Sir Alex Ferguson, will have to take time off from showing FIFA dignitaries round Old Trafford and ignoring the BBC to pick his final 25 man Premier League squad this week.
The deadline is the 31st August by which time Fergie needs to have chosen 25 players for his squad which will last until the transfer window re-opens in January. Eight of these players must have spent at least three years at an English or Welsh club three years prior to turning 21.
The recent United reserve game against ‘Noisy Neighbours Kamikaze Spending’ XI highlighted the strength in-depth at the manager’s disposal.
With the likes Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Anderson, Rafael Da Silva, Darron Gibson and Kiko Macheda all starting for the reserves it shows not only just how strong the United squad is but also how difficult it is going to be to keep everyone happy.
Fortunately for Fergie, players under the age of 21 don’t count towards the 25 so it will make the United manager’s task a hell of a lot easier as of the new recruits this summer only Chicharito is over the age of 21, while many fringe members of the squad have yet to reach that milestone.
The home grown rule will affect United a lot less than some other Premier League teams as the core of United’s squad is made up of English players.
Rio Ferdinand, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney are all obviously English, while Jonny Evans, John O’Shea, Darren Fletcher and Darron Gibson have been here for at least three years since before they turned 21. Oh and there’s also that welsh bloke who plays on the wing now and again.
The fact is filling the home grown quota shouldn’t be a problem so the rumours of Mickey Phelan making a comeback to bolster the squad are totally unfounded.
Due to players who aren’t ’21’ not needing to be registered it means the likes of Macheda- who bagged a brace for the reserves last night -Tom Cleverley- who grabbed the other goal- Rafael and Fabio Da Silva, Chris Smalling, Gabriel Obertan and Bebe can be brought in and out of United’s match day squad without any drama.
There is of course the question of Owen Hargreaves and whether Fergie will name the perpetually injured midfielder.
The answer I believe is yes, simply because he can afford to. The fact that players who aren’t 21 when the season year starts, not the actual season itself, don’t need registering means that players who have turned 21 in the past few months, such as Obertan and Cleverley won’t count. That rule could be the one that saves Hargreaves’ United career, as it leaves space for him to be included.
If Hargreaves is likely to return to ‘fitness’ anytime in the next few months there are still the doubts regarding how the player’s confidence has been affected by his ongoing injury saga, a point Fergie has raised in the past.
With his contract due to expire in the summer, he may struggle to find a new deal at United, however at least for the time being he does still have a United future. By my reckoning United will actually only need to name a 24 man squad due to amount of youngsters they’ve got.
Here’s the 24 men I believe will be named by Fergie next week.
Edwin Van Der Sar, Tomas Kuzczak
Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O’Shea, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Richie De Laet.
Anderson, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, Nani, Antonio Valencia, Ji-Sung Park, Darron Gibson, Owen Hargreaves.
Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez.
Considering you can also add to that list the likes of Smalling, Fabio, Rafael, Obertan, Cleverley and Macheda then if injuries go United’s way there’s every reason to expect yet another title challenge this season.
Read more of Justin Mottershead’s work on his blog ‘Name on the Trophy’