After the past week, many Manchester United fans will fear that the Carling Cup will be all the team has to show for this season’s efforts in May. That piece of silverware would have been fourth on the list of priorities back in August, but with the FA cup long gone and the devastating exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich last night, along with last week’s loss to title challenger’s Chelsea, it could be one of the most disappointing seasons in Alex Ferguson’s trophy-filled tenure. And if the supporters were expecting a large sum of money to be spent on rectifying any deficiencies in the Red Devils’ squad this summer, they may be disappointed.
Ferguson told Inside United: “No wholesale buying is needed as we have a very good squad that just needs tweaking here and there. Looking at potential squad additions is an ongoing process – it is not just confined to a certain time of year – although we obviously don’t reveal our plans. We have some ideas at the moment but not many players will be joining the club. In any case, I think the transfer market prices have been terribly inflated over the last year.”
Will this prove to be costly as United strive to maintain their stranglehold on the English league? With the club’s off-field problems well documented, keeping their on-field supremacy is imperative – but is an influx of cash needed to raise, or at least maintain, the level of the squad? The biggest disappointment for the United faithful, in terms of money spent, is the club’s refusal to reinvest the huge sum gained from the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer. The world record fee – the small matter of £80 million – could have been used to recruit some of the world’s best talent but this has not been acted upon. Sources at the club, and Ferguson himself, though, continue to state that this has been a decision solely taken by the manager. Many who attack the Glazers disagree with this and maintain that the Ronaldo money has been earmarked to pay off some of the loans taken on by the owners since their arrival in Manchester in 2005.
The irony is that the transfer market prices increasing over the last 12 months, as Ferguson claimed, have probably been heavily influenced by the massive fee Real Madrid forked out for United’s prized asset last year. If Sir Alex is not prepared to spend serious money then he will have to rely on unearthing a couple of gems this summer – but will fans be patient enough for such a gamble, especially if this season does end disappointingly as it looks as though it might? I imagine that if the Premier League title ends up in North or West London then fans will be calling for some major investment on one or two proven, world-class players. With stalwarts Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs coming to the end of their careers it may be time for some fresh faces to enter the scene. Of course, this trio all came through the club’s academy system and have been at Old Trafford for their entire careers. Maybe such evolution will carry on and the youngsters at the club now will have such an impact in the future. But it was a different era back in the ‘90s; success is now expected more than ever. For this reason, Ferguson may need to go back on his stated intentions and splash some cash once this season comes to its end.