2011/12 already looks like yet another year of competing at the top of the league for the red half of Manchester, despite a series of injuries recently, but Sir Alex Ferguson will not be happy with his team currently sitting in second place behind so-called “noisy neighbours” City and will do everything in his power to ensure that the Champions pip the Champions Elect to the league title.
Whether that context will see the Scottish elder-statesman enter the market much during this winter window remains to be seen, as Sir Alex tends to resist any temptations to destabilise his squad mid-season and conducts his business between seasons in a far more civilised manner. That way he gets far more value for his money – or at least that is the theory.
Not all of Sir Alex’s recent forrays into the market have been quite as successful as those of past seasons: David De Gea is yet to really dazzle over a sustained period between the posts, and the less said about both Bebe and Mame Biram Diouf the better, and with Giggs, Scholes, Ferdinand and Michael Owen probably all heading towards the final days of their United careers the time will come very soon when the manager has to prove that he can still do it in the transfer market and build yet another team before he retires.
But for now, success in the league is a must, given the high profile and embarrassing exit from the Champions’ League and the very real possibility of not winning one trophy this year being compounded by a difficult tie against Liverpool in the fourth round of FA Cup. So will Sir Alex stick with what he has, and hope that Scholes is the injection of magic his team needs to claw the momentum away from Mancini’s new pretenders, or will he go against type and invest in the next 12 or so days?
What They Need
Defensive cover, particularly at centre half. Playing Michael Carrick there is simply not a long-term solution, and while Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are undoubtedly the future of Manchester United’s defensive heart (as well as England’s) they cannot lift that weight alone, and Rio Ferdinand is no longer quite as top class as he was two or three years ago.
And like many of the top teams in the division, they could also do with a commanding and creative central midfielder, though the return of Paul Scholes out of retirement will offer a short-term solution to that particular problem. Unless someone special becomes available, United might well wait until the summer for their new midfielder, banking on the old legs of both Scholes and Ryan Giggs to last until then. Unfortunately for Sir Alex, the ideal and cheap candidate in Yohan Cabaye has only just signed for Newcastle United and the North East club would presumably resist all attempts to prise him away at this stage. The summer might be a different question though, given Mike Ashley’s willingness to trade on even the most key squad members.
Some might suggest that Sir Alex should also be looking for a goalkeeper, with De Gea not yet living up to his billing, or his hefty price tag and Lindegaard not quite up to the massive expectations Man Utd fans tend to have these days of goalkeepers after the Halcyon Days of Peter Schmeichel and Edwin van der Sar. Swansea have reported that Sir Alex has already enquired about Michel Vorm, and the excellent Tim Krul and Wayne Hennessy could well also be on his hit-list.
Few would lose much sleep if Dimitar Berbatov was to leave, especially if United can recoup some of the money they paid Tottenham for the Bulgarian, with Bayern Munich rumoured to be interested in giving him the chance to return to Germany. All in all Berbatov has been an expensive flop – he has scored far too few goals to justify that massive pricetag that saw him come in from Tottenham, and his on-pitch dynamic with Wayne Rooney never seems to fire properly. With Chicarito and Danny Wellbeck offering much better, and speedier options, Berbatov is largely an expendable player these days, and the wage bill would look a lot healthier without him on it.
Some elements of the United fanbase would also welcome the sale of Jonny Evans, who has occasionally looked out of place in the team, and isn’t as good a player as either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones. But he’s a good enough option to sit on the bench, and Sir Alex might well recognise as much after the injury problems that blighted the team earlier in the season.
Elsewhere “bad boy” Ravel Morrison might also find himself at a new club this month, with Newcastle United said to be interested in adding him to their swelling strike-force, though United have so far resisted their bids, and might hope to keep Morrison beyond the end of his current contract in the summer. That’s if the youngster can get his head in order – otherwise he would do well to heed the warning of Nile Ranger, a striker he could potentially follow to Newcastle, whose career and potential has so far been derailed thanks to problems off the pitch.
So, Man Utd fans, what does Sir Alex need to do during this window? Should he defy tradition and put his hand in his pocket? And who should be shipped out to make way for potential new blood? Let us know below.