Old Trafford boss will not rest on his laurels.
Manchester United has never been ones for standing still on the back of success, and this summer will be no different.
With the powers that be at Anfield flexing their financial muscle, a Chelsea team under new management, a bitter Arsenal team determined to avenge their late season collapse and of course their mega-rich city rivals wanting to continue their ascendancy, the 2011/12 season may pose United’s sternest challenge yet.
The dismantling at the hands of Catalan brilliance at Wembley could be a blessing in disguise. Coming up against arguably the greatest team to ever play the game and being so effortlessly dispatched may have been humiliating on the night, but could do Ferguson a favour and highlight the most glaring holes in his side.
With Wes Brown, Darron Gibson and John O’Shea seemingly destined to call time on their United careers, there is a need to bolster the ranks.
Deals are already in the pipeline, with rumours continuing to circulate furiously over who could be next through the gates at Old Trafford. Phil Jones arrival from Lancashire neighbours Blackburn provides impetus for a United team that needs to get younger, and given his solid performances alongside Chris Smalling for the England Under-21’s, gives the Red Devils a fantastic defensive partnership for the future.
The transfer of Ashley Young from Aston Villa for a reported £20m is set to be completed once the England winger returns from holiday, and gives another pacy, dynamic threat to a team renowned for its counter-attacking potency. Young is viewed as more consistent than Nani, despite the Portuguese international leading the league in assists last season. Antonio Valencia’s amazing recuperation from a serious ankle injury, and Park’s effortless devotion to the United cause, mean their places are effectively secured for next season.
Exciting young stopper David De Gea is another deal seemingly imminent for the Old Trafford side. The 20 year-old Spanish stopper shot to prominence as a key part of Atletico Madrid’s Europa League winning side in 2010. Should the Under-21 international establish himself immediately in the red of United, the blow of Edwin Van der Sar’s retirement will be lessened with the development of a goalkeeping star.
Central midfield was the area woefully exposed by the mastery of Xavi and Iniesta in the Champions League final, and this may be where the biggest-name signing can step in. Incessant speculation has linked Dutch maestro Wesley Sneijder with a move from the San Siro to the Republic of Mancunia, but the midfielder has repeatedly stated that he loves life in the Italian city, and owes a lot to Inter Milan.
Luka Modric could be an intriguing pursuit for United. His creative ability and brilliant reading of the game make him an ideal fit for United’s system. With Scholes’ retirement, Hargreaves release, and the inconsistency of Michael Carrick, there is a void in the centre of the park that Modric could be an ideal solution to.
One barrier however could be the price tag placed on the Croatian’s head by his current employers Spurs, plus the repeated interest of their London rivals Chelsea.
£30m would be around the figure United would be hoping to secure his services for. But given the fact Chelsea had a ‘derisory’ offer of £22m rejected, and Harry Redknapp’s insistence that the player will not be leaving White Hart Lane, the Red Devils may have to sweeten the deal somewhat.
Dimitar Berbatov would most likely be keen on a move back to Tottenham. Despite finishing as United’s top scorer this season, the second-half of the campaign saw him demoted in favour of Ferguson’s new favourite pairing of Rooney and Hernandez, and Michael Owen’s new contract may mean his services are no longer required at OT.
Jack Rodwell is eternally linked with an Old Trafford move, and the temptation of European football to further his England ambitions could sway him into a move. Charlie Adam could be a useful squad player, with young German star Mario Gotze a potential target from Dortmund.
Producing from Within
Alongside the expensive talent that seems destined to join the ranks at Old Trafford, there are also numerous fresh-faced youngsters that are pushing for places in United’s first team.
Danny Welbeck gained significant experience on loan at Sunderland, coached by ex-United defender Steve Bruce, and his pacy and direct style could be a hit in United’s frontline. Federico Macheda enjoyed a less fruitful time away from Manchester, seeing his Sampdoria side relegated from Serie A for the first time in 12 years. However, his eye for goal and instinctive forward play make him a potential replacement for Michael Owen, once the former England hitman decides it’s time to move on.
Paul Pogba and Tom Cleverley are sure to provide competition for midfield places. Paul Scholes calling it quits allows Pogba a chance to step up get some first team action, and potentially earn some playing time. Cleverley impressed on-loan at Wigan last season, helping them with their last-minute survival heroics, and can step up to the void should Ryan Giggs decide that this twelfth winners medal will be his last.
One thing is for sure, life during the summer around Old Trafford is never dull. Signings like Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez have decorated summers past, and you wouldn’t bet against the red tide drawing more premier talent to the league champions.