With the parade umbrellas packed away, and the post season analysis pretty much done and dusted, it’s already time for Manchester United to look to next season.
Other teams may have basked that little bit longer in the glory of a nineteenth title, but at Old Trafford we do things a little differently. It’s a case of job done, good work- now let’s prepare for next season.
With the retirement of the greatest midfielder of his generation TM along with the best goalkeeper, and every player who’s had a good game being linked with Old Trafford, there’s certainly going to be some changes during the Summer.
While it’s obvious Sir Alex Ferguson needs to spend some money a more pressing priority may be to look at some of the players who’ve underachieved somewhat during 2010/11.
There are three United stars- and I use the word ‘star’ lightly who’ve simply failed to perform at the top level for much of the season. Although I’m almost scared to name them as they are three of the best players at the club, I feel it’s time to be honest and give a candid assessment of what I believe all three players need to address in the coming months.
The names Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Nani would usually be the first ones on not just United’s team sheet but practically any in world football.
Over the past few years each one of them has turned in many a match winning or awe inspiring performance and is teetering on the brink of being a United legend- some may even argue one or two of them are already there.
However the season which has just ended has seen something happen to the trio, something that worries me quite a lot as we look to fend off yet another attack from our big spending rivals.
Let’s start with Nani, who it has to be said has had a great season and easily his best in a United shirt. Nine goals and 14 assists in the Premier League is a wonderful return for any player and many felt he was unlucky not to be awarded the PFA Young player of the year or even be nominated in the senior category.
So why does he need to ‘pull his socks up’ I hear you cry. Well allow me to elucidate. Nani’s last assist was on April 9th his last goal came in February. In ten games he’s failed to set up one goal and in 18 he’s failed to find the net. Admittedly some of these appearances have been as a substitute but this poor form cannot and should not be ignored.
People will point to Jamie Carragher’s terrible challenge at Anfield as something of a watershed from which Nani has never looked the same since and while there may be some truth to that suggestion, it doesn’t make his lack of impact any easier to swallow.
If you’d have told me that Nani wouldn’t be starting the Champions League final a few months ago, I’d have told you that was insane, yet practically no one batted an eye lid when his name was left off the starting XI.
I truly believe Nani’s one of the most gifted players in the world and have always been a massive fan even when some were doubting him. I feel it’s time to be brutally honest and admit that Nani needs to regain his mojo and quick- there’s been talk of him already being considered surplus to requirements. I’d hate to see Nani leave but I’d hate to see his anonymity in a red shirt continue.
In the case of Patrice Evra- criticising the man almost feels blasphemous to me as he’s one of my favourite United players of all time. Again though it’s time to be frank – he’s had a very disappointing season by his standards. I’m not just talking about the Champions League final where he seemed to make numerous errors and was the far weaker of United’s two full backs, but throughout the course of the entire campaign.
It seemed to take Evra several months to fully get over the whole France world cup debacle and then when he finally did, it wasn’t long before he went off the boil again.
Before the season I could count on practically one hand the number of bad games Evra had produced in a United shirt -now I’d need a calculator.
For a player I’ve long argued is the world’s greatest left back, Evra needs to regain his consistency next season and soon, otherwise Sir Alex may even try Fabio on the left which some Reds have suggested could be the answer to a now problematic area.
Finally we come to Fletcher, who injuries aside has had his poorest season in five years. Other than Spurs at home I cannot recall Fletcher really having a stormer which used to be his trademark. In fact the Scotland Captain seems to have become a shadow of himself and this was before the ‘mystery virus’ robbed him of several weeks of football.
I like many other Reds admire Fletcher- not least for the way he’s turned his career around since the ‘Fergie’s love child’ days, but if he’s to play any part in future United successes he needs to find the performance levels of 2009/10 not 2005/06.
So there you have it, three players I’m sure we all love who have in one way or another struggled at times this season. Am I being overly harsh or critical?
If I am I make no apologies, I’m not trying to stick the knife in with any of them and believe me I don’t want to see any leave. I just feel it’s time to be honest and raise the issue of how three of United’s most important players have let a little to be desired of late and why that needs to be acknowledged.
Read more of Justin’s articles at Red Flag Flying High