Is this the summer Fergie finally addresses his Godot?
To those brave and humble enough to do so, football, week after week, year after year, offers virtually endless opportunities to learn - for the ability to be constantly moving forward is what separates great sides from the very good ones.
May 7th, 2013
If there’s anything that United can learn from this season, it’s that translating their domestic superiority onto the European stage is far from a straightforward equation and one that is missing at least two key factors in the shape of a central midfielder and a winger.
Michael Carrick has performed admirably this season, arguably producing the finest performances of his United career, but United’s midfield was still ultimately exploited in big games.
The reinforcement in midfield that Sir Alex Ferguson’s team has been crying for over the last five years has now become United’s very own Godot, and the chances of one materialising this summer are just as slim.
What could materialise, though, is another marquee signing, with Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst a plethora of other players, the latest names to be linked with a move to Old Trafford. There isn’t a team in the world right now – apart from Bayern Munich perhaps – that wouldn’t dream of having either player in their ranks.
Furthermore, considering the abysmal season endured by Ashley Young, Nani and Antonio Valencia, the prospect of Bale or Ronaldo charging down the flank is, for United fans, what a buffet is to a man who hasn’t had food for weeks.
To secure either Ronaldo or Bale, Sir Alex could be forced to spend in the excess of £60m – a huge transfer fee even for the likes of PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, let alone United – that would make the £24m spent for Robin Van Persie look like small change in comparison.
Therein lies the problem for United. Having the financial capability to secure a top player is a wonderful luxury, but the easiest route might not necessarily been the most rewarding one in this case.
Signing Bale or Ronaldo would have fans and media drooling with excitement, add a proven match-winner to a championship-winning team and send another statement of intent to the rest of the Premier League. However, it would also refuse to address the crucial problem that has hampered United in recent years.
As Dortmund and Bayern Munich have demonstrated this year, a core of excellent and well-organised players is much more important than one stellar performer. Spurs and, particularly, Real Madrid have more depth in midfield than United could even dream of, yet one might struggle to finish fourth, the other has only the Spanish Cup left to play for and that’s despite the efforts from their two stars.
Bale and Ronaldo would make the difference in Europe only if they were to be joined in Ferguson’s summer shopping by a top-class midfielder, otherwise they would be simply papering over the cracks; if that was to be the case, United will have wasted a huge opportunity.
By Dan Cancian