Next Season at Manchester United

George SmithContributor IMay 29, 2009

First it needs to be noted that Manchester United had a tremendous season this year. They won the Premier League for the third year in a row, the FIFA Club World Cup, and the Carling Cup.  It was by no means a bad season. 

However, after the crushing defeat to Barcelona in Rome, Manchester United faces a lot of questions regarding the team and it's future. If there is one silver lining that United fans can turn to, it is that they should be in prime position to make another run at all of the major trophies in 2010.  

United needs to address some questions surrounding the squad. Here are the main issues that Sir Alex Ferguson needs to address.

1.  The Future of Cristiano Ronaldo.

For months leading up to the final, Ronaldo had been saying that his future was at United.

However, after Wednesday's defeat, he said that he "did not know" whether he would return.

In my opinion, this was just Ronaldo reacting to his team losing the final. He will go on holiday and return and realize that United are the perfect team for him. Ronaldo needs to squash these Real Madrid rumors that are bound to surface, thanks to the Spanish media. 

I do believe that Ronaldo will return to United next season because he wants to avenge this loss and he knows that United will come back strong. The fact that Ronaldo should start next season healthy will also be a big plus for United, who struggled out of the gate with Ronaldo sidelined after Euro 2008.

2.   The Future of Carlos Tevez

Carlos Tevez is a huge fan favorite among United fans, and I believe that United needs to retain his services. He is 24 and has done a tremendous job this season, despite not being a regular starter. 

When Tevez is in the game, both Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney play better. He needs to return and be a regular starter next season. Many believe that had Tevez started yesterday's final in Rome, United would have been more organized and consistent on offense because Ji-Sung Park was miserable on the wing, Giggs was non-existent, and Anderson was outmatched by the brilliance of Barcelona's midfield. 

United have the money to pay Carlos Tevez what he deserves, and they need to do it because the last thing that United fans want is to see Tevez in a Liverpool jersey. 

3.  The Defense

Manchester United easily have the best defense in the Premier League. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are both rock solid in the center of the defense and will be there for next season. Wes Brown was too injury-plagued to regain his old form and cannot be counted on. 

Gary Neville is getting older, but Rafael is the future of the United defense. While it would be a risky bet to rely on the young Brazilian as full-time starter next season, he should play as much as possible. Patrice Evra will have a starting job next season because he is still very good at his job.

John O'Shea is the main question.  Rafael will be taking his place shortly in a year or two, but United will need another defenseman to shore up the back four. 

A good player that United are after is Mamadou Sakho who is an incredibly talented defender at Paris St. Germain. He is only 17 years old and is already the captain.  I think Sakho would be a wise investment.

As for Edwin Van Der Sar, he will be most likely be playing his final season for Manchester United next year, and despite failing to stop Samuel Eto'o's weak shot in the final, is one of the best keeper's in the world.

Van Der Sar should not be a main concern next season. His replacement will be Ben Foster, who has played well and is certainly paying his dues.

4.   The Midfield

The main reason Manchester United lost the Champions League final yesterday was because Xavi and mostly Andres Iniesta completely controlled the midfield and the tempo of the game after the first goal.

Carrick was outplayed by Xavi, Giggs never showed up, and Anderson seemed lost.  Anderson needs to be a full-time starter next season because he has improved in every game he has played in.  He is the future of United in the midfield. 

Also, Cristiano Ronaldo needs to be moved to an attacking winger again. He seemed too isolated yesterday as the lone striker, despite his brilliance against Arsenal.  Nani was a bust this season, despite showing much promise as a midfielding partner to Ronaldo. 

Nani needs to get more experience because he is still a young player with plenty of raw talent. United will also get a healthy Owen Hargreaves back for next season who plays an excellent defensive midfield.  Hargreaves is a better player than Carrick.  He will combine with Carrick as a formidable midfield duo.

The main question United have here is who can team up with Ronaldo on the wing.  Nani is not the answer yet, neither is Giggs. I think that United will pay around 15 million pounds to get Antonio Valencia who could make an instant impact.

5.   Dimitar Berbatov

The final question United needs to address is what to do with Dimitar Berbatov. He never seemed to fit in with the type of offense that United likes to play. Tevez was better than him and that is why Berbatov needs to go. 

He is a great player, but he is simply not a match for United.  Ferguson needs to unload him somewhere and use that money to either buy another defensive back or outside midfielder. 

United will have Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez as the two primary forwards.  Cristiano Ronaldo is certainly capable of filling in at any time because United are deep at midfield. 

They will need another option up top, as Federico Macheda is still young to play a more consistent role. 

An obvious choice would be Lyon's young striker, Karim Benzema, who plays a similar style on offense.  I think he would be much more effective than Berbatov was. 

Another option, and this is a long shot, would be 19-year-old American Jozy Altidore.  Altidore has been tremendous for the American national team, as he is big and very fast.

He has a powerful shot and can score in the air. He has failed to live up to the hype at Villarreal in Spain, but I feel as though he would succeed under Sir Alex Ferguson.  As a part-time player, he could make an impact and at a cheap price. 

In conclusion, I fully expect Manchester United to win the Premier League again, as well as possibly win the Champions League again. Do not forget that they beat Barcelona last season en route to CL glory.

The future at United is bright, with Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Anderson, and Rafael all being young stars. The lineup I would like to see at Manchester United for next season is: Van Der Sar, Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Rafael (or solid veteran), Cristiano Ronaldo, Carrick Anderson, Antonio Valencia, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez

Bench: Nani, Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea, Ben Foster, Hargreaves, Wes Brown, Giggs...


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