Not many people will argue with the fact that Manchester United have been the most succesful English Premier League club over the past two decades.
The Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup trophies have been streaming in since Sir Alex Ferguson took over and this has been accompanied with some of the best footballers that the Premier League has seen. However in recent seasons it has been hard not to notice a rapid decline in star players making their way to Old Trafford.
Gone are the days of big summer signings like Juan Sebastian Veron (£28.1 million), Wayne Rooney (£25.6 million), Rio Ferdinand (£29.1 million) or Dimitar Berbatov (£30 million) . Manchester United are now operating on a modest budget resulting in signings like Zoran Tosic, Chris Smalling, Javi Hernandez and Gabriel Obertan.
Now I’m not saying these are bad players, in fact most of them are highly rated but it’s not the type of signing we’ve come to expect from the Red Devils. Manchester lost two big players in Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, and while Ferguson insisted that they would cope without the two attackers, last seasons results (United only won the Carling Cup) proved that was not the case.
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The likes of Arsenal and Liverpool have overtaken United in this summer’s transfer wheeling and dealing as both Wenger and Hodgson strengthened their squads with quality signings in the form of Chamakh, Koscielny, Cole and Jovanovic while Ferguson brought in two youngsters in Smalling and Hernandez.
Then there’s also the matter of Scholes, Giggs, Neville and Ferdinand who all seem to be approaching their expiry date. Sholes and Giggs are still world-class players capable of producing virtuoso performances on occasions but can their 36-year-old legs cope with the rigorous Premier League campaign?
Ferdinand and Neville look like their on their last legs, with both defenders struggling with injuries for most of last season. Which means that Johny Evans, Chris Smalling and the Rafael may be required to fill in on a regular basis during the season.
Up front, United’s over reliance on Wayne Rooney was exposed last season. Their season fell apart on the 30th of May 2010 when Rooney suffered an ankle injury in United’s 2-1 Champions League defeat against Bayern Munich. Ferguson was so dependant on the England striker that he risked further injury by starting Rooney in the return leg at Old Trafford despite the player clearly not being fit.
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Rooney’s injury resulted in United being knocked out of the Champions League while also allowing Chelsea to win the League by 1 point. What happens if Rooney get’s injured again this season? Can United rely on their £30 million flop Berbatov or their inexperienced young Mexican starlet Javier Hernandez?
Manchester United need at least one star signing if they hope to compete on all fronts this season, Mesut Özil looks like the most likely candidate but will United put up the money or will Ferguson continue to sign unknown youngsters in the hope of striking it rich.