamara is a much better ball winner than Haidara. In the chart below Kamara is in a high percentile when it comes to tackles made while Haidara is in a lower percentile as he is in the 52nd percentile while Kamara is in the 82nd. For interceptions, they are both in the 30s percentile which is not the best especially when compared to Fred who is in the 82nd percentile according to fbref.
In the chart above you see how Kamara is elite at winning the ball back and keeping it right away and that is important when defending. Having great ball retention limits the amount of defending which is a plus. Haidara does edge Kamara in terms of pressures as he ranks in the 61st percentile as opposed to Kamara who is in the 30th percentile. Since United seems to want a pressing style Haidara is a better fit in that aspect. Still, Kamara offers more of a defending presence as he is an elite ball winner and United needs that and he can shield a defense better which United massively needs as they have conceded a huge amount of chances.
In terms of fit Kamara is a better fit for Manchester United as he is more of a traditional defensive midfielder than Haidara. Based on the metrics Haidara is a box to box which United already has a lot of as opposed to a traditional 6 which Kamara fits the mold of. One advantage Haidara is that he likes to occupy the right-hand side in the midfield which is a huge issue at United currently as Scott Mctominay occupies that role and Haidara is an upgrade. Kamara offers versatility as a center-halve as well which is good due to the number of injury-prone center-halves United has.
With Nemanja Matic being the only true defensive midfielder at the club Kamara is the better fit and need. He is more agile than Matic due to being a decade younger and his defensive solidity allows Utd to let their midfielders more freely in attack in Pogba, Fred, and hopefully Hannibal Mejbri.
Kamara also allows United to play more formations as United can play a 433 with Kamara sitting and allowing him to be used as an auxiliary center -halve in possession and allow more players to push forward. With Haidara, Rangnick will have to give him more defensive duties than he might be able to handle which could see him struggle more than Kamara possibly will. We have also seen Ligue 1 midfielders transition and adjust better than Bundesliga midfielders in the Premier League.