Six Players Manchester United Must Sell/Retire
As we come to the end of a season that seemed to promise so much yet has ended only as a moderate success (for all of Arsene Wenger's Gallic indifference, The Carling Cup is a trophy to be picked up), we, as Manchester United fans, have seen a collapse of the erstwhile virtually unstoppable team.
That this season would be an overachievement with the current squad had already been painfully highlighted by Barcelona in the Champions League final in Rome last year. And yet no one had predicted the collapse of United in such a spectacular fashion in just a matter of a week, that too at a point in the season when United are traditionally the strongest.
Naturally, for all the manager's team selections and tactics, if the personnel are not good enough, then no plan would survive contact with the enemy.
This is exactly what has happened with United, with several below-par performances from key players ruining games for the team.
Hence, based on this season's showing and the signs that were evident even last year, I've compiled a list of players who should move on in order for United to become a better team.
One of the United midfield linchpins in seasons past, Carrick has seemingly gone backward every season he has played in United colors.
While his vision and passing ability were visionary in his first season, sadly, those attributes have been increasingly reduced to sideways or backward passing with each season gone by.
While the stats show that Carrick hardly misplaces a pass or loses possession and, in fact, often breaks up the opposition attacks, he is not fulfilling the role he was brought into the team for—mainly, to provide a creative outlet for United in center midfield.
Coupled with his increasing lack of mobility and the amount of time he requires on the ball, he has become a liability against a large number of teams, including several mid-table ones in the Premiership, as well as the European ones.
At his age, Carrick needs to find one last side where he can complete his career, and, unfortunately, on the back of his increasingly futile showings, United is not that club.
Neville has been the epitome of United for almost his entire playing career. A hard-working, fiery individual, as club captain he has led United to many a triumph. But nostalgia no longer has any space in today's world of football.
At several times this season, Neville has been brutally exposed against top-notch sides. With age, he has lost his pace, and against quick opponents, there's only so much that can be done with good positioning.
His getting caught out on counter-attacks causes the right winger to come back to defend, which means that United lose one key player for their own attack.
Additionally, he is very injury-prone, and because he has to be registered in the squad since he is the captain, he easily takes up a slot that could possibly go to a reserve who'd have the chance to play with the first team and develop further.
Neville is a United legend, the best right back for the club as well as England, but history only records your accolades; it doesn't get you any new ones. Neville's time to retire has arrived.
He was supposed to be the answer to all of England's goalkeeping problems, the "Oliver Kahn" of England.
In truth, despite his potential, he is nowhere close to that billing at this point, and even more, he's at risk of not being considered for the World Cup. So, how did that happen?
A tendency to be perpetually injured, and when fit, a habit of making alarming errors, has caused Foster to be relegated to play for United's reserves.
Given his chances at the start of the season with van der Sar out injured, Foster proceeded to make at least one high-profile, goal-causing error every match he played.
For all of his talent, a goalkeeper only gets so many chances to succeed at United. Comparatively, Kuszcack has emerged as an able deputy for van der Sar, giving solid contributions in games when he played, even though he is nowhere as commanding as van der Sar.
Foster seems to suffer from nerves while playing for United, and that can only be cured when put away from the limelight at Old Trafford. It is best for his career that he move to another club, to make his name again.
One of the best midfielders of his generation, and acknowledged by many greats as arguably the best midfielder they've ever seen, Scholes has been the heartbeat of United's midfield for almost 18 years. In that time, the number of trophies and accolades for him have piled up immeasurably.
Yet all good things must come to an end, and so it is the case with Scholes.
While the mind remains sharp, his body has caught up with him. An asthmatic, he is now unable to run around as much as he used to in his earlier days, and, coupled with his increased dwelling on the ball, this has caused United several problems this season.
Many a midfield comprising willing runners have been able to overcome Scholes' guile and flawless technique on the ball by simply not giving him the time to execute either. With his goal contribution drying up as well, it would be well for Scholes to retire while still at a relative peak.
In any case, in Magnus Eikrem and Davide Petrucci, he has two able understudies in the United reserves. Giving him a mentor role at the club would only enhance their gameplay, allowing United to continue the tradition of having creative, goal-scoring midfielders in their ranks.
Oh, and the number 18 should be retired for good. Few, if any, would be good enough to don it after Paul Scholes.
One of the most versatile midfielders to play for United and England, Hargreaves could well have been one of the greats had his career not been continually cut short by injuries, the last one keeping him out for almost two years.
Fair to say, most of his earlier injuries were badly managed, culminating in his injury-enforced absence for this large period.
Brought from Bayern Munich for a considerable fee, Hargreaves more than justified it in his first season as he played various roles to perfection in United's 2007-08 double-winning season. Since then, he has featured in just one game for the reserves, for one half.
It has been mentioned that, currently, his problem is more psychological than physical, because fitness-wise he is in a very good state. Yet, his fear that he might suffer such a misfortune again inhibits him from taking the field for competitive action.
While its true that he still suffers from pain in his knees (his tendinitis problem was a longstanding one), unless he plays competitive football again, he will not know what he can do. As a footballer, he needs to do as much to justify his chosen career.
Such a massive mental block, and the fear of not being able to play well for United and justify his high fees, could well be an obstacle Hargreaves can never overcome.
With that in mind, it is time that United, having pretty much cured his injury (hopefully), let him move on to a club where he could begin anew. He is again just blocking a place on the squad for someone who could be brought in and developed into a similar player as him, because, like it or not, United need a player of his attributes.
Ferdinand's name on the list is the most controversial, to be honest.
United's captain in absence of Neville and England's current captain-designate for the World Cup, Ferdinand has been one of the best United players ever since his arrival at the club, forming one of the foremost defensive partnerships with Nemanja Vidic last season.
Yet, despite such claims to glory, Ferdinand has increasingly become a liability for the club. In last season's run of 10 consecutive clean sheets, he was present in just two to three games, while Vidic was ever-present. Similarly, he has missed a large number of games due to a back injury that had apparently been festering for a long time.
Apart from all this, he has become increasingly injury- and error-prone over the course of this season. Whenever he makes a comeback, he either makes a high-profile error (cue Bellamy and Torres), or develops a niggle that keeps him out for at least two to three matches (his groin strain makes him a doubt for the upcoming derby).
At 31, he is not getting any younger, and despite being the world's most expensive defensive signing, he has repaid his fees to the club over and over.
He is, however, not giving the chance to young talent like Gill and de Laet to develop at the club. His partnership with Vidic caused us to lose Pique, who now commands a starting berth at Barcelona and Spain, and I, for one, would not want United to lose another precocious talent to sheer sentimentality.
Ferdinand can either retire or move to one of the continental leagues, where the pace and energy of the game is lesser compared to the Premier League.
Once he finishes his career there, he can always come back to the club and rejoin in the coaching staff. His style of effortless, composed defending would be a valuable lesson for all the youth defensive players to imbibe and learn from.