The general consensus appears to be that Manchester United is a creative midfielder away from the perfect transfer window quartet, according to the British media at least. All and sundry were expecting changes this summer and it appears that Sir Alex Ferguson has concurred with their view. The Manchester outfit have acquired three fresh faces so far this window whilst some old stagers have exited stage left, guest writer Nathan Thomas assess the current state of the side as the start of new season draws ever closer.
Without doubt summer 2011 began the start of what according to the recently retired Paul Scholes will be Sir Alex Ferguson’s biggest challenge, that of deposing Barcelona. Old Trafford has witnessed changes this summer seldom seen at a club that prides itself on stability and familiarity. Along with Scholes great servants in Gary Neville and Edwin van der Sar have finished silver laden careers and on the other side of the coin injury ravaged Owen Hargreaves has been released. Four big name departures but there’s more, Wes Brown has completed his move to Sunderland and is likely to be followed by John O’Shea and Darron Gibson meanwhile goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak is looking ever the more likely to be following the aforementioned players through the Old Trafford exit door. Dimitar Berbatov, Nani and Ji-Sung Park have all been mooted as possible withdrawals from the squad however one thinks that these players have been used merely to fill tabloid sport gossip and in my humble opinion, for what it is worth, I see those three players as still vital members of the squad.
So discounting the latter three it is very possible that by the curtain raiser to the season (the Community Shield vs Manchester City on the seventh of August) United may well have said goodbye to eight of the players who helped secure a record breaking nineteenth title. Surely though this was to be expected, the squad had just enough left in it to see it over the line at the end of the season. Possibly sentimentally came into it in that Ferguson chose to keep that set of players together when all called for change, perhaps he wanted to see them left that title and then set about changes, however with a manager like Sir Alex I sincerely doubt sentiment was even a passing after thought. Ferguson claimed in August 2010 that his then current squad was good enough to challenge for honours at home and abroad and in that rather specific statement he was proved right as United just missed out on a fourth European Cup along with winning the title. Since 2006 more or less the same Man United side has won four Premier League’s, one European Cup, one Club World Cup and three Carling Cups. The success that that particular side had started with the fruition of Rooney and Ronaldo and was helped along by the Indian summers of Scholes, Giggs and Neville. With Ronaldo, Scholes and Neville gone and Giggs likely to follow suite within the next season or two Rooney has been transformed from wonder kid with bags of potential to the main man whom Ferguson hopes will lead United to a few more years of domination before the wily Scot finishes his astonishing career. Herein lies why Ferguson has begun to implement so many changes, he recognised that last season’s team had run its course but let us not be churlish it was some course but Ferguson has never been one to let the grass grow especially with arguably the finest club side ever being at the summit of the mountain that Ferguson and United must now attempt to climb.
United’s signings so far this summer have been astute in many ways, two promising English talents in Phil Jones and Ashley Young have been brought in at fairly hefty sums in order to stock pile before UEFA regulations come in to play next season. Added to that the highly talented young Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea has arrived to take the number one shirt, it is clear what Ferguson is planning. If the Scot simply wanted to go out next season and beat Barcelona and have done he would have opted for older, more mature and experienced talent in the positions that Jones, Young and De Gea will occupy however this is not what he wants, he wants sustained domination and at nineteen, twenty five and twenty the three aforementioned players have the potential to supply that.
Assuming that United go out an add a creative play maker to their ranks the squad will be looking in good shape for the start of the season with young players returning from loan moves and others like Nani, Rooney and Hernandez improving all the time. On the face of it I would say that United now have a better squad on their hands, however patience is a virtue that could be key next season, throughout last season fans on the forums and via MUTV shouted themselves hoarse for changes and for that holy grail of the ‘creative midfield’. It appears that they have got their wish but they must give the team time they are thoroughly capable of winning a twentieth title however it could be a season or two before United can challenge Barca in a one off game, we may never be as good as them but let’s be honest it could be years before we see a team anywhere as good as them again. Fortunately though we are not Real Madrid and only have to worry about the Catalan giants in the Champions League and I am confident that Ferguson is laying the foundations for the building of a side that can beat Barcelona in a two legged or one off game. Of course this is all hypothetical and is a lot easier said than done but with midfielders in the calibre of Samir Nasri, Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric all possible acquisitions for United all the noises are positive.
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