Tag Transfers

Tag Transfers

Reflection central to United’s progress

April 6, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 9 comments

Two defeats in season-defining games is just short of disaster for a team with Manchester United’s ambitions. In the aftermath the temptation is to seek blame in officials, as was the case on Saturday against Chelsea, or solace in the imminent return of the club’s leading player Wayne Rooney. Neither is the answer.

In truth United’s season has not turned on either Rooney’s injury nor the erroneous, if baffling, decision by Simon Beck not to flag Didier Drogba on Saturday. Ten defeats in all competitions speak of a squad in transition seeking a new direction.

The real question is not whether officials make the right calls in United’s forthcoming games or how quickly Rooney’s ankle heals but whether Sir Alex Ferguson can build another great side in the coming months. In a season of Premier League mediocrity, the question is relevant whether United wins the Premier or Champions Leagues come May or not.

After all if progress is the name of the game then United did not meet the side’s humbling defeat at the hands of Barcelona last year with a statement of intent.

At the season’s outset, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez moved on to pastures new, inevitable relative decline was already set, despite the eternal optimism of fandom. That United’s senior players – Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Edwin van der Sar – were another year older, another season towards retirement, only amplified the fact.

It is also remiss to focus too heavily on United’s horrendous injury list this season, although clearly a factor in some of the side’s results. United faced an uphill task maintaining the standards of the past whether remaining injury free or not.

But results speak loudest and Ferguson knows that a focus on injuries and referees leads only to a misleading explanation for United’s inconsistencies this season. In truth the Scot must also do some serious thinking in the summer months about the squad’s personnel and structure.

The United squad sits on the boundary between mediocrity and success. Ferguson almost always steers the club towards the latter. Indeed, it is the Scot’s ability to continually transform his squad from generation to generation that is perhaps his most fitting epitaph.

But none of the United’s legendary quartet has conclusively been replaced from within. While Nani’s progress post-Christmas is encouraging the Portuguese winger is a long way short of the standards set by Giggs over the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, Anderson’s pretensions to Scholes’ throne and Ben Foster’s desire to replace van der Sar are on hold – probably permanently – although at least hope remains that right-back Rafael da Silva’s progress will not stop at injury’s altar.

There is no certainty whatsoever that the understudies will ever reach the promised land.

United will also need to plan better for injury next season than this. Owen’s inevitable breakdown and Ferdinand’s long-history of back trouble, together with his advancing years, mean that Jonny Evans and Federico Macheda will become central to United’s cause. Whether they meet the standards of their forbears or not will play a huge part in United’s future success.

Ferguson must also make long-term decisions on the players for whom the jury is out. Dimitar Berbatov in particular will sweat on the summer market. Darron Gibson has also done little to convince the doubters that he is Scholes’ natural successor and Owen Hargreaves, out of contract in the summer, will need to prove his long-term fitness.

Mistakes were made in the transfer market last summer, particularly with Ferguson’s gamble on Michael Owen. While the former England international was the Scot’s second choice – behind Real Madrid bound Karim Benzema – the free transfer acquisition placed too much reliance on Wayne Rooney in a system built around the former Evertonian.

It does not suit Owen, Macheda, Berbatov nor Danny Welbeck to play through the middle without support.

Over the summer, should Ferguson spend any of United’s £75 million overdraft facility, tactical thinking will play almost as important part as any acquisition’s quality.

If Ferguson persists with the lone-striker system next season Berbatov and Owen have no place in the first eleven and will forever be consigned to the role of first reserves.

But if Ferguson buys he will do so in the face of yet more unprecedented spending across Europe. Manchester City, Chelsea and even Real Madrid – after all the ‘project’ has failed – will spend yet more millions that United cannot possibly compete with, Red Knights or not.

Whatever the final outcome this season United’s supporters are rightly proud of the team’s achievement. After all, with five matches remaining in the Premier League, Chelsea must face both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur away from home. Meanwhile, United has a winnable Champions League quarter-final match tomorrow night.

With the Carling Cup already in the bag the season could yet be very successful.

In the face of aging players, sales and injury Ferguson’s overwhelming desire to win has seeped into the DNA of his squad. Indeed, this squad may well have over-performed this season despite 10 defeats.

The worst crime would be for the club to sit on its laurels and fail to recognise the deep chasms that lie beneath the wallpaper. Ferguson knows this but how many hands are tied behind his back?

United could do worse than Higuaín

March 18, 2010 Tags: , , Opinion 12 comments

Real Madrid’s 19 goal Argentinian Gonzalo Higuaín will almost certainly leave Los Merengues at the end of the current campaign but could Sir Alex Ferguson make a move for the former River Plate striker? Higuaín, who can boast a goal-a-game ratio this season, does not fit into President Florentino Pérez’ long-term plans.

It’s a remarkable situation for the 22-year-old forward, who has become the victim of Madrid’s bizarre internal politics this season. Despite the outstanding strike-rate, Higuaín is caught in an argument between Pérez and Real’s Sporting Director Jorge Valdano.

Argentinian Valdano wants his compatriot to remain in the Spanish capital, while Pérez prefers his own acquisition Karim Benzema for the central striker’s role in a 4-3-3 formation. It’s a view shared by a number of Madrid’s players according to the Spanish journalist Guillem Balague, who reports that El Presidente received phone calls from unnamed Galácticos criticising Higuaín’s recent selection.

With Real bent on bringing Franc Ribéry in from Bayern Munich and Cristiano Ronaldo taking the other wide berth, Higuaín is now surplus to requirements.

Moreover, Real’s Champions League defeat to Olympique Lyonnais last week signed coach Manuel Pellegrini’s death warrant, who will lose his job at the season’s culmination even if Los Merengues beat Barcelona to La Liga in May.

Forever the President’s puppet, Pellegrini is responsible only for day-to-day coaching and had practically no say in Real’s extravagant €260 million summer transfer splurge that brought Benzema, Kaká, Ronaldo and Xavi Alonso to Madrid.

Herein lies the crux of Real’s politics.While the Champions League is the heartbeat that keeps the club alive, failure in Europe’s premier competition cannot be tolerated by Real’s executives. More to the point Pérez is hardly likely to blame his ‘project’ for the humiliating fashion in which Madrid capitulated to Lyon.

French-born Higuaín, contracted to Madrid until 2012, is unlikely to remain a Madridista beyond the FIFA World Cup. Indeed, the nine-time European champions will probably hold on to the striker until after the tournament in the hope that it will boost the player’s value.

Selected only for Argentina’s final two qualifying matches, El Pipita was inexplicably ignored by coach Diego Maradona in favour of home-based veteran Martín Palermo. It remains to be seen whether Higuaín will lead Argentina’s attack at in South Africa this summer.

Meanwhile in Manchester Ferguson has key decisions to make about United’s forward line, with the side exposed to an over-reliance on Wayne Rooney’s goals. It’s an understandable, if risky, problem given the failure of Michael Owen and Dimitar Berbatov to match the England international’s strike rate this season.

Owen, sidelined for the main part of the campaign before succumbing to familiar hamstring problems, was a low-risk budget option whose impact has been minimal. Meanwhile Berbatov is now perennially cast as an understudy despite a number of sparkling displays in the past month.

With Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda not yet ready for regular first team duty, Ferguson may find that Higuaín’s pace and finishing is the smart choice to boost United’s attacking options next season.

Real is ready to sell. Is United prepared to buy?

Revolution?

March 15, 2010 Tags: Opinion 9 comments

With an air of rebellion surrounding Old Trafford some of the attention has shifted from a side striving to maintain its dominance. Despite Wayne Rooney’s heroics in recent games there is an uncertainty presiding many squad members long-term status at the club, including both senior players and those on the fringe.

Captain Gary Neville is the heart and soul of the football club but at 35 the defender’s age is now getting the better of him. Retirement this summer is not unexpected and at best Neville will play one final token year as a professional. Paul Scholes is also yet to sign for another season at the club.

Meanwhile some of Sir Alex Ferguson’s more frustrating players face uncertain futures. Anderson – injured for at least the next six months – and Nani are still stuck in the rut of inconsistency. Nani’s brief return to form in January is only a moment in a largely disappointing campaign.

Manager Ferguson must also make some big decisions about his younger players. Gabriel Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf, Ritchie De Laet, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck are clearly far from the finished product. Will each progress into the players they were once expected to be, or be jettisoned to the Championship in years to come?

Even if United take the Premier League this May or head to European glory in Madrid some rebuilding is necessary this summer. Arguably, United needs to invest in another reliable winger, a creative central midfielder and possibly a striker.

World Cup years are not normally the best time to rebuild with grossly inflated prices for many of the best performing players. Mangers often try to do their essential business before the tournament, which begins on June 11.

Ferguson, once again, will face another huge conundrum this summer. Break the bank on a few class acts – Angel di Maria and Karim Benzema for example – or invest sparingly and hope for continued improvement in the current squad.

Benzema or Luis Suarez could prove useful acquisitions and each fits within the transfer policy of only signing younger players that command a  high resale price, although neither will come cheap.

With the Argentine Di Maria grossly overpriced Joe Cole’s acquisition, if he remains a free agent, would represent a major coup for Ferguson. A player the Scot tried to sign at the age of 14, Cole still has years at the top ahead of him.

Although Jack Rodwell seems, almost inevitably, keen on a move to play along side his hero Rio Ferdinand a transfer is probably dependant on whether Nemanja Vidic remains at Old Trafford beyond the summer.

What is clear, the club’s financial situation means that United will not pay £50 million for Frank Ribéry this summer. The signing of Chris Smalling suggests another summer of caution in the transfer market that will disappoint many fans.

The green and gold army is gathering strength, although a full takeover seems unlikely in the near term. Whilst fans may hope for a revolution at Old Trafford, don’t expect major changes anytime soon. On or off the pitch.

United seal £8 million Smalling deal

January 26, 2010 Tags: , Shorts No comments

Manchester United has successfully tied up a deal Fulham’s 20-year-old central defender Chris Smalling. The confirmed £8 million deal comes as United headed off interest in the player from Arsenal. It is a remarkable rise to the top for the player who joined Fulham in June 2008 from non-league Maidstone United.

“Manchester United has agreed terms for the transfer of Chris Smalling from Fulham,” said a statement on ManUtd.com.

“Chris has agreed personal terms with the club and will join for the beginning of the 2010/2011 campaign. He will remain at Fulham until the end of the current season.”

Sir Alex Ferguson has moved for the Greenwhich-born defender following a reported bid by Arsenal this week. Smalling, who started Fulham’s match against Chelsea this season, has made just nine appearances in the Premier League. But the player’s accelerated development is such that Stuart Pearce called the defender into his England under-21 set-up. Smalling made his under-21 début against Holland as a substitute in August.

The pacy left-sided central defender will offer cover in an area of the pitch that United has struggled to field fit players this season. Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Jonny Evans have all been injured at various times this campaign. However, the deal is likely to increase speculation that Vidic will leave Old Trafford this summer.

United has likely concluded a heavily performance-based deal in the current financial climate, with any cash up-front coming from the club’s new revolving £75 million credit facility.

“I know he spoke to Manchester United yesterday and we all knew they were interested,” Smallings mother, Theresa, told ThisIsKent.

“It’s difficult to take in that he will now be playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.

“It’s absolutely incredible. I wouldn’t have been surprised had he gone to Arsenal, because I knew of their interest, but United? How far has he come in such a short space of time.”

Talks with the player’s representatives concluded Tuesday afternoon. Smalling will join United for the start of the 2010/11 season.

The emperor’s new clothes

January 8, 2010 Tags: , Opinion 10 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson has once again stated that Manchester United will not spend during the January transfer window, claiming that there is no value in the market. The Scot, who spent around a quarter of the money received from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, insists that there will be no new arrivals at Old Trafford this winter.

“It’s still the case – I can’t see any real diamonds,” said Ferguson in his weekly press conference at United’s Carrington training base Friday.

“We’ve got the money – there’s no question about that. I just don’t see that player that can make a difference to us in terms of value and availability.”

Indeed, the manager is a reluctant January shopper even though some of his rare winter purchases have turned out to be key players for the club, including Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Louis Saha and Andy Cole.

“We struck lucky with [Nemanja] Vidic and [Patrice] Evra,” said the boss, of the January 2006 purchases from Monaco and Spartak Moscow.

“It took them time to adjust, but they’ve turned out to be terrific players.

“We signed Louis Saha in the transfer window, he was a marvellous player but ended up with a lot of injuries, and we got Andy Cole who turned out to be fantastic for us.

“There have been success stories for us, but you can’t guarantee that in January because you’re looking for players to possibly play in Europe and that is limited because of other teams’ involvement in Europe. So there’s never a certain success rate.”

But whether players are successful when brought to the club in January is a moot point, given Ferguson’s mantra that there is “no value in the market.” It’s the same one the Scot repeated in the summer to justify his failure a strengthen beyond Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan. With United having lost five Premier League games and been knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle this season, the decision looks increasingly wide of the mark.

Indeed, value is a new focus for the manager who has always been happy to spend big. United, for example, paid well over market rate for each of Rio Ferdinand and Dimitar Berbatov in recent seasons.

More to the point, Ferguson has always been happy to push the board to spend heavily on exceptional talent. Wayne Rooney joined as a teenager for a touch over £25 million, while Juan Sebastian Veron joined for more than £28 million even though United possessed arguably the best midfield quartet the country has ever seen.

Since the Berbatov transfer United’s stated policy has changed, with the club now only willing to bid on players that will keep a resale value at the end of their contracts. Essentially this rules out any players aged over 26. The purchases of Antonio Valenica, Mame Biram Diouf and Gabriel Obertan fit into this policy, while Michael Owen was a free transfer.

Yet Ferguson is very unlikely to find value in the coming summer, with the World Cup placing a premium on any player who has a decent tournament. With winter 2011 no more likely to offer value-for-money, United’s manager may need to wait until August 2011 to buy unless a change of strategy takes place.

Perhaps the truth is a little harder to take: very few seriously buy into the manager’s proclamation, with the club’s £700 million debt beginning to bite into United’s transfer revenue. So unlikely is another large buy at the club that claims of wealth simply place the Scot on the eponymous emperor’s throne.

For it is the truth that dare not be said.

Premiership’s chosen few

January 5, 2010 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

With the January transfer window now active, Manchester United must surely bolster its squad to stand any real chance of winning a record-breaking 19th title come May. While Sir Alex Ferguson is notoriously reluctant to risk spending big in January, United could look to home soil for the best solution and in some cases, good value too.

Defenders

West Ham United’s Matthew Upson has surpassed all expectations in recent years and now is truly integral to England’s World Cup hopes given Rio Ferdinand’s prolonged injury absence. Although it is unlikely United will move for the defender given his ripe old age – 30 – the former Arsenal would be an excellent recruit. Upson, hardly likely to settle for a place on the bench when Rio returns, is now the complete modern centre back who reads the game well – Potential fee: £15 million given West Ham’s financial crisis.

26 year-old Roger Johnson at Birmingham City has been nothing short of superb this season. The defender has managed the transition from Championship to Premier League with ease and is now in contention for an England call. Johnson, a traditional centre-back who deals with just about everything, is a key figure in Birmingham’s outstanding form this campaign – Potential fee: £15 million with Birmingham unlikely to want to part with their star defender.

Bolton Wanderers Gary Cahill has proven all the critics wrong since his move from Aston Villa 18 months ago. Cahill has progressed into a player everyone on the verge of the England squad, with a very bright future ahead. The defender is, without doubt, Bolton’s best player and given the club’s current managerless predicament Cahill would relish a move up to Old Trafford – Potential fee: £20 million has been mooted in the press.

Former United youth player Ryan Shawcross has flourished at Stoke City. Manager Tony Pullis has transformed the United academy player into the stalwart of Stoke’s defence, with the defender’s form attracting the attention of the Premier League’s biggest clubs – and Manchester City. Although Shawcross recently signed a new deal at Stoke, very few turn down the call from Sir Alex. Shawcross is a young centre half who United could mould into a great defender – Potential fee: £12 million, given that he is unlikely to turn down a return home.

Midfielders

Luka Modric at Tottenham Hotspur is the most talented footballer outside the top four and his rapid progression under Harry Rednapp makes the Croatian an ideal buy. Modric could be the creative edge United has lacked in recent months, although his small physical stature may entail a change in United’s tactical system – Potential fee: more than £15 million.

Arsenal’s Abou Diaby would provide the perfect remedy for United’s seemingly static central midfield. Diaby, who has recently signed a new contract at Arsenal, has become an increasingly influential and dynamic figure for the Gooners. A move is extremely unlikely, but could prove a masterstroke – Potential fee: at least £25 million.

Strikers

West Ham’s Carlton Cole is superb, on his day, with pace, strength and goals galore this season. This day, however, is not so easy to predict but Gianfranco Zola has moulded the player into a terrifying centre forward. A fantastic signing if United could retain the same intensity – Potential fee: £20 million with the Hammers desperate sellers.

Spurs’ Russian striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has not lived up to expectations since the player’s £16 million move from Spartak Moscow in 2008. But the 28-year old is a proven goalscorer and the type of traditional centre forward United really needs. Pavlyuchenko, who excelled at Euro 2009, has fallen behind Jermaine Defoe, Robbie Keane and Peter Crouch in the White Hart Lane pecking order. A quick fit, who would run to Old Trafford if the option was available, judge Pavlyuchenko not by his current predicament – Potential fee: As low as £5 million proving excellent value.

Reds in touch but window could seal the deal

December 28, 2009 Tags: Opinion 8 comments

Sir Alex Ferguson says that he in unlikely to buy in the January transfer window, which opens in just four days time. Although the Scot continues to state that there is no value in the market, most observers believe that Manchester United’s manager is financially hamstrung. But it’s a risky game, with United now overly reliant on the talents of Wayne Rooney.

In truth it has been a season of mediocrity at the head of the Premier League table, with the so-called ‘big four’ already losing 19 games between them. Despite five defeats in the Premier League, United is just a win away from the summit.

Further down the table Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur each has a compelling case for making the top four this campaign but only United’s crosstown rivals spent heavily in the summer. It points to a degradation in quality across the Premier League’s leading sides this season.

Indeed, such was the distorting effect of City’s policy, along with Real Madrid, that the top four made just four major purchases between them: Antonio Valencia at United, Yuri Zhirkov at Chelsea, together with Glen Johnson and Alberto Acquillani at Liverpool. Each cost in excess of £14 million but in a summer of extraordinary spending none were marquee signings.

With injuries clearing up at Old Trafford Sir Alex may feel the temptation to stick with what he has this winter, even if he has money to spend. After all, if there was little value in the summer window, it is rare that leading players become available in January. Moreover, Chelsea is likely to lose key players to the African Cup of Nations while Arsenal’s squad still looks too thin to sustain a title challenge into the Spring.

In this scenario, mediocrity is United’s best friend. The question is – with the title still within reach – and obvious vulnerabilities in the squad, can United afford not to strengthen this winter? Perhaps the only good argument for not dipping into the transfer market is financial.

In central areas the return of Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher to the heart of United’s midfield is a huge boon to the manager. Moreover, Anderson has demonstrated a significant improvement on his early season form. The trio, together with Darron Gibson and Paul Scholes in support, offer plenty of solidity but little creativity in the middle of the park.

United has also suffered badly from consistency on the left side of midfield this season. While Ryan Giggs has been superb, the Welshman’s leggy performance in United’s victory over Hull yesterday is a sign of things to come. At 36 Giggs cannot, to paraphrase, bomb up and down the wing for 90 minutes until May.

Meanwhile, Nani has only succeeded in guaranteeing himself a transfer out of the club, Ji-Sung Park has spent most of the campaign injured and Gabriel Obertan shows – so far – only promise.

Yet, United has also scored freely in both Europe and domestic competitions this season, to many pundits’ surprise. It’s a task to which Wayne Rooney has stepped up after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer. 14 goals in all competitions this season points to the Scouser’s best return come May.

Indeed, United has been generally undone by inconsistency in defence and not attack this campaign. The recent injury crisis accounted for the defeat at Fulham although Ferguson has rarely had the luxury of his first choice back-four this season. Sir Alex will hope that the second half of the season brings better luck and fewer goals conceded. Ferguson is canny enough to know that hope is no kind of strategy however.

But if Ferguson is to spend in just one area this winter fans will hope that it is on creative talent, whether out wide or through the middle of the pitch. United is still desperately short of an attacking central midfield player in addition to a consistent left-winger. Age is no friend of Scholes and the creative burden has passed to Rooney to offer both goals and flair.

Rooney bares not only the weight of that expectation but also the burden of being the team’s unopposed talisman. To illustrate – if the former Evertonian plays well, United plays well. When he doesn’t then United has struggled to score as blanks against Burnley, Liverpool, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Fulham show.

The biggest risk to United’s success in the second half of the season is a breakdown in Rooney’s fitness or form, which would surely end the team’s hopes of domestic and European success.

Ferguson can mitigate that risk by breaking the habit of a lifetime and spending big on a marquee winter signing. The chances are he won’t and United fans can look forward to another five months of praying that Rooney, in all his brilliance, suffers none of the misfortune that has visited his defensive colleagues.

United’s ten for 2010

December 16, 2009 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

With Manchester United having suffered five defeats already this season, Rant looks at ten players who could boost the club’s domestic and European ambitions in 2010 and beyond. As silly season approaches, each of these players will move to the club in a multi-million deal, according to the media that is!

Goalkeeper

Manuel Neuer: The 6’3″ German stopper is on the verge of taking the number one spot for his country ahead of the World Cup in South Africa next year. Schalke’s prize asset will not come cheap at more than £10 million but Neuer, watched by United scouts consistently over the past year, has presence and technique. While Sir Alex Ferguson is unlikely to recruit a ‘keeper mid-season a summer move seems possible with the 24-year-old ready to make a step up.

Igor Akinfeev: The 23-year-old ‘keeper produced a couple of decent displays against United in Champions League Group B to bring the Russian number one to the forefront of many supporters’ minds. While United scouts have watched the CSKA Moscow captain on many occasions there are doubts about the player’s stature at just 6″1″.

Defence

Phillip Lahm: United’s interest in the German international appears to have been no secret for the past 18 months, although a concrete bid has never been placed with Bayern Munich for the 26-year-old. The Munich-born defender, who can play on either flank, would offer solidity in the right-back area with Gary Neville, Rafael da Silva, John O’Shea and Wes Brown suffering injuries in recent times.

Ezequiel Garay: Real Madrid’s fourth-choice central defender is available with the free-spending Spanish outfit seeking to cut club debts. While a mooted loan agreement is unlikely to happen with Madrid is seeking quick cash, a £5 million fee is more realistic for the Argentinian.  Ferguson’s interest, despite injuries to each of his central defenders this season, is another point altogether.

Michah Richards: Surely a move across town is inconceivable for the England international defender who is yet to secure a consistent place in Mark Hughes’ side? Richards, once the bright young thing of the England side, has something of an ‘attitude problem’ that has not found favour under Hughes’ austere management.

Midfield

David Silva: The stylish Spanish international, who can play through the centre of midfield or wide-left, is available from cash-strapped Valencia. Talented, creative and with an eye for goal, Las Palmas-born Silva could be the answer to United’s lack of creativity through central areas this season. However, his slight frame, £20 million plus price and Gabriel Obertan’s emergence may count against a move to the Premier League champions.

Franc Ribéry: While Ferguson is a huge admirer of the multi-talented Frenchman, Ribéry’s proposed price means that a move to Real Madrid or Chelsea is almost inevitable. Ferguson has consistently complained of little value in the transfer market and the £45 – £60 million price tag placed on the former-Marseille winger’s head is ample evidence.

Alan Dzagoev: Rumoured to interest Real Madrid, Dzagoev is surely destined for bigger things. The CSKA Moscow player, 19, scored at Old Trafford during the 3-3 draw with United in November and has broken into the full Russian national team this season. With a one-in-three strike rate, Dzagoev would offer United not only creativity but goals from midfield too.

Attack

David Villa: Valencia’s goal-machine Villa would surely light up the Premier League. With a goal-a-game ratio at international level, Villa would complement United’s current strikers. However, a transfer might break Dimitar Berbatov’s fragile confidence and the Glazers’ bank at more than £30 million.

Jan Klass Huntelaar: Once again linked with a move to United this week, Huntelaar is available after just six months in Milan. This followed an equally short spell in Spanish football with Real Madrid. Quite why Ferguson is apparently interested, despite the Dutchman’s excellent goalscoring record in domestic football, is unclear.

Karim Benzema: The pacey, talented, great white hope of French football moved to Real Madrid in a £35 million deal this summer. Ferguson, outbid by the Spanish side, was hugely disappointed to miss out on the former Lyon forward. Benzema’s direct style would certainly add something to United’s squad but would the fans take to a player for whom United was second best?

Poll: How much will United spend in January?

December 4, 2009 Tags: , Polls 4 comments

With Manchester United calling off a €10 million deal for Adem Ljajić yesterday some media outlets have questioned the club’s ability to spend on players in the January transfer window. United, with a theorhetical £100 million transfer fund, brought in just Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan in the summer. Is United’s £700 million debt beginning to bite?

How much will United spend in the January window?

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Fergie trusts players, do fans?

September 1, 2009 Tags: Opinion 10 comments

The transfer window shut firmly today and with it United’s business for the summer ended. Having brought in two senior players and a further three in the ‘promising’ category, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has declared himself happy with his squad. But after the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez earlier in the summer, the question is, do the fans feel the same?

“The bulk of the £80m fee we got from Real Madrid for Cristiano Ronaldo is still there, of course, and it seems to be burning a hole in the pockets of a lot of fans,” said Ferguson today.

“But you don’t suddenly scrap your transfer policy because of one defeat even if it was a bad one [to Burnley at Turf Moor].

“I have explained our strategy, based on my confidence in our squad with a few new faces, existing players maturing and more eager beavers on the way up, and I have no intention of abandoning it. I know we have the right squad.”

It’s a commendable show of faith by Ferguson, whose transfer policy – a few exceptions aside – has centred on buying players under-25 in recent seasons. It’s a policy that flourished with the development of Cristiano Ronaldo; bought for £12 million, sold for £80 million six years later.

Ferguson has built such a bank of credit over the seasons that to question his judgement is churlish. When it comes to players, the manager is normally right. In youth Ferguson may trust, but even the great man cannot guarantee success. For every hit there is also considerable risk in betting the house on youth. Indeed, of the younger players brought into the squad in the past two seasons none have conclusively proven that they will make it at the highest level. Coming into the new season there is considerable young talent at Ferguson’s disposal. Yet there are question marks over first team regulars Anderson, Nani and Ben Foster. Moreover there is no certainty that Fabio and Rafael da Silva, Gabriel Obertan, Mame Biram Diouf, Kiko Macheda or Danny Welbeck will make it either. Nor 23 year old new signing Antonio Valencia for that matter.

United must also deal with the inevitable decline of Gary Neville, Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs; and the increasing injury prevalence of Rio Ferdinand as he enters his 30s. The result is that United cannot possibly line-up with 11 top class players as they have in the past. Ferguson has an awesome squad at his disposal but one with fewer proven stars than in the past. Indeed, only the aforementioned Ferdinand, together with Nemanja Vidic and Wayne Rooney can reasonably be described as world class this season.

United’s midfield is of particular concern. While well stocked, it is light in terms of proven quality.

There are also question marks about how the team will adapt to Ferguson’s tactics this season which – necessitated by the departure of Ronaldo – have evolved from a flexible three up front to a more conventional two.

That’s a lot of uncertainty and risk. A dip into the top end of the transfer market could have mitigated some of that. Ferguson felt it unnecessary and time almost always proves him right.