COS contributor George Sims takes a look at Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad and ponders who deserves to stay and who should be heading for the Old Trafford exit.
Once again it’s that time of the year when transfer speculation becomes part of the daily football digest, love it or hate it, you can’t argue that it isn’t nail-biting stuff. A man who goes hand in hand with this rumour mill is the man at the helm at Old Trafford, Sir Alex Ferguson. Sir Alex is no stranger to transfer news throughout the season, and at any other time of the year most tend to take little notice of who he’s apparently “had his eye on”, but as Summer approaches and windows in offices across the country begin to open so does the transfer window. This is the time to sit up and take notice of the rumours flying around Old Trafford as fans eagerly anticipate new additions to United’s premier league campaign while they begin the search for that elusive 18th top flight title.
The cards on the table for Fergie are some familiar names as well as the not so familiar. The recent signing of Javier Hernández or “the little pea” (subject to a pending work permit application) has been one of those unknowns. Fergie has made similar unknown signings in the past with mixed success; all United fans remember the likes of Kleberson and Djemba Djemba but for all the wrong reasons, equally Ole Gunnar Solkjær is remembered for all the right reasons so I’m sure Hernández will be received with cautious expectation from the Stretford End. The familiar names are back for another transfer window, Berbatov; will he stay or will he go, Benzema; will he be prized away from the Galacticos and which of the old guard will stand down for some of the young guns to come to the fore.
Luckily for United fans and Fergie, Neville, Scholes and Giggs are all to stay on another season giving those signed to fill their boots a chance to hone their skills this season. Nani looks ready for the challenge already, and will no doubt figure highly in Ferguson’s plans for next season. Anderson showed some real signs of becoming the “Scholesian” player the United staff had hoped him to become before his season was cut short with injury, while both Gabriel Obertan and Darren Gibson have shown that they have the makings of quality players following important cameos throughout the season. Not to mention how well Johnny Evans played in replacing both injury-hit centre backs during difficult times of the season.
But the main issue at Old Trafford, the “elephant in the room” if you like, is the future of Dimitar Berbatov. Having failed to perform to the high expectations of both Sir Alex and the fans having been given ample opportunity to do so, most would believe that he could well be on his way out. He’s been linked with a move back to Spurs and a potential Huntelaar switch to Milan, but it appears that he’s going nowhere. Fergie won’t rely on him as a goal scorer anymore and will find another striker to do the business up front, he already has Owen to use as a back up striker (injuries permitting) so Berbatov may well be pushed back into an attacking midfield role. It’s hard to argue that he doesn’t create chances; his passes are more often-than-not inch perfect and his ability to retain possession is world class. However his “lazy” style and lack of apparent pace may cause him to struggle were he to drop to the spearhead of the midfield. Were Berbatov to develop his game as a playmaker he could potentially become something of a maestro. Either way, he won’t be used as a scapegoat by Sir Alex and he has plans for the Bulgarian international forward who will remain at Old Trafford for at least another season.
Michael Carrick has had a season of mixed fortunes. Stemming from the 2009 Champions League final, in which many feel he failed to turn up, his season has been very much stop start. His passing has faultered during the most important of games, he’s offered very little as a versatile attacking option and has been well and truly out-shone by Darren Fletcher. He has been given plenty of chances to establish himself as a United favourite, but has failed to retain a regular first team place and was all but ignored for the crucial final games of the season. There is now a distinct possibility that he’ll move away from Old Trafford, with the most obvious option being a direct switch with Luka Modric of Spurs, who seems to be edging ever closer to a move North.
Players linked with a move into the red camp are numerous, as usual. As previously mentioned, Luka Modric appears to be a target of Ferguson. He would suit the fluid attacking play that United’s fans demand while offering genuinely intelligent passing and chance-creation. With bookies slashing his odds to 5/1 to be in the Old Trafford dressing room next season, he seems to be the most realistic potential signing. Meanwhile the rumour-mill goes into over-drive about speculation of Karim Benzema wanting away from the Bernebau with United a likely option for his move. As David Villa seems set to join Barcelona, Fergie is likely testing the waters of a move for Benzema who would fit in well at Old Trafford. I’m sure United fans would be comforted at the sight of someone coming the other way from Madrid, as opposed to one-way traffic as it has been over the last few years.
The transfer speculation will snowball until Fergie makes his move, and that seems likely to be after the World Cup, by which time the rumours will be of avalanche proportions. Sir Alex knows changes must be made, but he won’t make up his mind just yet.