It has often felt like Manchester United never truly replaced many of the iconic players of the late 2000s and early 2010s.
Among them was Paul Scholes, who retired (permanently) in 2013, the same year as Sir Alex Ferguson.
United have not won a Premier League title since. And with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and doubts remaining over Paul Pogba’s future, it’s fair to say that most fans recognise the need for another top-quality midfielder.
Few seem to fit the bill better than Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Ruben Neves. The Portuguese, since arriving at Molineux from Porto in 2017, has established a reputation as an exceptional passer and a real threat shooting from distance.
Scholes, late in his career, dropped into a deeper role, and that is largely the position Neves takes up for Wolves. As a result, his statistics are not always remarkable: he has scored two goals and provided one assist in 29 Premier League appearances this season.
But the 23-year-old’s real strength is his range of passing: whether it is a piercing through-ball or a long, expertly-placed pass over the top of the opposition defence, Neves rarely misses.
Like Scholes, he is capable of playing a diagonal ball across the width of the pitch with unerring accuracy. And, like Scholes, he is a menace for the opposition when he ventures forward.
Since the start of last season, according to WhoScored, Neves has scored seven goals from outside the box. Several of them have been spectacular. And he has only managed five touches in the opposition box during the same period of time.
That is an indication of Neves’ style of play. He is not a box-to-box midfielder, not the type to burst into the box and get the finishing touch on a move. He is often the man to start off the move, the facilitator for his side’s more attack-minded players.
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