Manchester United: 6 Moves United Must Make to Get Back Ahead of Man City
Has the balance of power in Manchester shifted? It's certainly debatable.
Manchester City dethroned their more-experienced rivals last season, and with the resources that the blue half has at their disposal, the Sky Blues will only get stronger from here on out.
With only a few tweaks and a bit of luck, United can show the world that City's good year was just a fluke and reclaim their place at the summit of the Premier League.
Play Chris Smalling and/or Phil Jones in the Center of Defence
Rio Ferdinand showed last season that he still has some life left in the tank, but it is time for him to make the transition to being more of a supporting player.
In his place beside the returning Nemanja Vidic should be either of Phil Jones or Chris Smalling, depending on the matchup, fitness or Fergie's mood.
Both made great strides last year and became essential members of the team, featuring prominently when injuries took their toll. With the opportunity to play in their natural positions again, this could be the year that both become regulars, if given the chance.
This isn't exactly a "move," but is one of the most important things United must do if they want to get back on top.
Injuries riddled the team last season and the fact that multiple key players were absent for long periods really hamstrung the Red Devils when they could have sealed the title.
Foremost among the list of key players sidelined was captain and defensive stalwart Nemanja Vidic, whose presence United could not truly replace all year. And with budding stars like Tom Cleverley able to get into the fold for longer, the team can show what it is really capable of.
Sign Javi Martinez
With only Michael Carrick and 37-year-old Paul Scholes as the established presences in the center of midfield, Manchester United could do with a world-class, well-rounded midfielder.
The Red Devils have already inked Shinji Kagawa, but he only filled their need of a versatile, creative midfielder. On the more defensive side, Javi Martinez would be a perfect fit.
The Spaniard is very tough in the tackle and certainly does not neglect his defensive duties, but brings that typical Iberian passing ability that makes defences quake in their boots.
Martinez is the type of signing that makes you question the transfer fee at first, but soon becomes an integral member of the team.
Promote from Within
Manchester City may buy all their talent from their rivals, but United don't need to do that to be successful.
As the team is now, there are already more than enough capable players to build a championship squad, and yet more youngsters who would do very well if given the chance to shine.
Young players like Danny Welbeck, Rafael, the aforementioned Cleverley, Jones, Smalling and even Paul Pogba can solidify positions that some are clamoring for transfers to fill.
In addition to the fact that these are all very good players, fans won't get the feeling that their team simply bought a championship if they see their younger boys succeed.
Establish a Rotation of Forwards
With the embarrassment of riches he has at his disposal, Sir Alex Ferguson faces the problem of giving all his wingers and strikers enough playing time to keep them happy and let them get into top form.
Players like Nani, Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Javier Hernandez all can rightfully claim that they deserve a starting spot, but only a few of them can play alongside Wayne Rooney on a given day.
Each brings a slightly different set of skills to the team and is valuable in their own way. Ferguson will face a great managerial test each game in balancing matchups with each player's form and morale.
But if anyone can pull off the balancing act, it is the master himself. An intelligent rotation of forwards will keep everyone fresh and firing, always giving United their best chance to win.
Cut the Deadweight
If you take a look at Manchester City's first-team squad, you will be hard-pressed to find any players who don't contribute in any meaningful way to the club's success.
Granted, they try to fill every roster spot with a £25 million signing, but not every team has to do that to maximize their roster space. And, with the 25-man squad rule, it is essential to do so.
If any team wishes to promote their own players and even make the odd signing here and there, they must make space on their roster by cutting those who warm the bench or serve as makeshift dribbling cones during training.
United is not without this criminal inefficiency. If the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Park Ji-Sung, Anderson and perhaps even Darren Fletcher (depending on his health situation) are jettisoned, the Red Devils will be able to fill their spots with productive players who can play an active role in taking back the title.