Often the toughest task for a club isn’t winning the league, but holding onto the title. With its rivals rejuvenated, opposing managers poring over every reel of video, and new tactics being drawn to contain them, Manchester United have their task cut out for them next season.
If that wasn’t hard enough, they’re going to have to it this season without the reassuring presence of Sir Alex Ferguson on the touchline. With David Moyes in charge, United face a new dawn but not without a dose of anxiety thrown in for good measure.
Critical to maintaining United’s relative supremacy over the league, will be the task of bolstering United’s existing squad with the talent and big names it will take to cement their dominance. The Red Devils will certainly have their pick of the pack of transfer targets this summer.
Sir Alex Ferguson tracked former Real Madrid defender Garay for the better part of a year before he retired from his Old Trafford perch and David Moyes will no doubt be similarly keen to beef up a defence that was shaky at times this season with injury concerns over Nemanja Vidic and the imposibility of counting on veteran Rio Ferdinand in the long term.
That’s where Garay comes into the picture. The 26 year old has been in fine form this season but was unable to steer his Lisbon based side to a major trophy success, losing the Primeira Liga title on the last day of the season and failing to overcome Chelsea in a heart breaking Europa League final loss that could well lead the Argentine to be all the more keen on a possible high-profile move to Old Trafford.
Though Moyes can call upon younger defensive options like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, both Englishmen are better suited to other roles than at centre-back. Jonny Evans has matured into a very capable performer but Moyes could well see Garay as a sensible target to chase this summer.
David Moyes could raid Everton for spoils in the form of midfielder Marouane Fellaini. It has been something of a breakthrough season for the Belgian, who has been used in a more attacking role at Goodison Park, starting the season with a superb individual performance against Manchester United, in which he terrorised their defence throughout and scored the winning goal. The 25-year-old would give United some much-needed physicality in midfield or upfront, wherever Moyes chooses to play him.
Although a very different player from Paul Scholes, he could replace the United legend’s goals and assists with his aerial presence, scoring goals or getting flick-ons from crosses and set pieces. Moyes certainly seems to know how to get the best out of him, and on his day he’s a handful for any Premier League defence.
After his displays this season, he is obviously being linked with several big clubs, such as Arsenal and Chelsea, and he will have a number of options if they all choose to activate his very tempting looking minimum release fee clause of £25million. He is likely to be most tempted to reunite with Moyes and have a chance to play for the Premier League champions.
Rumours are aounding that one of the most sensational transfer deals of the summer could be on, with Manchester United working to bring Cristiano Ronaldo after four years at Real Madrid. The Portuguese winger left United for a world record fee of £80million and has looked to be worth every penny at the Bernebeu, with a phenomenal record of 201 goals in 199 games for the club. However, he is reportedly unhappy in Spain after a difficult season and would welcome a return to his old club.
This signing would of course be more likely if Real Madrid do manage to beat United to the signing of Gareth Bale from Spurs, but most United fans would prefer bringing home one of their best players in recent years. The 28-year-old is now probably even better than he was when he left the club and would form a devastating partnership with Robin van Persie.
He would certainly not come cheap, and PSG are reportedly willing to pay £84million for him to make him the world’s most expensive ever player again, but it is conceivable that United could offer £60 million plus the likes of Nani and Javier Hernandez to push the deal through. Whatever it takes, Moyes would instantly make himself a favourite with the fans if he can pull off this fantastic transfer.
United have been preparing for Paul Scholes’ inevitable retirement. As recently as January, the Manchester Evening News linked United with both Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder. Unfortunately, Sir Alex Ferguson wasn’t able to land either of those midfield maestros, and Scholes has subsequently hung up his boots. In his wake there is a creative vacuum that only a player with Thiago’s enormous potential and confidence could dare to fill.
Thiago would provide the spark to complement Michael Carrick’s consistency. The 22-year-old shares Xavi’s talent for dictating tempo but is also capable of producing individual moments of breathtaking skill. He is both a conductor and a soloist.
He can dribble, has an amazing range of passing, sublime technique, excellent vision and awareness, and is also a rugged and enthusiastic defensive presence. If United want to win the Champions League again, they need a player who can dominate possession and Thiago is that man. Not only is he good at possession himself, but he makes it easy for others to play a passing game too, by gliding around in a constant pocket of space.
When he emerged at Sparta Rotterdam he was a genuine box-to-box midfielder. However, last season at PSV he found himself operating more often as a deep-lying playmaker with the aggressive Mark Van Bommel acting as his bodyguard. For now, he remains flexible enough to play in both roles, meaning that David Moyes will have plenty of options when it comes to fitting Strootman in to a Manchester United XI.
One solution would be to field Strootman as the more physical partner to Carrick in a midfield four. He can tackle, intercept, pass, run and score goals. He is a leader, and an authority figure If Carrick wanted to glide forward, Strootman has the discipline to position himself defensively. He’s a ferocious presence, and definitely in the mold of a United player.
Written by Supratim Chowdhury