After seeing his side overtaken in the title race by neighbours Manchester City, Sir Alex Ferguson is facing his first trophless season since 2005 – a campaign which is sure to disappoint the 70-year-old which will see him look to strengthen his side in the summer.
Ferguson has handled various transitional phases for United effectively by still bringing in various trophy successes.
In his time at the club Ferguson has shown he is not afraid of going against the grain in letting established players move on with the likes of Ince, Keane, Hughes, Beckham, Stam and Van Nistelrooy all deemed surplus requirements – this allowing the clubs philosophy of bringing young players through as the new guard to be achieved rewardingly time and time again.
In previous transfer windows the acquisitions of Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and David De Dea show Ferguson is always looking to the future with the likes of Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck and Paul Pogba expected to play major roles in his squad next season.
However to fully develop a squad who will be looking to establish themselves again domestically and in European competition next season – a number of high caliber signings will be needed to manage yet another successful transitional period.
Ex-United legend Gary Neville said to The Mirror that Ferguson will be aware of the need to strengthen this summer. “I’m sure he’ll improve his squad,” said Neville. “I think he has to. He’s an honest person and he’ll recognise there are areas of the squad he needs to strengthen.”
With his side again in transition the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Park Ji Sung, Michael Owen and Anderson could see themselves leaving the club this summer, as well as Fabio who is being lined up for a season long loan move. This summer transfer window therefore shapes up to be a pivotal one for Manchester United and Sir Alex.
So which areas need strengthening? Who could be brought in to make the difference?
Defensively it is expected a new left back could be sounded out to provide competition for Patrice Evra. The Frenchmen has been ever present in the United starting line up this season, stepping in as the club captain for the injured Nemanja Vidic.
However the 30-year-old has lost his previous form in the last 18 months which has saw performances dipping dramatically – something which may alert Ferguson into feeling it is time to bring in a successor. The likes of Jordi Alba, Guilherme Siqueira, Aly Cissokho and Leighton Baines have all been linked with moves in recent months.
A situation many fans at Old Trafford feel has failed to be addressed is that of United’s midfield redevelopment. With an ageing Paul Scholes being brought out of retirement in January and instantly becoming a key player alongside Michael Carrick – various critics and fans think new additions are desperately needed as United have very much been found wanting in this area this season – especially in Europe where they were taken apart first in the Champions League group stages which resulted in their eventual elimination to the Europa League, where they were ousted by an impressive Athletic Bilbao.
With Park Ji Sung’s days looking number, Anderson failing to impress largely due to yet another knee injury and no return date mooted as of yet for an ill Darren Fletcher – Sir Alex will be searching intensely for at least one new midfield acquisition.
A player who could fit the mould is 23-year-old Spaniard, Javi Martinez. Having captained Spain’s U-21’s to winning the 2011 European Championships last summer – the midfielder has continually been impressive throughout the season for Bilbao who have also utilized his defensive capabilities at times this term by playing him as a make shift centre back due to injuries.
Physically he is set for the Premier League as his 6ft 3in frame makes him a difficult opponent to knock off the ball – his main strengths however lie in his composure in possession, his range of passing and his defensive capabilities. Martinez is in the mould of a Xavi Alonso and has also been catching the eye of both Barcelona and Real Madrid.
With 7 caps also for the senior national side he is definitely progressing into one of the future important figures internationally for his country.
Centrally also United have been accused of lacking creativity, something Sir Alex may also be looking to address with the signing of an attacking midfielder. An option could be Shinji Kagawa who has helped Borussia Dortmund regain the Bundesliga for a second successive season.
The Japanese icon has refused to sign a new deal at the club which has forced Dortmund into accepting he will be for sale this summer. Kagawa has scored 16 goals and provided 12 assists in all competitions this season continuing his sensational form from last season.
Although slight in stature, Kagawa has flourished in a league which is herald as having similar sort of playing style to the Premier League – which has saw the playing styles of Mata, Silva and Nasri used to good effect at their respective clubs. The 23-year-old is also thought to fancy a move to the Premier League with Manchester United his preferred destination.
It is well known Sir Alex Ferguson is an admirer of the sensational Eden Hazard who he has been keeping tabs on throughout the season. The 21-year-old Belgian has also admitted his interest in becoming a Premier League player next season which could see a battle between both Manchester clubs along with Arsenal and Spurs in the upcoming transfer window.
Ferguson has his fair share of wingers at Old Trafford but with Ashley Young not setting the world alight in his first term at Old Trafford and Nani continuing to be frustratingly inconsistent – a different threat from the wings could be essential.
Hazard can operate on either flank and also just behind a striker effectively, his pace and dribbling talents are also balanced with his dangerous final ball delivery and menacing finishing prowess. An expensive proposition for Sir Alex, but one that could infuse fear into the rest of Europe who take stock of a rejuvenated Manchester United.
Elsewhere in the forward department it looks as though Berbatov and Owen will both be on their way in the summer. This potentially leaves United short on firepower for the coming season with just Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez recognised as first choice strikers. Ferguson is known to enjoy the dilemma of having four strikers to choose from and may be on the lookout for a significant striker purchase in the summer. He has saw the likes of Llorente cause his side hell in the Europa League and will have noticed the form of Edinson Cavani at Napoli over the last two seasons. Any move for either striker will be expensive but a welcome addition to a largely wasteful United side at times this season.
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