When Manchester United dominated the Premiership virtually from start to finish, with the occasional look back at Chelsea and barely a thought for Arsenal and Liverpool, many supporters applauded and heralded the creation of a third dominant squad for Sir Alex. But secretly, there were doubts. The season was won on the back of an incredible year from Cristiano Ronaldo and the resurgent form of aging midfielders Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes – the trio proving vastly responsible for United’s trademark attacking verve.
But when it was all said and done, the holes were easy to pick through. Could Ronaldo keep it up? Who would United look to for pace and attacking speed from midfield if he was hurt? Was this simply an indian summer for Giggs and Scholes? Who could United possibly sign to replace them, given that their current second string players were hardly world class and Chelsea and Liverpool were bigged up as having the kind of financial backing to trump any attempt from United to sign the world’s best?
And in one busy week of transfer activity. All questions have been answered.
Owen Hargreaves will step into midfield not only as a long term partner for Michael Carrick and all around ball harasser, breaking up play in a way United could not last season, but to take away some of the physical burden on Paul Scholes – allowing the ginger to focus on what he’s good at and prolong his career.
Nani will either partner or provide cover for Cristiano Ronaldo and Ryan Giggs, he can also play as a striker if necessary to provide more options.
Anderson can play on the left or as an attacking midfield, a proper number 10. Almost identical to how Ronaldinho has been used in the past and if he can develop his playmaking abilities to go along with his technique and flair – he could be a long term replacement for Paul Scholes.
But not only are the right players arriving, they’re doing so at the right time. Scholes and Giggs are getting on a bit now and can more happily be rotated without discontent, while Anderson and Nani can learn from two of the Premiership’s all time best in their position and also get blooded over time without being rushed into the first team out of necessity. Now, when United are playing their first team and need to make a change to get an extra goal, they’ll be bringing on world class attacking talent instead of John O’Shea and Darren Fletcher.
With Vidic and Ferdinand firmly cementing themselves as a world class centre back pairing, the the last throw of the dice I’ve heard from desperate rival fans is “But they still need a striker!”. Do they? 83 league goals last season, 19 more than their nearest rival? And two of football’s brightest attacking talents on their way?
Anderson, Nani and Hargreaves could turn out to be utter busts, but the smart money is on Sir Alex completing his third great Manchester United squad.