Wayne Rooney’s miraculous form has slightly overshadowed the fact that Manchester United have looked a little flat at times this season. With the onset of age, injury crisis and a still unsettled midfield, Sir Alex Ferguson may well ignore the debt and plunge some of the Ronaldo windfall into the transfer market this summer. But some will have to make way. So who will it likely be?
Nani – The yellow booted pre-weirdo Michael Jackson look-alike has been flattering to deceive for some time now. A relatively impressive first season was counterbalanced by a pretty shocking 2nd. The word on the street (and by street, I mean uninformed internet message boards) was that it was win or bust for the Portugeezer, and after a poor start, it was looking so Bad he looked likely to Beat it. But thankfully he had a good long hard look at the Man in the Mirror and some impressive recent performances have tipped the scales back into the “probably not” camp. Unlikely to become the long-term successor to Giggs as first hoped, but still likely to be given another season at least. Fergie Can’t Stop ‘till He Gets Enough – (I’m so so sorry, I couldn’t resist it)
Anderson – Another of the expensive youngsters touted as the long-term replacement for an aging legend, Anderson has faired better than Nani, but only just. Occasionally brilliant performances, mostly against tougher opposition, have seen him dubbed “potentially World Class” on numerous occasions. He’s also potentially a fruit loop, with numerous training ground bust ups reported on the ‘street’ (see above) and going AWOL in Brazil in January looked to have spelled the end of his United career. However he was finally brought back from Siberia just in time to rupture his cruciate. Vital if United are to build back a strong world class midfield (possibly) but the most likely to be jettisoned after a heinous breach of Fergie Law.
Nemanja Vidic – Constant rumours of a want-a-way wife and an already dusted deal at Madrid abound, but the Serbian has pledged his future to United – verbally at least – for the time being. With Chris Smalling arriving next season though, it’s still firmly in the “wait and see” departure lounge.
Owen Hargreaves – Crock-Monsieur Hargreaves has been 3 weeks away from returning for about 8 months now. It seems incredibly unlikely he’ll be back in time to make the World Cup squad, and not a given he’ll even come back at all. An expensive fee for a mere 1 seasons service action, Hargreaves’ wages could well be deemed surplus to requirements if another player to fit his mould (but hopefully not his cast) can be found. Though his fantastically German penalty taking abilities and hair would be a sorry loss.
John O’Shea – A perennial Jack of all trades, O’Shea is a man adept at playing in a myriad of different positions. Unfortunately, he plays in all of them like John O’Shea. There was a rumor bizarrely linking him to Barcelona – possibly as a sleeper agent – and with without a consistant place in the side, he could find a tempting offer of regular football hard to resist. Most likely to stay though, as he’s part of the furniture, like a tatty old cushion you can’t bare to get rid of.
G.Neville – Still sporting the G on his back despite being the only Neville at United, and still manfully attempting to finally grow that beard out, Neville could be reaching the end of his long United career. Just turned 35, and with sprightly competition coming through in the form of the Cabbage Patch twins, he could decide to call a dignified halt to his tenure rather than fade away slowly like a resilient candle. Still showed signs of his worth against a fat Ronaldinho look-alike on Wednesday though, and could get a second lease of life.
Paul Scholes – Like Neville, reaching the end of his allotted time. Has never hidden his desire to possibly end his career at boyhood club Oldham. Time is running out for him to do so, but while United’s midfield remains inconsistent, he’ll likely be persuaded to stay. Just as long as he doesn’t tackle anyone. As with Neville, it’ll be entirely his choice.
Park Ji Sung – At one point the most likely player to leave Old Trafford after a prolonged period out of the side. However United’s unsettled midfield has given him a new purpose and he’s been one of the teams best performers over the past few months. Unlikely to leave now it’s just starting to get good. Might even learn some English eventually too.
Dimitar Berbatov – The stand out candidate, despite being better than almost everyone thinks he is. Has failed to click with Rooney significantly since the departure of Ronaldo, and with United settled on a 4-5-1 formation for the big ties, often finds himself left out completely. Only one goal against the big four – in any league – in 2 seasons is a poor return for £30m. Fergie might feel the experiment has run it’s course a la Ming the Merciless stand in Juan Veron. With Michael Owen injured though he could yet prove vital, it all depends on whether another striker is found in the summer.
The Glazers – Unfortunately for the Green and Gold collective – No chance.