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Can Manchester United Succeed Without New Signings?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 31: Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United scores the first goal  during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford on October 31, 2009 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Manchester United)
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Nathan LoweAnalyst INovember 25, 2009

United manager Alex Ferguson recently ruled out any new signings this year, citing a bloated transfer market.

It's a slightly ironic stance from a manager who profited $80m from selling Cristiano Ronaldo high and buying only Antonio Valencia as cover.

But the surplus in United's transfer kitty doesn't alone justify splashing cash in a transfer market exaggerated by Real Madrid's spending surfeit.

However, without seeking cover for his squad this season, does Ferguson sell short on United's chances for silverware this year?

The Red Devils lying in reserve were showcased Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Despite earning some clear chances, it was same old, same new for United. Gibson and Anderson, like Fletcher and Carrick, generally controlled the midfield and passed the ball around the edges of Besiktas' half. When Obertan or Macheda went past a defender, the end result was a cross knifing across the box.

While that type of inside-out, horizontal play is United's hallmark over the current generation, there is no Beckham to cross unerringly, Ronaldo to rise majestically, or Van Nistelrooy to finish decisively.

Valencia and Obertan have the pace and ability, respectively, to occasionally beat their full-back and cross, but Rooney or Owen in the middle ultimately fighting for headers, a hit-and-hope approach, when you truly need a goal, doesn't suffice.

Their most creative player, sorcerer Dmitar Berbatov, despite having the class to produce something from nothing, hasn't yet found the consistency or health to be that guy all the time. If they do trump Chelsea domestically and many more sides abroad, he'd have definitely had a good year.

So far, there's no doubt United are competing in all comps. But they don't have to look further than London to see a more well-rounded team, balanced with steel and liquidity.

United have graft in defense, midfield, and with Rooney, in attack. But without Scholes time-travelling back eight years, the cut and counter of United's attacks are often replaced by security, control, and deliberation.

The difference from United's last three winning seasons and now is simply Ronaldo. In the past, he bailed United out with scorchers, parried or otherwise, from open play and free kicks. He'd earn them penalties too several times a year.

Other times a timely Vidic header, or a masterful Macheda debut sufficed to vent the most pressurized ties and add gloss to the table.

And it took a low probability, yet technically brilliant Darren Fletcher strike to breakthrough and open up Everton at the weekend.

Against Besiktas midweek, such fortune was lacking, and when it does, the weakness in United's 2009 squad is punctuated.

The time is probably not right to buy in January. Come May, Ferguson will have one of the few summers left in his reign to add the final, ineffable attribute to his incomplete squad after they likely finish without major silverware this year.

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