With Antonio Valencia out for five months, Sir Alex Ferguson will be delving into the transfer market to find a new year replacement for Valencia. The Ecuadorian sustained a sickening injury during United’s dour 0-0 draw with Rangers in the Champions League, and even if he is match fit by February, he will probably not be up to full speed until the start of the next (2011/12) season. So just who can fill the massive void left by Valencia’s absence? To date, three names have cropped up:
The Greek wonder-kid didn’t exactly set the world alight during the World Cup, with only two substitute appearances against Argentina and Nigeria, but at home has been roundly lauded by fans and managers alike. 20 year old Ninis currently plies his trade with Panathiniakos, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
After signing a professional contract in 2007 after impressing in the youth team, Ninis was plagued by injury throughout the first half 2007/08 season. This led to other attacking wingers with more experience being chosen in his stead after recovering. The following season would get off to a flier, with the new manager Hatem ten Cate playing Ninis against RC Charleroi in the Champions League, whereupon the Greek youngster scored once and made three assists in a 5-1 victory. Since then, he has gone from strength to strength, becoming a mainstay in the Panathiniakos squad.
Out of nowhere it seems, the 18 year old FC Basel winger has emerged as a transfer target of several big names. Whether it is to do with his international breakthrough in the World Cup, or his wonder strike against England, shall never be known, but either way he is seen as the future of Swiss football by many fans and managers. The question remains however, is he the future of Manchester United?
Within the next few years, Manchester United will be deprived of the service provided by Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes from midfield, meaning that Sir Alex Ferguson would be best advised to start paving the way for the new blood, particularly when Chelsea are starting to boss the top flight as United once did. Over the summer, Liverpool made no secret of their desire to sign Shaqiri, but may now face stiff competition from Ferguson. Could the lure of Champions League football be too much for the kid who has the world at his feet?
Perhaps the most speculative of names to be mentioned, Xavi is Barcelona through and through, both in terms in terms of his incorrigible playing style from midfield and his exuberant, passionate on pitch persona.
At the age of thirty, he wouldn’t be one of Ferguson’s long term options, and there is the possibility of a loan deal in January. United’s passing game certainly needs to show improvement since they look vulnerable on the break, and with the likes of Michael Carrick and Park Ji-Sung under-performing, who better to hold things together in the centre than the man who completed 544 out of 669 passes in the World Cup? With a hardened underbelly, United might yet just make something of this season.
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