How Manchester United Might Line Up Next Season
Of course, the Scottish manager isn’t as sympathetic, and he has already been discussing the changes he will make to his squad over the summer months.
He then added, "We've been doing a bit of work over the last three or four months, targeting who the players are that we feel could enhance us, make us better or help us maintain the level we're at. Hopefully the players we bring into the club in the next year or so will be of the quality we need."
United’s attempts to sign these players will see them come up against Mancini’s and, presumably, Mourinho’s sides, but having seduced Robin Van Persie in the summer, Ferguson will be confident that he can get any player he desires.
But he did warn, “You have to look at the structure of the club at present, in terms of the number of first-team players we have at 23 or under. Older players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand may be coming towards the end of their careers, but these younger players are the foundation for the next five or six years."
So, with these two or three changes in mind, how might United line up next season?
David de Gea’s exquisite performances since January have seen the Spaniard finally clasp his hands securely around the No. 1 jersey at Old Trafford.
His defining moment of the season came against West Ham United in April, when Andy Carroll clattered into De Gea like a pro wrestler, leaving him sprawled across the floor. However, De Gea simply brushed the incident off and just kept coming back for more.
He has also prospered thanks to a prolonged period of clean sheets between February and April, which helped to, rightfully, confirm his place in the PFA Team of the Year.
Whether Anders Lindegaard, who has already voiced his discontent at being on the United bench, will remain at the club is up for debate, but if he does depart Ferguson might use this opportunity to promote Ben Amos to the understudy position, after a successful loan spell at Hull City.
Rafael has blossomed into one of the finest right-back players in the league this season, contributing goals and assists whilst expunging the immature aspects of his game that have hindered his progress.
Behind him, the likes of Phil Jones, Fabio and Chris Smalling are capable of deputising for the Brazilian, meaning that Ferguson has a wealth of options at his disposal in the position.
Patrice Evra has also shot back to form after a mediocre few seasons at left-back, but we are now entering the twilight years of his career, as he turns 32 in May.
Alexander Buttner has impressed in patches offensively but still looks naïve in defence, whilst Fabio’s loan spell at Queens Park Rangers descended into chaos almost as soon as he arrived at Loftus Road.
Both players have earned a right to contest Evra’s spot once he departs, but don’t expect that to occur for at least another 12 months.
United’s porous defence in the first half of the season was fixed as soon as Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand reasserted their positions in the team.
Ferguson still clearly believes that these two veterans have the ingredients to prosper in the Premier League. However, injuries and age have hampered their attributes and against pacey and counter-attacking units in Europe they will surely be caught out.
Johnny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones will each feature heavily in the future of United’s back line, and you can expect these players to be rotated in to replace the duo on a more regular basis next season.
Michael Carrick’s ascent as a Manchester United stalwart has seen Red Devils fans label the midfielder as the heir to Paul Scholes, who will probably sadly retire this summer. The king is dead, long live the king.
However, the position alongside the Geordie is still firmly up for grabs. Anderson continues to struggle with injuries and his weight, whilst despite coming on leap and bounds, and Tom Cleverley has sadly faded badly throughout the second half of the season.
The ever-present deity known as Ryan Giggs continues to bewilder soccer aficionados with his effortless exuberance deep in midfield, whilst Phil Jones certainly prospers in a holding role but struggles in attacking berths.
Ferguson might look to Luka Modric to provide a more cutting edge through the centre, especially after his goal ended United’s European hopes this season.
Attacking Midfielders & Wingers
Unfortunately, it has been a turgid season for United’s wingers. Antonio Valencia’s loss in form has been remarkable, and opposing defenders now know to simply show him onto his left foot, whilst Ashley Young and Nani both continue to infuriate with their inconsistency.
However, each player can produce unique moments of eclectic quality in spurts, and if Ferguson can get each of them clicking in unison, then United could turn into an even more formidable unit. I expect Ferguson to stick with them for another 12 months, but they look to be in last chance saloon.
Whilst the purchase of Wilfried Zaha and the expected emergence of Adnan Januzaj not only means that Ferguson's appraisal in this area is complete, but that there is an abundance of speedy and dangerous talents to threaten repeatedly on United's wings in 2013/2014.
The addition of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale certainly would be nice, though. A boy can dream.
The Scot’s preference for a supporting striker who lies in between the two wingers has boiled down to a straight battle between Shinji Kagawa and Wayne Rooney.
Kagawa has shown in this second half of the season that he is a gifted and effervescent talent, who can create slices of creative genius out of nothing, whilst Rooney continues to frustrate simply because of his previous potential.
It’s not inconceivable that they can line up alongside each other as they have done wonderfully at times this season, but, realistically, for one to prosper it would appear that the other must be sacrificed.
My gut feeling is that Ferguson now prefers Kagawa, but I still imagine that Rooney will be at Old Trafford come August. Whether he’ll have a confirmed starting position, though, is certainly not a certainty.
Of course, the possible signing of either Radamel Falcao or Robert Lewandowski would, pleasantly, confuse matters even further and give United an orgasmic array of talent to choose from, which would be superior to any of their European rivals.
Robin Van Persie has cemented his position as United’s first choice striker with aplomb, and his goals have been the difference between champagne in April and tears in Sunderland.
Javier Hernandez is only a last-minute goal in the Champions League away from becoming the new Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, no pressure, whilst Danny Welbeck, Rooney and Kagawa each flourish in deeper roles which affects their strike rates.
Whoever dons Red for the first time in August would more than likely play alongside Van Persie, meaning that United might revert back to a more traditional 4-4-2 system, or they could even expand their game into a more continental style.
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