It’s not really the beginning since transfer gossip never really ends. But it is silly season now and I figure I might as well chime in.
Manchester United had a bad season only by that club’s lofty standards. It failed to win the Premiership for the fourth time in a row (no shame in getting beat by a very good Chelsea team) and it failed to advance in the Champions League because of Rafael da Silva’s idiocy and Arjen Robben’s wizardry. But, still, there are weaknesses. United, and Sir Alex Ferguson, was too dependent on Wayne Rooney for goals. That was bound to happen after Cristiano Ronaldo left last summer for the crazier pastures of Real Madrid. Really, Ferguson had to know that was coming when he decided to depend on a host of unproven players. To his credit, Nani improved over the season’s course but United’s best midfielder was the ageless Ryan Giggs. While I love Giggs, that’s not a sentence that should be written about a club like Manchester United. Still, midfield isn’t the primary concern.
The primary concern is goal and defense. In goal, Edwin van der Sar is getting very, very old. He’s still very good, but a replacement needs to be brought in. With Ben Foster on his way out and Rio Ferdinand looking increasingly crocked, the team needs new blood on the back line. Hugo Lloris is allegedly Fergie’s top goal target, but I prefer CSKA Moscow’s Igor Akinfeev. I suppose Fergie will set aside £20 million and buy whoever takes it first. Reinforcing defense is a trickier proposition, although Chris Smalling is on his way. The best thing to do is look for someone who can partner with Nemanja Vidić and spell Ferdinand about 30% of the time. Perhaps Smalling is that man, perhaps not.
Strikers Javier Hernández and Mame Biram Diouf are on their way but they’re both young and won’t provide anything but cover for Rooney. With Dimitar Berbatov all but assured of leaving (along with Michael Carrick and Anderson), Fergie still needs a defensive midfielder and some attacking creativity. Perhaps “creativity” is the wrong word; “technique” would be better. People seem to think that James Milner is a perfect fit, and perhaps he is. Perhaps that’s also the English bias (which will definitely inflate his price tag). I suppose Fergie could do worse than Milner.
United won’t overhaul the club but Fergie does need to add three or four players. At the same time, though, a few players will be headed out. I don’t think United’s financial situation is a dire as reported, otherwise there would be no transfer speculation at all. But there is. Now it’s up to the manager to spend wisely, something I can safely say he has a habit of doing.