Oct 19, 2010

No more Rooney, where do Man Utd go from here?

by Mark Duffield-Thomas

So, the absolutely unthinkable seems to be happening. Sir Alex Ferguson’s talismanic forward wants away, Rooney is turning his back on Old Trafford. It appears that Rooney’s agent has planted the seed no doubt citing Ferguson’s lack of support over Rooney’s misbehaviour and terrible World Cup. This looks to be another case of agent created insanity on behalf of a player. For most Manchester United fans the question is not now where will Rooney go, if he leaves, the fans will not care, he will be dead to them. The questions is where do Manchester United go from here.

At the end of last season it seemed Rooney would be the kingpin around which Ferguson was building his final great side before retiring, but with Rooney leaving does this mean the manager will consider stepping aside? Is Ferguson up for re-building yet another team in a transfer market where he already believes there is no value? Is this the time for Manchester United fans to accept a period of transition when Rooney and SAF leave to usher in a completely new regime?

If Ferguson stays he will be first to admit that investment in the team will be essential, but January is not the time for bargins or smart buys. Assuming Rooney leaves in January, I believe the most likely destination will be City or Chelsea for around £40m, the short transfer window and Utd’s desperation to land a marquee signing will mean selling clubs will impose a massive premium on their players. Is there a chance that Ferguson would let Rooney leave in January and not replace him until June? Is this why the manager is trying to get the team used to playing without Rooney and trying to fast track the development of Hernandez?

By squeezing out the last bits of magic from Giggs and Scholes and relying on Berbatov and the young pretenders (Macheda, Hernandez), I am sure Manchester United could see out the season, but a 3rd place finish and the humiliating risk of City finishing above them would both be highly likely. I believe this to be the most likely outcome followed by serious investment in the summer.

Could allowing Rooney to leave to a rival in January be a smart move by draining said rival’s transfer kitty making it easier for SAF in the summer? Possibly, but not if he goes to City as it would help them secure 2nd place, boost their brand further and even at a combined value of £80m including wages, even Rooney will not drain the Sheik’s treasure chest.

So fast forward to June. After finishing 3rd, Ferguson is in place for two more seasons and wants one title to finally ‘knock Liverpool off their perch’. To avoid the complete wrath of the fans the Glazers would need to release all of the Rooney money and a large chunk of the Ronaldo cash. So where should Ferguson splash the cash?

Priority 1: Creative midfielder
Even without the Rooney car crash, Utd need to replace Scholes and bring some much needed flair and control to their midfield. Step forward Wesley Sneijder. After a dazzling World Cup, Utd should have signed Sneijder this summer when he was unsettled by Mourinho leaving Inter. In 2011 he will be open to leaving but no doubt Rafa will use this as his opportunity for revenge against Ferguson. Likely outlay: £25m

Priority 2: Striker
Berbatov will be 30 by the end of the season and Hernandez will be the oldest of the back-up strikers at 21. A world class partner for Berbatov and a 20-goal a season guarantee will be needed. The talk about Torres this week will no doubt get the United fans excited. I do see him leaving Liverpool in the summer but with Rooney at City, I think Torres will team up with Drogba. The shortlist of world class strikers that would cut it in the Premiership is short and this will take another chunk of money but Ferguson probably has three choices: Benzema, Dezko or Pato. Likely outlay £20-30m

Priority 3: Goalkeeper
Utd will be lucky if Van der Saar maintains his form and motivation to the end of this season, let alone next meaning a new goalkeeper. Here there are two strong contenders and a few outside bets worth considering. Buffon or Lloris would be the big name proven players the fans would appreciate but Ferguson, who does not have a fantastic history of signing goalkeepers, seems to prefer Dutch or Scandanavian keepers so expect a bid for Ajax’s Stekelenburg or Denmark’s Anders Lindegaard. Likely outlay £5-15m

Priority 4: Revitalise remaining squad
With Neville, Giggs and Scholes set to retire, Rio’s injury problems and Carrick and Anderson’s poor form Ferguson will need to united, motivate and possibly purchase some additional squad or young players to fill out the remaining positions in the squad but this may wait to January or the following season.

Ferguson has played his last and best card in this INCREDIBLE press conference. He successfully painted Rooney as the villan in front of the United fans as a player that is petulant and money drive, a player that unthinkably wants away from Old Trafford. The fans will always, however painful it is, side with the manager. So expect Rooney to leave, some more tough talking and hopefully tough spending from Ferguson to get United back on track. It will be a rough ride.

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1 comment:

Sporting Fare said...

It's far from over and there is a chance Rooney may still stay.

That said, if he DID leave then yes, that money would need to be reinvested in the team if United were to have any chance of remaining at the very top of the English game.

The Scholes/Giggs issue will be there whatever happens, as will the lack of a decent right back, unless you like the Brazilian twins (which I do...but I'm yet to be convinced they're up to the task on a full time basis).

Up front I actually think United are ok.

But that's the future. The ow needs to be sorted one way or the other and ASAP.