Manchester United's Retreat From Greatness?

nigel smithCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2009

ROME - MAY 27: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Barcelona and Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico on May 27, 2009 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)




Why has Sir Alex’s decided to put away his cheque book less than two months before the official close of the transfer window?


The manager made his decision known amid celebration at the arrival this summer of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan.


"It is the end of our business, so all these stories about who we are supposed to be getting - forget it,"  he said.

Ferguson’s statement may well leave some fans wondering if United have lost their collective mind. It is an old truism that great teams strengthen whilst strong. It hardly ranks as squad improvement for United to enter the next season with the addition of Owen, Obertan and Valencia but minus Ronaldo, Tevez, Possebon and perhaps Gibson.

The manager has earned the right to be believed if he is sincere in his confidence that United are equipped to secure another league triumph and to maintain United’s place at the top table in Europe. He knows his players and will have noted the youngsters ready for the step up to the big time.

Yet to many eyes, United may lack goals and variety in attack even with Owen’s arrival. The lack of top quality midfield creativity and strength is a creeping worry. There may also be one or two defensive concerns over the course of the next season too.

By ruling out further spending, Ferguson has armed his critics for an autumn of media sniping if United do not hit top form. Worse, he has deepened the worries of fans who look at United’s near £700 million debt and wonder whether the £80 million from the Ronaldo deal has simply been swallowed up in interest payments.

When making his ‘closed for business’ statement, Ferguson added: “Young players with ability always get a chance here.”

His trust in youth is to be applauded. It is to be hoped that Ferguson’s commitment is not simply a ruse to cover a draining away of resources by the Glazer regime to cover non-football inadequacies of their own making.