If this isn’t prime material for pub-based speculation, I don’t know what is: Fergie has announced, via chief exec. David Gill, that Man U have identified ‘three targets’ to buy during this summer’s season break. We’ve taken a good look at Man U’s squad to see which areas they need to strengthenâ€¦
Goalkeepers: Edwin van der Sar probably has one or two more seasons in him at the highest level, but United are well-covered in this area, with Tomasz Kuszczak and Ben Foster waiting in the wings. Still, I’ll be interested to see who United’s No.1 is next season.
Verdict: There’s no chance that United will make a keeper one of their big three summer signings.
Full-backs: Gary Neville, Patrice Evra and Gabriel Heinze have all been injured this season, exposing Man United’s lack of depth at full-back. John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher, Wes Brown, Mikael Silvestre and even Kieran Richardson can all do a fill-in job here, but this is definitely an area where Ferguson will look to improve his squad. Evra’s form has been a plus, and Heinze is slowly getting back to full fitness (although he’s not the same player who was voted Player of the Season by Man U fans in 2006), but Gary Neville could use some help at right-back.
Verdict: I’m pretty sure that one of Fergie’s big three targets will be a full-back. Southampton left-back Gareth Bale has been linked to Old Trafford already, and I’m sure if the Saints don’t get promoted, then Fergie will surely have another crack at the talented young Welshman.
Centre-backs: Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have been the best central-defensive partnership in the Premiership this season, and they will, injury permitting, be around for many more years to come. With solid citizens like Silvestre, Brown, O’Shea and Craig Cathcart (United’s 18-year-old youth team skipper) as back-up, United look plenty strong enough in this area.
Verdict: No new centre-backs will arrive at OT this summer.
Defensive midfielders: Ferguson still craves a Roy Keane Mark II. He has tried and failed to sign Rino Gattuso from AC Milan and I’m sure he regards Chelsea’s Michael Essien with some jealousy. Michael Carrick was not brought in to replace Keane, but he’s done a solid job this season in the Premiership, even if he went missing against Milan in the Champions League. Indeed, Man U don’t really have any authentic defensive midfielders, unless you count John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and The Alan Smith Experiment (we don’t). That’s where Owen Hargreaves comes in. Bayern Munich seem ready to sell him this summer, but is he man enough to fill Keane’s boots? I have my doubts, but then I can’t see that any player will ever fill Keane’s boots. I really like Daniele De Rossi at Roma but would he come to England? Unlikely.
Verdict: It’s highly likely that Hargreaves is one of the three targets identified by Fergie, and there’s no doubt that he is the type of player United need – tenacious, hard-working and dedicated. Myself, I’d rather have De Rossi.
Attacking midfielders: As long as Cristiano Ronaldo stays at Old Trafford, Man U are fine. Look beyond Ronaldo, however, and the cupboard is, if not bare, then getting a bit stale. Scholes and Giggs can’t go on for much longer and Fergie should really upgrade sub-United standard players like Kieran Richardson (with Aaron Lennon?) and young Chris Eagles (he’s actually the same age as Ronaldo but you’d never guess). Park Ji-Sung is a more than useful utility player who does add something to the squad, but United rely way too much on Ronaldo in wide attacking positions – if the young Portuguese had been injured for six weeks or more at any period of the season, I believe Chelsea would have won the league.
Verdict: It’s doubtful that Man U will buy an attacking midfielder, but Ferguson should be looking to replace Scholes and Giggs now – an almost impossible task, admittedly. I like the look of two Portuguese stars: Ricardo Quaresma at Porto and young Nani at Sporting.
Strikers: We come at last to a position where United definitely need some more oomph. Henril Larsson is back in Sweden, Louis Saha started well but is too injury prone, Ole-Gunnar Solskjaer is too old (as much as we all love him) and Alan Smith has yet to convince me that he is good enough to play up-front regularly for the champions; Ferguson loves Smith’s mental strength, but I just don’t believe he rates him that highly as a player. Giuseppe Rossi is doing quite well at Parma and may return next season, whilst Dong Fangzhuo seems close to breaking through to the first-team squad on a regular basis. But, Wayne Rooney apart, United are lightweight up front. They need a Didier Drogba-type bulldozer, someone ruthless to finish off the dazzling attacking play of Scholes, Ronaldo and Rooney, who still has a tendency to drop too deep when operating as a striker.
Verdict: Fergie must have a shopping list of strikers, as it’s certain that one of his three targets is a forward. I wonder if it looks anything like this:
Dimitar Berbatov, Fernando Torres, David Villa, Samuel Eto’o, Carlos Tevez, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, semi-skimmed milk, eggs, bread etc.
Anyway, that’s my take. Add a comment and let me know who you think United should signâ€¦
[Ollie, Pies Ed.]