Manchester United Players Who Need to Step Up or Ship out

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Manchester United Players Who Need to Step Up or Ship out
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Anderson, Nani

As we approach the January transfer window, for various reasons some players will have to shape up or ship out of Manchester United.

While Sir Alex Ferguson has shown his soft underbelly with his sentimental inclusion of Scholes and Giggs too often this season, recent weeks will have given him a sharp wake-up call.

The attack has been firing on all cylinders with the most goals scored in years at this early stage. They've had to bail the team out as the defence has been letting in water at the other end. 

When we analyse the reasons why, there are some plausible explanations. 

Yet another injury crisis in defence has meant not only the absence of up to four key centre-backs, but also an enforced player rotation that has seen no fewer than 10 different centre-back combinations.

But what is unacceptable is the high proportion of set-piece goals scored against United, being the highest by any team in the division.

Mind you, even that stat is open to interpretation. A high proportion of set-piece goals also means a low ratio of goals scored in open play—which in absolute terms might be interpreted as good news if the number conceded wasn't so high.

Still, it puts the lie to suggestions that the main reason is that United's midfield gets overrun. However, attack is the best form of defence and United have started too slowly in too many matches—which brings us full circle to the point about Scholes and Giggs.

These two are among the greatest footballers who ever lived. It's not just their longevity. Scholes is one of the greatest passers of a ball. Giggs would have walked into any team on the planet, and if he played in Messi's role for Barcelona now might be almost as successful.

"To everything there is a season" as the song goes and it's sadly time to turn over a new leaf in United's midfield and move to a new paradigm.

There is absolutely no reason why the two maestros shouldn't be kept in reserve to cover injury crises or to play alongside young rising stars in the FA Cup. No doubt after they retire, they will both be coaching and mentoring such players anyhow.

The other reason to move on is that United have other first-team squad players who haven't been given a fair crack of the whip, including those same young academy graduates.


Time for the next generation to step up

Some of them have not exactly blossomed in the meanwhile. Whether it's through demotivation, lack of match sharpness or whatever, this has left question marks over the future careers of a few.

In the few weeks leading up to the transfer window, they must grab any chance they get at any level to impress on Sir Alex and reserves manager Warren Joyce that they are true investments for the future. Otherwise they might be sold or released even before they decide to leave the club of their own volition.

Premier League football is big business financially. Even ordinary players get ridiculous amounts of money for not even playing on a Saturday. There really is no time for sentiment.

Harry Redknapp will have no reservations about moving on some of the massive amount of deadwood at QPR. While Sir Alex doesn't have the same problem, he has even more players registered on United's books.

Leaving aside the obvious need to make up a team for United's commitments in the Under-21 competitions, there are still players who will frankly not make it.

That problem will compound itself massively unless addressed soon, because only three over-21 players are allowed to be registered by any Premier League team for the U21s. That in itself will cause a dispassionate review of who should go.

At present United have no fewer than 11 players registered for the U21s this year who will be overage next season. That is the harsh reality that will lead to a thorough audit and weeding out over the next six months, starting in January.

Those players are:

Bebe, Macheda, Wootton, Vermijl, Veseli, Reese Brown, Brady, Petrucci, Tunnicliffe, Lingard and King.

So the first thing we shall do is review those players to determine who might have to go.

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