Since they were formed in 1878 as Newton Heath LYR, Manchester United have won 3 European Cups, or as it is called in the modern-day game, Champions League titles. 2 such titles were won under the reign of none other than Sir Alex Ferguson: the treble winning season of 1999 and the double winning season of 2008 (see highlights below). And with Ferguson looking to win another in order to beat Bill Paisley’s record of 3 Champions League at one club, I look into the stats, the facts, and the opinions of others to see what the Reds need to do to win the trophy of dreams.
As the start of the season was approaching, United did not have a first choice keeper. Now though, David De Gea has firmly cemented his place as Manchester United’s first choice goalkeeper. He has been putting in some commanding display’s recently and looks to be the real deal. With second choice Anders Lindegaard a great backup option, United have no work to do in the goalkeeping department. Ben Amos is also another backup option for the future; he is developing well at the club and should be a top quality keeper in years to come.
Manchester United don’t lack strength in-depth in their current side. Defense is an area where they have plenty of promising young stars for the future, such as players that will one day have a chance of captaining their country, like Phil Jones. However, are those players good enough and experienced enough to challenge for Europe’s biggest trophy, the UEFA Champions League? And can the experienced Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, or Patrice Evra play every game in the League and in Europe? No, but how to solve it?
Jonny Evans has had an excellent season and has progressed well since the start of 2012. Now Ferguson’s first choice center back and nearing his prime, he can play in almost every match and produce top quality performances. To win next years European Cup, United and Ferguson will need someone else in the center back position though. This brings me to the point of rotation; with Vidic and Ferdinand ever aging and not able to play game in, game out, the two will have to take turns with each other, with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to partner Jonny Evans. Of course the Irishman cannot play every game and will need some rest, therefore, occasionally, Vidic and Ferdinand could play, or Jones and Smalling.
In left back position, the Reds have the experienced Patrice Evra. He still tears up defenses and makes important tackles, but he is getting older and will need more rest next season. Leighton Baines has been a target of the Reds for a few years now, and in my opinion, is the best full back in the league. Second choice left back Alexander Buttner is a good prospect but defensively has not shown enough quality to play regularly. Fabio Da Silva is returning from loan at QPR and is a great full left back, much like his twin, Rafael. What to do? It’s Ferguson’s choice, he can either buy Leighton Baines and have left back covered and extremely strong and challenge for the Champions league. Or the champions-elect could not purchase a solid new left-back and challenge for the Premier League and fail in Europe.
Manchester United aren’t short of quality in midfield. With Michael Carrick recently being nominated for PFA Player of the Year, they have one of the best and most consistent midfielders in the world. Tom Cleverley has been ever improving recently and has been putting in some impressive displays. They have young players coming through the ranks such as Ryan Tunnicliffe, Nick Powell, Davide Petrucci, and Jesse Lingard.
Again, the problem is whether the current midfield can they challenge the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, or Real Madrid? And again, the answer is no. This time, what to do? There is no possible way of getting around the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side need a dominating midfielder. Someone like Danielle De Rossi, Yohan Cabaye, or Kevin Strootman. Those were the responses on Twitter when I asked “If you could have one new midfielder at United, who would it be? (Realistically).”
Out of those three options, 1 name stands out. Kevin Strootman. He is extremely young and powerful, much like treble-winning Manchester United legend Roy Keane. United fans drool over the prospect of signing such a player. He is also the most realistic signing for the Reds. Ferguson is a known admirer of him and Strootman will be looking to get some higher quality football than he gets at his current club (PSV Eindhoven).
Danielle De Rossi has always been a target for United but he is a loyal player who looks set to stay at Roma until he retires. Yohan Cabaye is a classy footballer but is not the quality of a more physical player like Strootman. All of this leads to Strootman being the perfect player for the Reds, the player to lead them to European glory once again. It’s only a question of whether there is enough money at Old Trafford.
With the likes of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez, wihout a doubt, Manchester United have the strongest attack in the league, and possibly the world. With players like Will Keane, Joshua King, and more ready to join up with them, Ferguson doesn’t need to worry about his strikers, despite rumors he was in for Radamel Falcao. There are still rumors linking United with Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski; although it would mean one of United’s strikers leaving the Theater Of Dreams, it would be an excellent buy for the Reds. He scores repeatedly, with an average rate of almost 1 a game. Should he come to Manchester, he would link up with old teammate Shinji Kagawa to form a formidable partnership.
Assisting Manchester United’s forwards will be the wingers. The new addition of Wilfried Zaha (bought in January, now on loan at Crystal Palace) will be a big bonus. The Premier League leaders’ wingers have struggled this season. Antonio Valencia has had a torrid season, Ashley Young has had plenty of injuries keeping him on the side-lines, and Luis Nani’s morale has been low after his controversial sending off in their Champions League Round of 16 match-up against Real Madrid. Danny Welbeck has adapted to a new role on the left flank, and we could see Zaha and Welbeck on the wings in future. Even though it looks as if United have many a winger, they may need to purchase another to strengthen their squad and show their quality, someone like James Rodriguez.
If all these things happen, it looks good for Manchester United. They could reach the promise land again, and win the UEFA Champions League.
Written by Harry Robinson (@RedMatters_)