Decisions Manchester United Must Get Right to Stand a Chance of Winning the UCL
Sir Alex Ferguson is facing one of the most critical seasons in Manchester United's history.
The old-timer has some vital questions to answer and decisions to make for the sake of both the club's long-term future and its immediate successes.
Is Tom Cleverley the man to replace the mighty Paul Scholes? And what formation gives them the biggest chance of success?
Here are five decisions Ferguson and company must get right for United to win the UEFA Champions League. Enjoy the slideshow.
Decide Who's the Number One No. 1
The battle between Anders Lindegaard and David de Gea on the training ground is a healthy one.
It has to be said, however, that chopping and changing between them on match day isn't doing anyone any favours.
Appearances between the two contenders are closely matched. The Dane has featured in four English Premier League bouts compared to the Spaniard’s three, while de Gea has held exclusive rights to the UEFA Champions League games so far.
It’s highly likely that the former Atletico Madrid ‘keeper is the future No. 1, but he’d be forgiven for being confused as to why he’s not being given the necessary experience.
Some feel Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't trust de Gea’s aerial abilities, but the only way to iron out those issues is with experience.
What Is Wayne Rooney's Long-Term Position?
Recruiting Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa in the offseason gave Sir Alex Ferguson a wealth of choices in attack.
It also presented a new problem—how do you fit Wayne Rooney, Kagawa and RvP in the same side?
I speculated on this issue before the season kicked off, then again after five games. It’s still not entirely clear, but it appears my suspicions of Rooney moving to central midfield weren't completely wrong.
In the 3-0 demolition of Newcastle this weekend, the England international had an instrumental game from the centre of the park.
Switching him between centre forward, wide forward and midfield won’t be good for him or the team in the long run, so this decision needs to be made as soon as possible.
Let's be clear—Rooney is world-class in any of those three positions, but not all three simultaneously.
What's the Optimal Formation?
First of all, what is Manchester United’s current formation? According to WhoScored?, the Red Devils have switched between 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and 4-4-1-1 formations so far this season.
It's vitally important that Sir Alex Ferguson gets this one right, as it's why United failed last season in Europe.
Against the harder sides on the continent, Fergie must maintain the use of the 4-2-3-1 in order to dominate possession, create chances and remain solid.
One of the downfalls of having one up front is having less of a goal threat in favour of retaining the ball, but having Robin van Persie means you’re never in danger of that.
Is It Worth Investing in the Defence in January?
Manchester United’s defensive troubles have been well documented so far this season, losing Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to long-term troubles.
That leaves Sir Alex Ferguson with Jonny Evans and Rio Ferdinand—two players who divide opinion.
Some feel Evans isn't good enough to wear the red of United, while most can accept Ferdinand is past his best.
Even if Vidic, Smalling and Jones come back to full fitness and excel, is it worth dipping into the transfer window for a new recruit?
But then, can you find a centre-back good enough to fill in who isn't cup-tied for Europe already? Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa looks a good option at around €10 million from an underperforming Montpellier side, but he wouldn't be an immediate boost (Europe-wise).
Is Tom Cleverley the Real Deal?
The very large majority of Manchester United fans are absolutely smitten by Tom Cleverley’s rapid progress and acceleration to the first-team squad.
The very large majority of every other fanbase can’t quite work out what’s so special about him.
United need the next Paul Scholes to show up and pull on a red shirt. No one else. They need the very best. Sir Alex Ferguson thought he had him in Paul Pogba, but he jumped ship to Juventus.
Above all, I’d like to hear from United fans. Is Cleverley the next Scholes? Is he his own man entirely but destined to become a world-beater?
Or do you need to purchase a combative midfielder such as Etienne Capoue?