As magnanimous as Sir Alex Ferguson was in the wake of his side’s mauling in the Champions League, nobody believes for a second that he was not filled with bitterness whilst watching the clear gulf in class between Manchester United and Barcelona. Bitter enough to overhaul his squad? Let’s wait and see.
Recently, Sir Alex proclaimed that he wished United had made more of an impact in Europe over the years. This was a nod in the direction of both the current Barcelona team and the great Liverpool teams of the past. Having now deposed his Merseyside rivals as the most successful team in English football, it is only natural that Sir Alex would turn his attention to conquering Europe.
What was clear to all who watched the Champions League final was that nobody in the United team was able to match the performance of Wayne Roooney. Undoubtedly, Javier Hernandez was the buy of the season and will score many goals at Old Trafford. However, bar Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra and Ryan Giggs, United looked like a team of average players, incapable of imposing themselves for longer than five minutes, let alone winning. And this must be a worry for Sir Alex.
Barcelona are not only the best club side at the moment, they are probably the best club side of all time. So to pitch them against United in terms of a comparison is hardly a fair fight. But in terms of deadwood at United, there is plenty of it. Owen, Anderson, Evans, Carrick, Gibson, O’Shea, Obertan and Hargreaves are all players who either hardly contribute or are not good enough to make the grade.
Couple this with the loss of Gary Neville, Edwin Van Der Sar and Paul Scholes to retirement and the eventual loss of Ryan Giggs, it seems clear that Sir Alex needs to rebuild or else face a short-term future of playing second fiddle to the Catalan giants.
It’s plain to see that Manchester United have not replaced Roy Keane. In fact, it is to their credit that they have achieved so much success in his absence such was the influence of the Irishman. But for a team like United, a player in the mould of Keane is essential.
It seems as if Ferguson has not found adequate replacements too for Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo whose fantastic work rate and phenomenal productivity are sorely missed at the club. For all Berbatov’s goals and all Nani and Valencia’s assists, these players are all shadows of their predecessors and whereas they may possess enough quality to propel United to the Premiership title in a faltering season, they will inevitably fall short on the European stage.
So it seems obvious that Sir Alex will have to scan the transfer market to bolster his squad. Talk of Tottenham’s Luka Modric is common these days, and he is certainly a Scholes-esque player who would be great for United.
Personally however, I believe Inter’s Wesley Sneijder would be a better acquisition due to his directness and his excellent ability to shoot from distance. If United can pair either of these midfielders with a tough-tackling defensive midfielder, this will give them a platform both to break up opposition attacks and exploit their defences at the final stages of European competition.
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