A look at which of the many midfielders linked with a move to United would best fit the bill at Old Trafford.
Eden Hazard was recently watched by Sir Alex Ferguson during a Ligue 1 match. Reuters

Manchester United is seemingly being linked with every major midfielder in Europe, and while much of it is purely tabloid speculation, there is undoubtedly substance to many of the stories.

After several seasons of failing to invest, boss Sir Alex Ferguson must surely now recognize the need to add to his current midfield options. While bringing Paul Scholes out of retirement has not proved the act of desperation it appeared at the time, the amount that the club is relying on a 37-year-old is troubling.

As has been speculated, Scholes may stick around next year, but he cannot play at a high level for much longer. Indeed, it is arguable that, against the best Scholes is already no longer capable of being a major factor.

The problems with United's midfield have been starkly evident since Barcelona dismantled them in the Champions League Final in Rome in 2009. Yet Ferguson has thus far not gone into the market to enforce this crucial area of the team that was once United's undoubted strength with Keane and Scholes.

When Barcelona took United to the woodshed for the second time in last year's Champions League final, with Giggs and Carrick run roughshod over by Busquets, Xavi and iniesta, it seemed certain that Ferguson would target a midfielder.

But despite a summer of incessant rumors linking Wesley Sneijder with a move to Old Trafford, again the midfield remained untouched.

In truth, though, Sneijder was the never the player that United really needed. The Dutchman is one of the best players in Europe on his day, but his most effective position, as he showed during Inter's Champions-League winning run in 2009, is in the hole behind the striker.

But the No. 10 is a role that it is hard to see Sneijder occupying at Old Trafford given that Wayne Rooney covers much of that same ground.

It is generally considered that in a modern midfield there needs to be two types of players: a passer, or two, and someone to provide energy and screen the back-four.

At the moment, United don't appear to have a top class player in either one of these categories.

Contrary to popular opinion, it could be that United's need is in fact greater for the more defensive type of midfielder. Tom Cleverley, like Michael Carrick, Scholes and Ryan Giggs are all good passers of the ball, though admittedly each with caveats, whereas Darren Fletcher and Anderson are the only established first-team players to offer real energy and bite in the midfield.

With Fletcher's future still unclear and Anderson injury prone and never having fully convinced at Old Trafford, there is a desperate need for a holding midfielder.

Of the players linked, Javi Martinez best fits this bill. The young Spaniard is adept at breaking up attacks, but also has the technical and passing ability to be able to launch offensives of his own.

Like Martinez, Benfica's Axel Witsel can be a firm, sometimes too much so, tackler, but he perhaps is better deployed further up the pitch and is not as disciplined as his Spanish counterpart.

Though he would not solve United's central midfield problems, it is easy to see why Ferguson was recently spotted taking a close look at Lille's much-coveted Eden Hazard.

It is easy to see Hazard occupying a position, as he has done often for Lille, on the left of a front three in the Red Devils' lineup. The thought of Hazard combining with Rooney and perhaps Nani or Valencia on the other side should be an enticing one for the Old Trafford faithful.

Argentinian Nicolas Gaitan would present a similar option to Hazard. The Benfica star has been touted as a United target ever since he helped the Portuguese side to two draws against United in the Champions League group phase earlier in the season.

But given the greater similarity between Ligue 1 and the Premier League, Hazard would be a better bet to make an instant impact at Old Trafford.

Add Javi Martinez and Eden Hazard to the United side next season and it would be a major surprise if they were toiling in the Europa League again come February.