In Part I of this feature we looked at how Manchester United have progressed since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In the second part of this feature, we look at how United might proceed in the coming few months or years.

A new transfer window is upon us in a couple of weeks and rumours are already flying thick and fast. Real Madrid are possibly preparing to bring in a few more toys and do away with some of the old ones and Radamel Falcao has been mentioned more than once in connection. Falcao would also love to move to the Bernabeu as he has already shown his propensity to go where the cash is. United have surely identified this and it is evident in the fact that young academy product, James Wilson is receiving increased first team playing time. The goal against Aston Villa saw Falcao run to the away section of the fans in celebration. It showed how much the goal meant to him. He needs playing time to cement his place in the starting XI but also there is another reason. If Radamel Falcao can manage to remain fit and score a few more goals for United this loan term, he may go back on Real’s radar to sign, though most probably in the summer transfer window. Falcao’s move to Real is also contingent on another United player, Javier Hernandez.

Javier Hernandez is on loan to Real Madrid but may not be for much longer

Hernandez’s rise in international football is a mirror image of Santiago Munez from the “Goal!” movie trilogy. Hernandez is a third generation footballer who was quietly plying his trade in Mexico for Guadalajara away from the limelight when he was picked up by a United scout right before the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The young striker shone in the tournament for Mexico and United seemed to have bagged a diamond in the rough. His arrival at Old Trafford was greeted with warmth and the fans got behind him immediately as he endeared himself to the Stretford End favourites with his dying minute winners and poacher skills that made many of them reminisce warmly about Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the days gone by. Yet, Herannadez was dissatisfied as he failed to make it into the first team. While Ferguson valued him immensely, he also identified the diminutive striker’s clear lack of stamina and work rate and preferred playing Rooney, Berbatov, Welbeck and later Robin van Persie in the starting role, leaving Hernandez on the bench to be substituted in towards the end of the game. Hernandez sealed a loan move to Real Madrid at the start of the current season but his playing conditions haven’t changed much. He gets 10-15 minutes of game time if any, often being left unused on the bench at the end of games. Yet he has not let go of a single chance to gloat at his Real Madrid stint, even tweeting “Hala Madrid” while posting a picture of himself with the UEFA Club World Cup trophy recently. Most players on a loan stint celebrate their club’s victory, but stay respectful of their parent club. No such effort from Chicharito and going by the signs this may be the last year he plays for United or Real Madrid. More a matter of when than if, Chicharito’s exit could signal Falcao’s appearance on Real’s radar. Falcao would also love the big money move and United will look to get as much as possible from the transaction.

Rumours abound that Gareth Bale may be on his way from Real Madrid to Manchester United

Rumours abound that Gareth Bale may be on his way from Real Madrid to Manchester United

Gareth Bale is one of the players being touted as a player who could move in the other direction. Now there are many arguments for and against this transfer. By the looks of it Gareth Bale’s move to United seems to be far-fetched for a variety of reasons: a) Real spent reportedly A?85 million on his transfer two years ago and will decidedly get less than that amount for him b) With Ronaldo nearing the age of 30, there’s not much more left in the tank for the ex-United superstar and there seems to be no reason why Real would part with his 25-year old replacement. In fact, no reason why the player would want to either. c) He’s playing well and has a penchant for scoring goals in crucial matches like cup finals. Why would Real part with that? That said, there are also some points to be made for the case of his transfer to United: a) In a league that stars players like Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar, Bale would always struggle to become the biggest player in La Liga. No such qualms in England. There’s by and large hardly any player who can match his level of talent at his age. b) He has a young family and they might like to move back to the UK to be closer to friends and family.

Now this move may or may not happen but the very fact that we are arguing seriously over it is enough to show the shift in United’s transfer policies. United were a club that took raw talent and made them into finished products that the La Liga (read Real Madrid and Barcelona) could lap up. Case in point, Beckham, Ronaldo, Pique. Now the tables are turned. United are ready and willing to purchase ready made superstars who are closer to 30, at the peak of their career and ready to carry the club across multiple finish lines. All this while still supporting youth and talent as David Moyes had shown in persisting with Adnan Januzaj or Louis van Gaal has shown by featuring James Wilson, Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair regularly in first team action. Agreed, a lot of it was forced due to injuries but he hasn’t sent them back to the reserves has he?

By the looks of it, van Gaal would be reinforcing his defense over the next couple of transfer windows not only owing to injury problems but also due to significant lack of quality personnel. Phil Jones is still young but his propensity to get injured has injured his growth by not allowing him any kind of sustained playing time. Chris Smalling and Rafael have come up well through the years but they still have that streak of crazy that surfaces at odd moments and can result in them getting sent off. Jonny Evans has by far been a huge disappointment. Evans is not a bad defender per se and he did very well when Vidic and Rio were around as senior partners in defense. What their departure has showed him up in is leadership skills. In spite of being the most experienced defender in the squad, Evans does not marshall his defense as he would be expected to. Marcos Rojo is good but he is not world class, not yet by a stretch. Luke Shaw is the only genuine left back in the side and his position needs bolstering just to increase a backup option.

Darren Fletcher may have played his last game for United

That leaves United with the onerous task of refreshing their midfield. The days of Keane, Beckham and Scholes seem long past. United have missed a midfield enforcer for some time now. Carrick plays the role to some extent but his play is based more on possession and vision than on sheer physical strength to overwhelm opposition midfields. In the whole scheme of things, it is Darren Fletcher’s name that comes to mind. And unfortunately, it is in a bad way for him. Fletcher has been with the club since he was 11 and was supposed to be the next big thing for United before he was brought down by his debilitating illness. A few years on, Fletcher has shown superb resilience and resolve to not only recover from the illness but prove his fitness to be available for selection to the side. Equal credits to United for sticking by him. It wasn’t only Ferguson who stood by his ward but both his successors, Moyes and van Gaal who did. The latter, in fact, even made him the vice captain of the side. It is evident that van Gaal awards responsibilities in an objective manner. It would have been an easy decision for him to make van Persie the club captain yet he named Rooney as the club captain and Fletcher as his deputy. Those selections were obviously merit based. Yet, only last week he announced Carrick as Rooney’s deputy and although he started Fletcher in the game against Aston Villa, the midfielder was hooked at half time due to his listless performance. His first touch was loose, his passing ineffective and positioning questionable. In many ways, the Aston Villa game might well be the game when Fletcher realised that he could not continue playing at this level. It hearkens back to Gary Neville and his performance in United’s New Years Day 2011 game at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion. Neville later revealed how he had sat on a toilet at half time, knowing that this would be his last game in his prized red shirt. Neville announced his retirement shortly after. There is no shame in it if Fletcher decides to call time on his career now. A lesser man would have done so long ago, much less fought such a dreadful illness and still come out on top and then played at the top level. Sadly enough, it is surely curtains on his United career and his is one of the stories that United faithful will always look back at with sadness and a feeling of what could have been.

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