Monday, 25 July 2011

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson throws down the gauntlet after missing out on his targets

Ryan Giggs is set to play a key role again next season 
Ryan Giggs is set to play a key role again next season
 
Sir Alex Ferguson aptly chose Soldier Field to break the news that United won’t be starting the new season with a new midfield
general.

Instead the Reds boss is looking to upgrade a few of his current engine room to gel together to form a unit that will take the champions forward in the post-Paul Scholes era.

Having been knocked back over Arsenal’s Samir Nasri, seen Chelsea firmly grab pole position for Luka Modric should Spurs relent and admit unlikely success in the pursuit of Inter Milan’s Wesley Sneijder, Fergie has given up the ghost.

“We are always looking for good quality players,” he said after United’s 3-1 win against Chicago Fire.

“We started the season with the players we have and I am satisfied with that. We are not looking at the moment but we are looking at combinations of central midfielders now at the club.”

You would never rule out the canny United boss suddenly announcing a new arrival having thrown everybody off the scent but on the face of it the possible finality of that declaration is not what Reds fans wanted to hear.

With Scholes injured for a big chunk of last season, and despite the excellent achievement of a record-breaking 19th title, it was done largely without flair and invention from the midfield.

Critics and the majority of fans alike were as one on that one.

With 21 days to go to the Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, United’s support are now resigned to the fact that the new midfield conductor will have to come from within.

Influential

But ripping up the Paul Scholes like-for-like identi-kit search policy is nothing new for Sir Alex and even when he’s gone for a clone when replacing an influential figure in his XI it has been others who’ve arguably come to the party strongly to ease the transition. And there has been no let up in the success story even when the biggest names have departed.

In 1997 the shock retirement of Eric Cantona saw Fergie go for a similar player in Teddy Sheringham. He wasn’t an instant success and initially many of the Reds support needed convincing.

But despite Sheringham’s difficult introduction United had still won the Treble two years after Cantona had left.

Though Cristiano Ronaldo wore David Beckham’s number seven shirt after the latter moved to Real Madrid in 2003 and played on the right wing, the teenager wasn’t a mirror image of the departed Beckham.

Yet within four years he’d become a title winner, eventual World Player of the Year and was the inspiration behind the 2008 League and European Cup
double.

After Roy Keane quit in 2005 Michael Carrick was bought the following summer to wear his number 16 shirt but he wasn’t a Keano in disguise. Yet the Reds were dominating England and Europe not long after the Irishman was history.

Those players were imported to bring the numbers up but now the onus is on those already at Old Trafford.

Problem

Darren Fletcher’s illness has added to the problem. The Scot remained behind in Manchester on a personal training programme after the debilitating virus that cost him his place from March onwards last season set him back again.

Medical bulletins on the midfielder have not been forthcoming from United but it is unlikely he’ll make the start of the season.

Not being in Paul Scholes’ shadow could add new responsibility to Carrick’s imprint on the Reds and he’s the most experienced player with a passing game in his locker to take on the mantle.

Anderson has shown in fits and starts he has some of the tools to do the job but the 22-year-old Brazilian needs to step up consistently to fully convince his initial fans that he is the long term answer.

Ryan Giggs will be central to the equation but for how long and for how many matches can the evergreen Welshman be an influence?

England Under-21 Tom Cleverley has numerous backers believing the home produced midfielder can transfer his form on loan for Wigan last year into a red shirt.

And from the younger ranks one player above all others is being championed for a potential starring role very soon and that is the 18-year-old French lad Paul Pogba.

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