Friday, July 31, 2009

Fergie must go back to drawing board in search of goals...

United were in action last night in the final of the Audi Cup, which they eventually went on to lose on penalties after the match ended goalless. However, the champions were lucky not be three down at half-time, the fact that they weren't was down to a combination of good fortune and poor finishing as Bayern Munich squandered several good chances.

Bayern dominated the opening period not least because United were sloppy in possession with Scholes, Evra and Owen all losing the ball cheaply. Both teams hit the woodwork, and it was Berbatov who came closest in the first-half to scoring for United. As acrobatic efforts go the former Spurs striker's overhead-kick was well executed, but truth be told the Bulgarian's effort on goal was totally against the run of play.

United improved in the second period with the introduction of Wayne Rooney and new signing Atonio Valencia. Rooney missed a good chance to score after being put clean through by Giggs and Michael Owen saw an earlier effort on goal blocked by Rensing. Atonio Valencia looked lively on the right flank after replacing the totally ineffective Darron Gibson; Fergie will be hoping the Ecuadorian’s pace will be a potent weapon in the coming weeks.

As pre-season friendlies go it was a decent work-out for United, but it was one that raised several questions about the manager's plans for the season ahead. Scholes played at the heart the midfield and it's difficult to quantify his contribution, because on one hand he had more touches of the ball than any other United player, but he was also guilty of losing the ball in dangerous areas in the first-half - which was a feature of his game last season.

Michael Carrick was rested and Darren Fletcher played in the right-back slot, so supporters will not be reading too much into the fact that Scholes played the whole game at the heart of the midfield.

United's other midfield veteran Ryan Giggs was anchored alongside Scholes and truth be told apart from one slide-rule pass to the feet of Wayne Rooney, he didn't do enough and at times it was all too easy for Bayern to by-pass the champions engine room which led to the Reds defence being breached all too easily.

Ageing legs aside, most concerning of all was the complexion of United's forward line, Fergie has announced that in a bid to address the goal-scoring problem Dimitar Berbatov will play in a more attacking role, he will be used as a centre-forward be that in a 4:4:2 or a 4:3:3 formation.

If last night's performance in the Allianz Arena was anything to go off then it won't be long before Fergie is revisiting the drawing board. It wasn't just that the front three starting combination of Nani, Berbatov and Owen failed to gel; there were fundamental errors of judgment on the manager's part. Owen is not and never will be a right winger, yet that is where he'd been asked to play, at least it looked that way. Owen isn't great with his back to goal and so it came as no surprise to see him losing the ball cheaply on the halfway-line, which led to Bayern taking the control in dangerous areas of the pitch.

Supporters and pundits alike have questioned Berbatov's commitment and desire, and in the first-half when United were coming under the cosh, Rio Ferdinand was seen visibly giving the Bulgarian an earful, no doubt in a bid to galvanise him into action - whatever was said, it didn't really work but Berbatov did help lay on a decent second-half chance for Owen to score.

Fergie will have been reasonably satisfied with the workout but his assertion that Berbatov will play a more prominent role where the hunt for goals is concerned is likely to come under scrutiny in the weeks ahead.

The United manager has gone on record saying that United will have to do something different this season following the loss of prolific goal-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, but expecting Berbatov to fill that void is one of pure fantasy because Berbatov never has been or will be a prolific goal-scoring centre forward.

Berbatov has been given ample opportunities to show what he is capable of, but he has failed to convince many observers that he is a totally committed United player.
The Bulgarian's skill is not in question, but his willingness to roll up his sleeves and do a job for the team when the chips are down is definite weakness in his game.

On the wider point of what United fans expect this season, we could see Rooney and Owen on opposite flanks with Berbatov down the middle, that combination is certainly different, but it won't win many prizes and it is doomed to failure if used in a 4:3:3 - the word ridiculous would be a better way of describing that line-up.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bayern set to give United real test as Anderson reveals hidden talent...

Fergie has every right to be a happy manager following the team's latest pre-season victory which came against Boca Juniors in the Audi Cup semi-final in the Allianz Arena last night. New signing Atonio Valencia scored on his debut, the Ecuadorian’s finish wasn't exactly exemplary and Abbondanzieri in Boca's goal will know he should have dealt with it, but if there was an element of good fortune about the finish there can be no doubt about the quality of the former Wigan star's powerful run as he carved out his own goal scoring opportunity.

Valencia's goal was straight out of Ronaldo's scrapbook and it doubled United's first-half advantage after Anderson of all people scored from a free-kick. The Brazilian's curling left foot effort was as good as any you are likely to see in the coming season - such a surprise then that it has taken Anderson so long to score his first goal for the club.

Fergie and the fans will be wondering where the goals will come next season following the exits of Ronaldo and Tevez, and it is to be hoped that United's midfield players go on to help fill the goals-scoring void that has been created with this summer's high profile departures. In the season just gone, excluding the goals scored by Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov and Tevez, the rest of the squad chipped in with just 15 between them and so everyone connected with United will be concerned about the champions ability to convert chances in the battles that lie ahead.

Interestingly, Michael Owen played no part in the Boca game and you wonder exactly why that was; has the former Newcastle star picked up an injury already, or was he simply rested?

Fergie and United will be wary of facing flak from supporters following what has been a disappointing summer transfer window with the club making low-key signings, but so far Owen has done extremely well and has looked sharp. It could turn out to be a masterstroke by Ferguson as the former Liverpool striker could revel in this new lease of life, but much will depend on avoiding injuries and it will be interesting to see if Owen plays any part in the final against Bayern Munich later today. Bayern are likely to give United a thorough examination after they thrashed AC Milan 4-1 in the other semi-final.

The United manager is facing several selection dilemmas, most notably the complexion of his forward line. Over the last couple of seasons for the toughest looking fixtures Fergie has abandoned 4:4:2 when opting for 4:3:3 when using Rooney wide on the left.

Over the summer Rooney has dropped several hints that he'd like to start in a more central position but this plea is likely to fall upon deaf ears as Fergie will persevere with whatever he thinks is best for team and if that means sticking with 4:3:3 then so be it.

Fergie will have been encouraged by Valencia's debut goal and he might well decide to play Macheda on his own down the middle with Rooney and the Ecuadorian on opposite flanks. Macheda is the nearest thing United have to a genuine number nine, Owen does his best work outside the box and doesn't contribute all across the forward line and Berbatov is something of a wandering free-spirit.

However, in the wake of the Ronaldo and Tevez exits Fergie has hinted he might have to do something different, those comments were interesting and open to interpretation where formation and selection issues concerned. The United manager has several options open to him and the next few weeks will reveal his intentions.

Final score Boca 1 - 2 United.

Mourinho eyes OT hot-seat again

Not for the first time Jose Mourinho has spoken of his desire to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson and manage Manchester United.

The Special One is currently in charge of Inter Milan and guided the Serie A club to last season's Scudetto but he doesn't appear to be too settled in Italy and has on more than one occasion spoken about returning to the Premier League.

Mourinho was a huge hit in his time with Chelsea and like Fergie is widely regarded as one of the best 'man managers' in the game.

It's an asset which the United board will place highly on their list of 'desired qualities' when the time comes for Sir Alex to call it a day and looking at Betfair's market, which has been running for almost eternity, Mourinho could be the man to support at football odds of 4.8.

"I would consider going to Manchester United but United have to consider if they want me to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson," Mourinho told the Daily Mirror. "If they do, then of course.

"I like England, where the fans are very passionate and make the game a beautiful occasion with such an incredible atmosphere."

Despite Ferguson's unwavering health, at 67 he cannot go on forever and it may well be his mental attitude which gives way after almost 23 years in the Old Trafford hot-seat.

It's been a tough old summer for Fergie with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leaving and his pursuit of Karim Benzema ending in failure.

It's not often Sir Alex does not get his own way and there have been one or two signs of descent with Fergie slamming the 'small club' across the city and a war of words with Tevez.

Still United chief executive David Gill will be hoping he has a few more years to go before he starts to think about drawing up a short-list to replace Ferguson.

However if Mourinho, who no doubt has the mental toughness to manage at Old Trafford, can this season end Inter's 54-year European Cup drought then it could be a good football bet that Gill's mind might be made up.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anelka right to question United's title credentials...

Thankfully United's tour of the Far East has come to a close; it has been a useful exercise on and off the pitch with Michael Owen pitching in with four goals from four games. From a commercial perspective, by all accounts the champions have trousered several million pounds from the games in Malaysia and China. However, as is so often the case at this time of year the real action has yet to start and next United face Boca Juniors in Germany followed by games against either Bayern Munich or AC Milan and then Chelsea in the Community Shield.

The opposition for the remaining pre-season friendlies will no doubt give United a much sterner test, so on the pitch we can look forward to seeing how the team might fair in the coming season.

Following a hugely disappointing summer transfer window with the focus being on exits rather than world-class replacements the signs are not looking good. Earlier this week Chelsea striker Nic Anelka spoke to the media and played down United's title winning chances, he had every right to do so, it's an obvious prediction to make.

Nemanja Vidic who has been at the centre of much speculation surrounding his future has worryingly so far failed to link up with the rest of the squad and cynics will be wondering if there's more to this "ankle injury" than the fans are being told, but the official line is the Serbian will join the champions in Germany ahead of the Audi Cup, but he is unfit and might not play...

New signing Atonio Valencia's transfer is still caught up red-tape over his work-permit and Gabriel Obertan will be out until at least October.

Valencia will hopefully receive the green like over his work permit, but he will not provide the answer where goals are concerned, so United will be left relying on the fitness of Michael Owen and a 17-year-old in Macheda, plus the partnership of Rooney and Berbatov which has so far shown few signs of working.

Following the departures of Ronaldo and Tevez it was imperative that Fergie went out and brought in a world-class striker, but the arrival of Michael Owen surprised and underwhelmed many. The former Liverpool striker has a good record where goals are concerned, but his fitness is the big concern, added to which he doesn't do a lot outside the opposition penalty area.

So given Fergie's questionable summer transfer activity, what exactly can United fans expect this coming season? It's highly unlikely that United will score anywhere near as many goals as last season. Opposition defences will no longer fear United on the counter-attack following the loss of Ronaldo; we are therefore likely to see opponents pressing United further up the pitch which could result in the champions conceding possession and making mistakes in midfield and at the back. Even before a ball is kicked, you can bet opposition managers' are already plotting against what is likely to be a toothless United.

Having to rely on a player whose career has been severely blighted by injuries and a 17-year-old is no recipe for continued success, especially when your existing strikers are not prolific in front of goal and lack pace.

Many are predicting bigger things from Wayne Rooney, but the truth is, the former Everton star doesn't have much more to give, he has been playing at his absolute maximum for United - though he has been wasteful in front of goal on occasion. No one, including Ferguson, one suspects, is actually sure who will play down the middle for United.

There are many unanswered questions including where Rooney will play; will it be left wing in the really big games in a 4:3:3 formation, or will he feature in a more central role? Will Berbatov play alongside Owen, or will it be the former Newcastle striker and Macheda?

Ferguson has been quite clever when talking to the media, when dropping big hints that Macheda will play a big part this season, you cannot beat competition for places and it seems the United manager might well be appearing to lay down an early marker, the suggestion being that one of his striker berths might already have been decided. Mind games and competition for places aside, it is likely to be a very difficult season for United.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is Fergie cracking up over big spending City?....

For the second time in recent weeks Sir Alex Ferguson has spoken to the media about big spending neighbours Manchester City. Just a week or so ago the United manager said that City will not be rivals in next season's battle for honours, his latest attack was launched on United's tour of the Far East, on this occasion he took time out to proclaim that City are a small club and that players are only signing for the Citizens because of the huge wages on offer.

Fergie also claims that Emanuel Adebayor wanted to sign for United at the last minute; this was after the former Arsenal striker had agreed in principle to join City.

The champions are still smarting following the Tevez defection to City, the United manager was asked about City's "Welcome to Manchester billboard" which features an image of the Argentine. The billboard is clearly a dig at Fergie and United and it has provoked a reaction from the Scot who says "It's City isn't it? They're a small club with a small mentality. All they can talk about is Manchester United; they can't get away from it," he said.

"They think taking Carlos Tevez away from Manchester United is a triumph. It is poor stuff."

Whatever Fergie says about City being a small club, it is becoming increasingly clear that some players are putting big wages before the genuine pursuit of honours, at least in the short-term at least anyway. This scenario was always going to happen and whether or not City go on to actually win a trophy (for the first time in well over thirty years) will depend a great deal on the management of Mark Hughes, money alone does not always buy success.

For many City fans, the definition of a successful season is judged not on how many trophies the club has won, but on how many points they've won in the Manchester derby. United fans have labelled City as the "bitter Blues", which is totally understandable given the bile directed towards United.

It is also true to say for many City fans their devotion to their club is matched by their bitter hatred of United, so much so that some of them spend their time telling anyone who'd listen that the champions are not even a Manchester club and that there's barely any United supporters in Manchester - it doesn't get much more ridiculous than that.

On hearing the news that Tevez had signed for City recently, Sky Sports interviewed a group of City fans and one said "it's about time we were on top"...such is the mindset of your average City fan, perhaps someone should have told him it was still pre-season.

However, some United fans will no doubt be questioning Fergie's decision to reveal that Adebayor wanted to sign for the club, only for him to follow the lead of Tevez because this information only serves to confirm that the champions are losing out to our neighbours where new signings are concerned, it doesn't really matter that money is talking, it is happening and United will have to live with the consequences.

City fans might well respond to Fergie's recent jibes by claiming the United manager only ever talks about their club these days, and in fairness if they did they'd have a point.

Rafa Benitez spent too much time ranting about United last season, yet before a ball has been kicked in anger Fergie has aimed two low blows at rivals City. Is Fergie cracking up? The pre-season signs do not look good with United losing out on all major transfer targets and the manager spending too much time talking about why players aren't signing for the club.

There was further evidence of alarm bells ringing within Old Trafford over the weekend when the Glazers' under employed spin doctors took the unusual step of claiming that there's money to spend if the manager can identify the right targets. Talk is cheap and it remains to be seen what will happen in what is likely to be an intriguing season following what can only be described as a disastrous summer transfer window so far for Fergie.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Berbatov determined to improve

Dimitar Berbatov has vowed to improve next season after his first term at Old Trafford divided United fans.

The moody Bulgarian has had his fair share of criticism since his big-money move from Spurs last summer, but on occasions the striker has shown glimpses of brilliance.

The 28-year-old has spoken of his determination to improve his all-round game this time around and surpass the 14 goals he grabbed last season in 36 starts.

"I think I can do better," he told MUTV. "I think I can do more. That's why I am happy to be here on the pre-season tour.

"It is always beneficial to start well and have a good pre-season and I feel I am training well at the moment.

"I am here to score goals and I hope to score more and more for United this season."

With Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo gone the £30million man should in theory have more of a look in this season, but it might not work out that way.

Sir Alex has drafted in Michael Owen, who has already shown that his goalscoring prowess has not deserted him, and the boss is also expected to use Wayne Rooney in a central role rather than sticking him out on the left wing.

Fergie has also revealed how highly he rates Federico Macheda and looks all set to give the youngster more than a bit-part role this campaign.

All that could lead to Berbatov, who is the only one of that quartet who has yet to score on United’s Asian tour, left warming the bench again.

He’s certainly not a cert to start the first game against Birmingham on August 16.

In fact it will be interesting who Ferguson selects for the opening game with Rooney almost certain to get the nod as one of the strikers with United switching to a more conventional 4-4-2 formation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fergie reveals why United didn't make a move for big name striker...

So then Michael Owen scored again in the latest pre-season friendly as United beat a Malaysian XI for the second time this week. Federico Macheda took part in his first outing of the tour and scored the champions opening goal on 11 minutes as the Red Devils went on to secure a comfortable two-nil win in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

ON Saturday United were made to work harder for a 3-2 victory against the same opposition, with Rooney, Nani and Owen on target. Fergie will have been less than impressed with Ben Foster and the manner of Malaysian XIs second goal as the keeper failed to deal with a regulation back-pass and ended up picking the ball out of the net.

Following Monday's win Fergie was full of praise for the new strike partnership of Owen and Macheda and the manager went to say he has high hopes for the young Italian this season.

"We started the game well as we did on Saturday and I was pleased by the partnership of Owen and Macheda," he told MUTV.

"We've got big hopes for Macheda - that's one of the main reasons why we didn't move [for someone else] in the market. He's still only 17, but we've got great faith in the boy. He's strong, aggressive and a terrific finisher, he's got a lot of tremendous assets and is very much part of my pool of strikers though, along with Michael, Dimitar and Wayne. Interestingly, Fergie did not mention Danny Welbeck, but he's sure to be in the manager's plans for the new season.

Fergie has also been speaking to the media trying to explain the club's decision to sell Ronaldo, which was a no-brainer - they had no choice but to grant the player his Read Madrid wish.

As for Carlos Tevez, the United manager says the Argentine isn't worth £25m - you do wonder then why David Gill was apparently happy to pay that transfer fee if all along Fergie didn't agree? Were United genuinely interested in signing Tevez or were the club simply playing games with the player, supporters and media alike? We will never know - not until Fergie publishes another book...

Fergie has every right to be pleased with Owen's contribution so far, added to which Tosic has been linking up well and supplying some decent crosses from the left. So far so good, however, United can expect tougher examinations in Germany when they take on Boca Juniors, and either Bayern Munich or AC Milan in the Audi Cup.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fergie swoops to sign new striker....

Just a few days after Fergie hinted that the club's transfer business was done for the summer the United manager has confirmed they have agreed a deal for a new striker. Senegalese born Mame Biram Diouf is expected to sign subject to passing a medical next week, however he will be loaned out to his current club Molde until January. Fergie said "We've been looking at him for two years.

"We weren't intending on signing anyone else - we feel we have a full squad - but the situation accelerated to a point where other clubs started to make bids. We decided to act and he'll be the last person we sign."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fergie's chequebook closed already?

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed he has ended this summer’s business in the transfer market, but the speculation is unlikely to stop.

Fergie has on more than one occasion not quite been as good as his word. Cast your minds back to summer 2007 when United signed up Nani and Anderson. Fergie then issued a statement suggesting that no more deals would be done that summer only for Carlos Tevez to arrive in early August on a two-year loan.

It’s certainly not out of the question that United will strengthen further after the arrivals of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan.

It has been widely anticipated that Sir Alex will swoop again with Brazil starlet Douglas Costa one of the most heavily linked players to the club, but if you believe his latest words that will be it for United this summer.

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

Ferguson meanwhile is confident the 29-year-old Owen can upset the Premier League odds and plug the gap left by Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.

But it’s hard to think that the boss has drawn a line under his transfer business this summer with four weeks to go before the start of the season.

It would be no great surprise if Fergie is still targeting young forward Costa and attempting to drive down the price of the £18million-rated Gremio forward by stating his chequebook is closed.

One thing's for sure: don't waste your next football bet going against further transfers!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fergie left offering excuses for United's questionable transfer dealings ...

Tevez to City: First impressions don't look Tevez Rab C Nesbitt in disguise?

Is it only me that thinks Fergie is beginning to sound like he's scared shitless about the possible prospect of being made to look foolish next season by former United star Carlos Tevez who has just signed of rivals Manchester City?

United had two years to sort out the permanent transfer of Tevez - but they blew it and now we've ended up with Michael Owen - a player who has been lampooned by United fans down the years. Few United fans would have picked out St Michael as a probable transfer target this summer, we are led to believe at least one mid-table Premier League club didn't fancy the former Liverpool striker. Before Fergie pitched in Owen appeared to be on the road to nowhere and according some reports not far off retiring not that long ago, but that claim has been fiercely denied by the player's handlers.

Despite continued talk that Douglas Costa could be about to sign Fergie has announced this summer's spending is over, and if that turns out to be true then it could represent his biggest gamble so far as Manchester United manager. Little wonder then that the Reds' manager has launched an unconvincing PR offensive / damage-limitation exercise over the Carlos Tevez affair.

Many supporters are quite rightly wondering where the goals will come from next season, even with Tevez and Ronaldo United scored fewer goals than the season before. New signings Obertan and Valencia are unlikely to provide the answer where goals are concerned, and it remains to be seen how many games Michael Owen will play, so it comes as no surprise that Fergie has been left talking about the one that got away, but the manager’s griping sounds like a bad case of sour-grapes.

The United manager has also voiced concerns about an overheated transfer market, which is somewhat ironic given the club has splashed out huge sums of cash on many occasions in the not too distant past, most recently £30m for Dimitar Berbatov.

The fact is, United are their own worst enemies when it comes to acting daft with the company cheque-book; they famously offered £30m ( at the time a world record for a defender) for Rio Ferdinand when Leeds United were on their collective knees and were teetering on the brink of administration; They paid Lazio £30m cash on the nose for Veron, then just a few weeks later Fergie sold Stam to the same club but United didn't receive a penny for a few seasons - is it any wonder rival clubs attempt to nail the club's hat on where transfers are concerned?

Some United fans might also be wondering why the club didn't make a bid for Manchester City bound Adebayor, maybe the harsh true is our neighbours have blown us out of the water - only time will tell if the Citizens' can turn cash into prizes; it worked for Chelsea and Blackburn (briefly).

There will no doubt be many who will label players like Adebayor and Tevez as mercenaries, but I'm not one of them, not least as far as the Argentine is concerned, there was ample time to do that deal and arguably the biggest mistake was not securing the former West Ham star before the club signed Berbatov, that was the pivotal moment. Strikers' are judged on goals and it will be interesting to see who scores the most next season, will it be Berbatov or Tevez?

If United start the new season badly then we could see Fergie's transfer dealings coming under further scrutiny in the not too distant future.

Finally, and in part due to popular demand, this blog will now draw a line under the Tevez saga, perhaps Fergie should do likewise, we need to move on.

Monday, July 13, 2009

United 'rule out' Eto'o: Fergie set to gamble on kids plus Owen?

According to The Times, senior sources within Old Trafford are claiming the club has no interest in signing Samuel Eto'o, it could of course be a smokescreen and only time will tell as far as the Cameroon star is concerned. Eto'o has been strongly linked to Manchester City, but talk of that move fell through at the back end of last week.

The champions have until the end of August to make a move for a new striker, but fans will be beginning to wonder if the manager is now looking set to go with what he's got given the lack of top quality availability. Many pundits are claiming Karim Benzema was the manager's number one summer transfer target, that was until the young French striker opted to join Real Madrid.

Fergie might be contemplating starting the season with no new striker onboard apart from Michael Owen, the champions first two league fixtures are against newly promoted clubs in Birmingham (h) and Burnley (a), followed by Wigan (a) and then Arsenal (h) before the window slams shut. If United are struggling in front of goal at that point the manager might then be forced into a panic buy, but in truth there are few obvious quality transfer targets.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Campbell sold, Nani to follow: Eto'o in?

News that United have sold Fraizer Campbell to Sunderland will surprise few given Fergie was happy to use him as a pawn in the deal to sign Dimitar Berbatov last summer. Like the player himself, many United supporters will wonder what might have been if he'd been given a proper chance to shine at Old Trafford; one thing is for certain he is not the first, nor will he be the last young striker with potential to be sold prematurely.

The thing is potential is never enough when you're playing for one of the top clubs in the world, you need to be among the very best - being a good player at Manchester United is no guarantee of a long-term future at the club. Fergie must have had some doubts about Fraizer because even with regret the manager was ultimately happy to allow the player to leave. The fans will wish Campbell well, as long as he doesn't score against the champions next season, obviously.

According to the latest speculation Nani, another player with "potential" could soon be following Campbell out of the exit door, however unlike Campbell the Portuguese winger has been given ample opportunities to show what he is capable of. The former Sporting Lisbon winger has scored some spectacular goals, but he is nowhere near consistent enough and he has failed to measure up to expectations. All too often Nani makes the wrong decision when in possession, he is wasteful and his crossing is poor. What's more, unlike Park, he is one of those wingers who doesn't do enough where defensive duties are concerned. On a personal note, I will be glad to see the back of Nani.

The future of Dimitar Berbatov has also been the subject of speculation, his worth has divided opinion among the fans. Manchester United do not carry passengers no matter how much they've paid to acquire them, and it was his arrival that so unsettled fans favourite Carlos Tevez who now looks set to join Manchester City. Towards the end of last season it looked like the penny had finally dropped with Fergie that just perhaps Berbatov shouldn't have been treated as a regular first-choice pick, but sadly it was too late to the change the mind of the Argentine.

Over the last few days rumours have been suggesting United's Bulgarian striker could be up for sale, this would not surprise me in the slightest, but I doubt Fergie will want to be seen to lose face so quickly given the hefty price he paid to bring him to Old Trafford, which is why I expect the former Spurs player to be given one more season to prove his worth.

With Ronaldo and Tevez gone and with only Michael Owen coming in as a replacement United are in an awful mess up front, at least that is how it looks right now; some fans are saying "we sold the best player in the world and we have replaced him with a player who is almost always injured". Some have gone further when cruelly labeling Owen as a near cripple, which isn't fair, but it is fair to ask quite how Fergie has managed to get himself into this awful mess.

Interestingly, according to Rafa Benitez, a Premier League rival has offered £60m for the services of Fernando Torres, it could have been Manchester City, Chelsea or United, but more likely the former, it doesn't really matter who it was because it was never going to happen.

With Karim Benzema opting to join Real Madrid (as predicted on this blog) instead of United, it isn't looking good for the coming season. Ferguson will not be able to rely on the partnership of Rooney and Berabtov to score the goals next season, it is a partnership that simply will not and does not work; both players are essentially second strikers, both like to drop deep and drift. In terms of importance to the team Rooney stands head and shoulders above the Bulgarian, it was therefore vital that Ferguson brought in a player who would compliment the England striker this summer.

As things stand the club appears to be no closer to acquiring such a player, but with Manchester City dropping their interest in Samuel Eto'o you do wonder if United will now make their move. The Barcelona striker has apparently let it be known he is leaving, and that he wants to win more silverware - another good reason not to join City.

Over the last few days there has been media talk of a swap deal involving Nani and or Berbatov in exchange for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero, but according to the La Liga club's president Enrique Cerezo, United have yet to make contact.

United have also been strongly linked to Klaas Jan Huntelaar who is mulling over an offer from Stuttgart. Madrid are understandably keen to sell after spending so lavishly this summer and according to the Spanish club, the Bundesliga outfit are the only ones who've matched their valuation which is reported to be 20 million Euros.

In other news Zlatan Ibrahimovic has today confirmed that Chelsea want to sign him, but no mention of Manchester United, which is disappointing if not entirely unexpected, given his reported price tag.

United's best hope for goals next season may well rest of on Rooney and the young shoulders of Macheda and Welbeck, though personally I have doubts about the latter, but both could potentially learn a lot from Michael Owen.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Ibrahimovic link more than just paper talk?...

According to the Daily Mirror's David McDonnell, Fergie could be looking to sign Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the 27-year-old striker has been strongly linked to Barcelona over the last few weeks, amidst reports that Inter Milan are keen to hang on to the Swedish star who has twice been voted Serie A player of the year.

McDonnell is the Mirror's main Manchester United correspondent and it's interesting that this story has been labeled as an exclusive, although the term is much over-used these days and often rendered meaningless, you do wonder if this story has some merit to it.

Even though Ibrahimovic isn't exactly blessed with pace, or indeed prolific in front of goal, he is the type of striker that might well compliment Fergie's existing array of attacking options. Ibrahimovic often divides opinion on his worth, there will be those who do not see what all the fuss is about while others put stock on the player's all round technical ability.

Ferguson needs to find a striker who will link well with Rooney, after one full season it doesn't look like Berbatov will be that man. The jury is very much out on new signing Michael Owen, the former Newcastle and Liverpool star at his best was more or less exclusively a penalty-box forward who in his pomp relied on the service of former colleague Steven Gerrard who would often ping long balls to the diminutive striker in goal-scoring positions.

Even if we see a resurgent Owen next season it's fair to ask if he is the type of striker who is best suited to play alongside Rooney, because as things stand without any shadow of doubt Rooney is going to be the most important attacking striker in Ferguson's armoury. If United are going to be successful next season much will depend on Rooney's ability to convert more goal-scoring opportunities and obviously playing on the flank will not enhance his chances of improving his tally, so not only does Ferguson need to add more fire-power, he also needs to review deployment of his most potent weapon.

The famous Zlatan Ibrahimovic Backheel

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Blanc "surprised" at Reds' interest in Obertan ....

United fans will be somewhat concerned to learn the Lauren Blanc says he was "surprised" to learn that Fergie wants to sign French winger Gabriel Obertan. The Bordeaux manager sent the 20-year-old out on loan to Lorient last season following a reported row with his manager after falling out of favour. Ability, or lack of it, doesn't appear to be the problem, but the player seemingly has issues. Blanc is of course a former United player he knows the club, he also knows what lies in-store having trodden the same path back in 2001, but worryingly the Bordeaux boss says Obertan will have to over-come psychological and mental ­challenges.

It is most unusual for a manager of a selling club to talk so openly about a player he could be about to lose. It is also unusual for Fergie not to look into the character of any would be new signing before making any offer. We the fans are left to assume the United manager and his backroom team are confident that they can help the player settle in quickly, because it sounds like it's going to be a difficult transition if Blanc's concerns are valid and there's no reason to doubt his words of caution.

Blanc stopped short of calling the player a basket-case, but his words are no ringing endorsement for sure, one thing is for certain United is a great club for nurturing and improving raw talent as Beckham and Ronaldo will surely testify. If Obertan embraces his new challenge and blossoms then the world could lie at his feet, let's hope the player goes on to prove his doubters wrong, but first he has to become a United player...

Full story

Monday, July 06, 2009

Obertan to follow Valencia and Owen?

Hot on the heels of Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen, Sir Alex could be about to wrap up his third close-season signing after Bordeaux president Jean-Louis Triaud revealed winger Gabriel Obertan is close to joining the champions. With dozens of players linked with United over the last few weeks, Obertan's proposed switch has somewhat come out of the blue with not too much known about the versatile 20-year-old.

The France Under-21 player found first-team chances hard to come by last term in Ligue 1 under former United defender Laurent Blanc so he spent the second half of last season on loan at Lorient, w
here he featured 15 times scoring just the one goal. Several other big guns across Europe have been tracking the player who can play in midfield or as a second striker.

"There is a very strong likelihood that the deal will go ahead," said Triaud to L'Equipe.

"Manchester United want to sign him and, for our part, we would be delighted to see Gabriel playing for such a prestigious club.

"We will make the official announcement when the time is right."

Obertan, who made his professional debut for Bordeaux when he was just 17, is seen as one for the future by Ferguson and a player with the potential to develop quickly at Carrington.

United scouts checked on the player at last month's Toulon International Youth Tournament, where he was given the Most Valuable Player award and that appears to have swayed United into making a move ahead of Inter and AC Milan.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Owen to United: Desperation or a good move?

News that United have just signed Michael Owen will have quite rightly shocked many followers of the club, yet bizarrely some of those fans were glad to see the back of Carlos Tevez - you do wonder what the very same supporters will be making of signing a player whose career has been severely blighted by injuries?

Whatever the fans say, the fact is United have just lost the services of two world-class strikers and have replaced them with one who has spent far too long on treatment table - from that perspective this transfer cannot be viewed as anything but a step backwards for the champions. It is also a signing of desperation, because according to the media, only Hull City were interested in acquiring the services of the former Newcastle forward.

Ferguson will no doubt also sign at least one more striker before the summer window closes, it will more than likely be Huntelaar from Real Madrid. No matter what the fans say about Ferguson's summer transfer dealings we will only be able to fully judge the manager at the end of the next season, but the danger is if the manager keeps on signing mid-table club players the champions will become a mid-table club themselves and I personally fear that is where United are heading this season.

Personally, I have many misgivings about the events of this summer, in particular the botched handling of Carlos Tevez who should have been signed last summer. United had twelve months to sort out the Tevez situation and they knew Ronaldo was going too, they have signed an ageing striker whose best days are almost certainly behind him. Ferguson is known to be a fan of Owen; back in 2005 I'm led to believe he came close to becoming United player, but for whatever reason that move never came off.

From a tactical perspective it will be interesting to see where Owen fits into the manager's plans. Despite his impressive goal-scoring record, the former Liverpool striker cannot be classed as a classic centre-forward, he is penalty-box predator, one who used to rely on his blistering pace, but sadly Owen has lost much of his pace due to successive injury problems. One suspects Fergie will use Owen as a reserve striker, he will effectively be an insurance policy who will be used when the need arises, and much will depend on who Fergie signs next.

A few weeks ago we the fans were led to believe the club would not sign players over the age of 27, news of the Owen signing makes a complete mockery of that notion, and what’s more the club are in serious danger of being labelled as a bunch of hypocritical cheapskates.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Huntelaar is not what United need right now, but...

With top quality targets in short supply it surely is only a matter of time before we hear that United have opened talks with Madrid about signing Huntelaar, at least that my personal big fear. If it happens and the Dutchman signs this summer, what can United fans expect? One thing is for certain, it won't be pace up front next season.

The danger is United's forward play would become slow and predictable with no pacey striker down the middle, it would leave some fans pining for the days of Yorke and Cole - arguably the club's finest ever forward pairing. It is difficult to see Rooney and Berbatov forming any kind of meaningful partnership on the evidence of last season.

Given the lack of standout candidates who might in some way fill the Ronaldo void, it comes as no surprise to read that Fergie is not going to sign a striker this summer. If that happens the manager is taking a huge gamble, possibly the biggest of his career. Manager's often do their best work in the summer months after weeks of planning, sadly it looks at this juncture that Fergie's transfer plans have turned to dust.

Fergie hasn't quite reached desperation stage yet, but if the manager doesn't sign a top striker this summer then he may well live to regret it later. I for one have serious reservations about Huntelaar. If Fergie signs the Real Madrid striker, it will be a case of Hobsons choice, but it could well be the manager's only serious option. With all that said I'll predict a parntership of Rooney and Huntelaar would do far better than Rooney and Berbatov - that's because Huntelaar is a genuine striker, whereas the other two are essentially second-strikers.

Fergie's transfer plans in tatters: United looking at secondary targets...

When news of Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid broke it soon became clear the player was going to be sold, even at the expense of the manager being unable to find a suitable goal-scoring replacement. The rationale behind the club's decision to sell Ronaldo was simple; grab Real Madrid's £80m now because we might not be able to find anyone. As inevitable as Ronaldo's move surely was, that scenario is one the fans' need to grasp, because there is no other plausible conclusion.

As things have turned out, United look to have lost out to Madrid again with the news that Fergie's "number one" summer transfer target Karim Benzema is expected to sign for the Spanish club, it's a bitter blow, but only the deluded and those who believe tabloid hype will be surprised because all along it was known the French striker fancied a move to either Spain or Italy.

On a personal note, I don't know about other United fans, but I don't want to sign a player who doesn't have his heart set on playing for the club, in this instance it would surely only have been a matter of time before the French striker plotted a move to Spain.

As things stand now United's planning, or lack of it, looks awful, the club stands accused of failing to make preparations for the exits of Ronaldo and Tevez. It's as if these moves have come out of the blue this summer, in point of fact the manager and fans alike have been aware for some time that Tevez might move on and there's been much debate about Fergie giving Ronaldo the option of leaving.

The fact is United have rarely been able to attract the world's top talent to Old Trafford, rather than chasing fool’s gold, perhaps Ferguson should be concentrating on finding and developing the next Ronaldo. United should continue to blood young players like the Da Silva brothers and Macheda - that is the future...and we have to remember the bedrock of the solid back four is still in place.

It might well take United two to three seasons to get over the events of this summer - possibly even longer than that given Fergie will retire sooner rather than later. Antonio Valencia has been signed from Wigan, but he's not going to score the goals next season, added to which the manager can no longer rely on the experience of players like Scholes and Neville who are both a year older.

Fergie has relied on Ronaldo a lot during his time at Old Trafford - who could blame him? However, now he's gone it's fair to ask if the manager has a plan B? The challenge is to become more of a team - one that relies less on one player and one that collectively scores more goals. It's a very big ask given the current squad, it is hard to see where those goals will come from.

It would be ridiculous to completely write-off United before a ball has been kicked, but at this juncture it isn't looking good, but we know the club will bounce back, they always do and having followed the club since the late 60s I know that as well as anyone.