Going into the summer I was pretty confident in my predictions for the kind of players Manchester United would be in the market for.
More than anything, the team needed a new playmaker, a new icon to don the No. 7 shirt and ease the burden on Wayne Rooney in being a creative force for the team. United came very close in signing the prodigal Belgian attacker, Eden Hazard (ultimately losing to Chelsea in that race), but succeeded in their pursuit of Dortmund's Japanese ace, Shinji Kagawa, the type of player United have not boasted in a considerable amount of time.
While Antonio Valencia (quite deservedly) earned the right to wear the iconic shirt once worn by the likes of Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo, Kagawa walked straight into the first team in preseason, certainly living up to the hype as a creative force.
Other key areas that I thought needed addressing were in the very heart of the midfield, where an aging Paul Scholes (a man who should be enjoying a happy retirement right now) and Michael Carrick are only backed up by the still unconvincing Anderson and the youngster Tom Cleverley. I suggested that United should be in the market for a bit of steel in the centre of the park, a midfield general who would command possession and dominate the field in the manner of Yaya Toure, who did so well for Manchester City last season.
A gutsy bid for Bastian Schweinsteiger perhaps or proven Premier League steel in the mould of Cheik Tiote. Yann M’Vila—another highly regarded prospect—is also known to be eager for a move, though questions remain about his behaviour and attitude.
The departure of Paul Pogba to Juventus certainly added to the feeling that this would be an area of the field that would be strengthened.
Right now, such a signing does not seem likely. More likely is the signing of a new left-back to offer ample cover and competition for a declining Patrice Evra, with Leighton Baines the most likely target.
The one position I expected no strengthening? With talisman Wayne Rooney, vastly improving Danny Welbeck, struggling but still dangerous Javier Hernandez and the one-time golden boot-winning Dimitar Berbatov in the team, I did not see a superstar striker joining the Old Trafford ranks this summer.
We must also take into account that if Ferguson adopts (as some of our writers have predicted) the popular European formation of 4-2-3-1, Shinji Kagawa will also stake a claim for the key No. 10 role at the heart of the attacking third.
Dimitar Berbatov has most likely played his last game for the club, but that is still a multitude of options for so few positions.
Apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson does not share this belief. In a ballsy, brave and ultimately shocking move, Robin van Persie will today arrive at Old Trafford to complete the biggest Premier League transfer of the summer.
Now, there are many, many reasons why this signing is a bad idea.
Will van Persie and Rooney work together, or will it be a repeat of Drogba and Torres? Surely, this move will mean less playing time for the developing Welbeck and Chicharito? £20 million-plus for a 29-year-old with a poor injury record is way too much?
All perfectly valid arguments, ones that I have put forth myself as Sir Alex upped his pursuit of the Dutch talisman. But now that signing is all but complete? I cannot help but be a little excited.
In my own view, this is Sir Alex Ferguson's final roll of the dice in his pursuit of his third Champions League title, to equal the record set by the great Bob Paisley. Of course, the signing of the top goalscorer of last season's Premier League campaign will only help address the fact that United lost the title on the final day of the season through goal difference. If United's younger forwards fail to find the net, van Persie will score for fun.
More so than that, however, Ferguson has assembled an attacking lineup to compete with the very elite of European club football. A quartet of strikers that perhaps rivals United's most potent ever attacking force of Yorke, Cole, Sheringham and Solskjaer back in the 1999, during their Treble-winning season.
Sir Alex Ferguson means business this season. He wants to go out in a blaze of glory and Robin van Persie—a player he has admired for a long time—is a luxury purchase, another considerable weapon in his final team's armory.
Back in February, Sir Alex claimed that he "has two or three seasons" left in him. After the debacle that occurred at the turn of the century, I would never believe any time frame that Sir Alex gives on his inevitable retirement.
If Robin van Persie can lead Manchester United to their fourth European title, I firmly believe Sir Alex Ferguson will retire with his beloved club once more at the summit of European football. For his successor, he will leave a team packed with young players with plenty of potential from front to back—de Gea, the twins, Jones, Smalling, Cleverley, Kagawa, Welbeck—as well players at the very peak of their powers.
He will also leave a truly world-class player with a much-deserved medal around his neck for the first time since 2005.
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