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How do you fill a hole like Wayne Rooney?

October 26, 2010

What if Wayne Rooney hadn’t completed the biggest transfer U-turn in recent memory and change his mind on the ambition-less Manchester United? Where would they have been then? Luckily for Sir Alex Ferguson, Jonathan F of Just Football is on hand to fill him in on what areas of the United team need to be sorted out…

From my point of view it does seem as though this United team are reaching a crossroads at which certain players either step up or ship out. Ferguson is on record as a believer in teams lasting a cycle of four years, and I did wonder at the end of last season whether he might go for a bit of a clearout given that cycle of players who won three Premier League titles in a row and won the Champions League is now approaching the end of it’s four years.

As far as I’m concerned there are some obvious flaws in the United squad, particularly in midfield and defence. Paul Scholes aside (and he’s near the end of an illustrious career now anyway), the centre of United’s midfield is quite samey. Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson are all very good players, but there isn’t the variety or steel in there to strike fear into teams as the turn of the century United midfield of Keane, Butt and Scholes could. None of the aforementioned trio are particularly good at shooting from long range or arriving in the box late for headers, and none of them guarantee 10-15 goals a season a la Fabregas / Lampard. With that in mind I think a top class creative midfielder should be a priority as should a physically formidable midfield destroyer. I remain baffled at United’s failure to make serious bids for Rafael van der Vaart or Mesut Ozil given their affordable summer price tags. Particularly as Ferguson has spoken a lot about no ‘value in the market’ of late.

In defence, Chris Smalling looks an interesting prospect but at least a year or two away from moulding into a top class centre back, while Jonny Evans has had a bad start to the season. With Vidic’s future looking uncertain in the summer and Ferdinand now too injury prone to be relied upon consistently, I’m again slightly baffled as to why no established centre back was brought into the club.

I think the Berbatov/Hernandez partnership could really blossom, and United have enough other options there for it not to be too worrying an area of the squad. And that’s ignoring Rooney re-signing. But a goalkeeper is also a necessity with Edwin Van der Sar in the twilight of a superb career.

So yes, I think a centre back, perhaps a right back, a keeper and two midfielders – one attacking and one defensive – would be enough to propel United back to challenging for honours at both domestic and European level.

Obviously this is ignoring a whole number of permutations and ‘ifs/buts’, but assuming the scenario was presented to me in the summer I’d have said Mesut Ozil, Javier Mascherano, Maicon and Manuel Neuer.

Not knowing who is available now makes it a trickier question at this moment in time, but Wesley Sneijder, Marko Marin, Javier Pastore (one from three), Lassana Diarra and Manuel Neuer would be quite high on my list.

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