Sir Alex’s problems aren’t this season but potentially next


Football FanCast columnist
Mike Harvey feels that Sir Alex’s is in for a busy as well as critical summer in
the transfer market.

In his tenure at Manchester
United Sir Alex Ferguson has built one of the best football clubs in the world.
Ups and downs occurred along the way but under Sir Alex the good far outweighs
the bad. United look poised for another league title and are in the hunt for
the Champions League title. This looks to be another good year for the Red
Devils. Sir Alex’s problem is going to be trying to meet his own lofty
standards next season.

The season is not yet
complete but rumours abound as to which of United’s key players are going to
return next season. Tevez wants more first team football, Ronaldo looks poised
to join Real Madrid, and Berbatov is an enigma at best. If all three of these
players move on then Sir Alex’s judge of talent will be tested.

No Tevez and Berbatov leaves
United with Wayne Rooney and Macheda as their strike force. Macheda is young
and untested; it would be a stretch to rely on him heavily. That leaves Rooney,
taking my cue from Sir Alex, Wayne Rooney is not the answer at striker. If
Ferguson had thought he was then Tevez and Berbatov would never have been
bought. They were both high priced and if Wayne was the answer Ferguson would
have spent the money elsewhere.

There will definitely be
money coming in from the sale of these players and Sir Alex will be able to
attempt to buy replacements. The problem this summer is that United have
amassed a large debt under the Glazers and given the current economy the amount
of available funds will, most likely, be less than the amount United pulls in.

Sir Alex will definitely be
able to make at least one big name signing and, if the rumours are true, it
will be Franck Ribery. Ribery is a midfielder so Ferguson is looking to try and
replace Ronaldo. He will still need depth at striker. The problem here is that
many players who do well in other leagues take time to adjust to the Premier
League. The top of the Premier League is a crowded place these days and, as
Chelsea and Liverpool found out, every point is critical. United will not have
the luxury of waiting for players to adjust if they want to maintain their high
profile. That means getting strikers from other Premier League teams and those
players will not come cheap.

Ribery will lessen the
effect of Ronaldo leaving but the larger problem is the rest of the midfield.
Giggs and Scholes both played well this season but will their aging bodies be
able to repeat it next year. Nani and Anderson were suppose to be the answer
but in the end Sir Alex went back to the old guard in the tough matches. The
wild card in the United midfield will be Owen Hargreaves. If Sir Alex can wave
his magic wand and get a full season out of Hargreaves at his best then things
get much easier. This scenario is very unlikely, therefore, Ferguson will have
to buy at least one quality central midfielder. Once again, with the debt
United has amassed, will the money be available?

Since it is unlikely that
Ferguson will have the funds necessary to buy enough high profile players to
fill out the squad as he would prefer, this coming summer transfer window will
be a showcase for his scouting team and Sir Alex’s eye for talent. The United
squad is delicately poised at the moment. The players that come in will have to
be able to hit the ground running and the players who had sub par seasons will
have to turn things around if United is to maintain it’s current dominance. If
the transfers start slow and players like Nani and Anderson don’t step up and
play consistently well, United could find themselves fighting the likes of
Everton to stay in the “top four”.

Finally the big question,
when is Sir Alex going to retire? No one believes that he will step down any
time soon but if Ferguson does get it wrong and United falter there is no money
to make a quick fix. The rebuilding process will take time and Ferguson may not
have enough years left in him to finish the job. Changing managers while in the
midst of trying to rebuild a squad is a recipe for disaster as well.

Sir Alex
has proven over the years that he is quite capable of guiding the Red Devils
through the myriad of pitfalls a top Premier League side faces. A smart betting
man’s money is on Sir Alex to handle this as he always has in the past. The
difference this time around is that the ramifications of a mistake are much
larger than in past seasons. There is not much separating the top teams at the
moment and, if you believe the rumours, Sir Alex may not be at the helm for
much longer. If Fergie does the unthinkable and makes a mistake it could be the
start of hard times for United.