Mass exodus from Old Trafford on the way.
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Sir Alex Ferguson expects Brazilian duo Anderson and Rafael da Silva to become central figures in Manchester United’s future as he prepares to undertake his biggest squad overhaul at Old Trafford for over a decade.
No fewer than six senior players are expected to leave United at the end of the season, with Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville, Owen Hargreaves, Tomasz Kuszczak, Michael Owen and Wes Brown all likely to move on, either through retirement or a lack of first-team opportunities.
With doubts also hovering over the Old Trafford futures of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, the United squad which starts the 2011-12 campaign could be the most youthful since Ferguson replaced Paul Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis with emerging stars such as Neville, Scholes, David Beckham and Nicky Butt in the summer of 1995.
Ferguson said: “When they [players] grow old, their performance level drops, but we have to maintain a level of success at the top end of the game, at all the time.
“We can’t afford bad years or breaking-in years. We have had periods like that, but we don’t want it and we need to be successful all the time.
“Sometimes, when a player grows old, you have to recognise it and they have to move on.”
With 21-year-old midfielder Tom Cleverley due to return from his loan at Wigan in the summer and Danny Welbeck, 20, set to be elevated to first-team contention following his impressive campaign on loan at Sunderland, new signings are likely to limited to players no older than their mid-20s. Everton’s Jack Rodwell and Sunderland’s England midfielder Jordan Henderson are thought to be the long term targets.
The emergence this season, however, of Anderson and Rafael has led Ferguson to pinpoint the pair as replacements for Scholes and Neville. (Daily Telegraph)
This season it appears almost as if Manchester United are coasting towards the title, winning their games however average their performance while their rivals drop points with increasingly regularity.
It would be foolish to count the proverbial chickens at this stage of course, but it appears that some at Old Trafford are already thinking ahead to the next campaign.
The 2011-2012 season could be one of the most pivotal in fifteen years.
For the first time in that period, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville may not be available for selection, while Old Trafford stalwarts of recent years Wes Brown and Edwin Van Der Sar look set to follow.
While not his fault, Owen Hargreaves has proved to be a colossal waste of money, while Michael Owen is now probably the sixth choice striker on Sir Alex Ferguson’s books, behind Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Federico Macheda – and even Bébé.
The former England striker is estimated to be on a basic wage of £30,000 per week with substantial bonuses for appearances and goals due to his injury record, even just to take he and Hargreaves off the wage bill will save the club over £4m per season.
Add the wages of the rest of those mooted to be departing Old Trafford, and Manchester United could save themselves over £20m per season – a figure that does not bode well for their rivals.
Jordan Henderson and Jack Rodwell look fantastic talents indeed, but prising them away from their clubs would be expensive.
Still, perhaps the Glazers would be willing to invest in proven Premier League quality who could be the mainstays of the Red Devils midfield for the next decade.
Presuming Henderson and Rodwell would play alongside Anderson in a midfield three, it would be no shock if Michael Carrick was added to the list of players to move on in the summer, but that would be a great shame.
Carrick is under-appreciated by supporters, but suffers no such disdain amongst his fellow players. Barcelona ace Xavi noted in 2009, “Carrick gives United balance and can play defensively too. He passes well, has a good shot and is a complete player.”
Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso was similarly effusive before the World Cup, adding, “I think that [Carrick] could easily fit in the Spanish system because I really like the way he plays. He reads the game so well, he is always ahead of what is going to happen and he is always in the right position. When he gets the ball, he plays it easy and he is available to his team-mates all the time. For me, he has the profile to play for Barcelona or any of the Spanish teams. He would also be very complimentary to Stevie [Gerrard].”
However, his confidence was massively affected by the 2009 Champions League final, and may have to be ready to play more of a squad role than ever.
Rafael seems to be growing in stature with each game, and looks destined for the very top, but Anderson needs to add goals to his game if he is to reach Scholes’ lofty heights.
Nevertheless, the future looks bright for Manchester United.
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