With Manchester United out of action this weekend, rumors have unsurprisingly started to swirl that a couple of their long-serving, living legends are set to announce their unwanted, but inevitable retirements.
Sir Alex Ferguson has stated that both Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville, who, along with Paul Scholes, are only on single-year contracts, may not have their respective contracts renewed at season’s end.
With two-thirds of the modern-day version of the United Trinity on the verge of calling it curtains on their incomparable careers, the Gaffer will need to either look to spend his reported £100 million transfer kitty, or encourage one, or more, of his youth players to assume the responsibilities that is required to be a first-team player.
Scholes was exempt from mentioning in Sir Alex’s most recent comments, which will make one believe that he will be offered another one-year contract, and that news may not be well received by some because they want them to all ride off in the sunset together.
Giggs, who is one appearance shy of 850 for the club, is in the midst of his 21st season as a professional at Old Trafford, but, so far, it has been very frustrating to say least, because the wing wizard has been limited to just seven starts this season.
This has been attributed to him already spending a couple of spells on the sidelines with his often-troubling hamstring flaring up twice, and in spite of his reported high fitness levels, this could very well be a telling sign that finally his 37-year old body may not be able handle the vigorous demands of United’s lengthy season.
Even when he has been fit, Giggs has not been a first-choice player on Ferguson’s team sheet, and whether this is a harsh assessment or not, the Welshman has only played the entire 90 minutes on four separate occasions in his 11 total appearances this season, which is not up to his very own high standards.
One of the most admirable aspects of Giggs, is that winger has always been look at as a proud professional, so he would not want taint his glittering career by playing past his due date, which signifying the end of his career at United.
Neville, on the other hand, has only made two very sub par appearances this season, because he has disparagingly shown that he no longer can handle the opposition’s speedy wingers at right-back.
Admittedly, Neville, himself, was very surprised to be offered another contract for the 2010/11 season, but that came at high price, because he lost his place as the team’s captain, because he knowingly was not going to feature regularly in for the United’s first-team.
Hopefully Neville will be given another chance to make amends for his last appearance, which saw him comically, but subbed off at half-time against Stoke City, because that would leave a very tasteless memory on his very flourished playing career.
Predictably, though, both of these players have been linked with management roles before they have even hung up their boots, so this revelation by Ferguson may not stun the Manchester United supporters at all.
In terms of replacing Neville as a player at right-back will not be all that hard since there are very capable replacements already at the club with Rafael, John O’Shea and Wes Brown all offering ample coverage in defense, however, it is his effective leadership role will have to be occupied by another one United’s more established players.
Conversely, the hole that was left by Giggs when he was out injured was very apparent, so it is imperative that Sir Alex finds a fitting, ready-made player so the club does not stutter a bit on the field.
How does one replace a player that has been so influential for so long?
Answer: You don’t.
Five years ago, Ferguson was forced into a similar situation when Roy Keane’s was nullified for his outspoken, foolhardy views on that current crop of United youngsters – which included Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Like Giggs, Keane was always seen as irreplaceable, and, rightfully, he was never replaced by Ferguson, however, his services were supplemented by a few different kind of players all assuming the attributes that were absent following his departure.
A lot pundits associate United’s success following Keane’s exit to the rise of Darren Fletcher, the purchase of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes dropping into a deeper position in the midfield.
So, the does Ferguson spend or elevate one of his many fledglings to fill the void left by Giggs?
Either way, Sir Alex will look for a player who not only possesses the power to not only be a game-changer, but also have the capacity to be a significant leader, too.
Popular opinion would have one believing that Sir Alex will buy Tottenham’s left-sided midfielder, Gareth Bale, but that is more than likely not going to happen, because the Welshman is not worth the money that United will be held ransom for to obtain his services.
So if not Bale, then who?
There are a couple players who are still on the United books, but advertising their skill and gaining very valuable experience with two other Barclays Premier League clubs, and they will serve a significant role when they return at the end of their loan deals.
Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley are currently on season-long loan spells at Sunderland and Wigan Athletic, respectively, and these two youngsters can, without question, be the type of player who can fill the creative role that has been now occupied by Giggs.
Welbeck’s talent has recently boiled to the top as he has shocked some of the United’s rivals with his sheer pace, tight-nit skill and uncanny finishing ability, and has helped the Black Cats to a legitimate chance of a European place because of it.
On the contrary, Cleverley is a well-rounded midfielder, who is learning his skill at a relegation-threatened club, which will give him the stones to handle hostile conditions, and he has impressed Wigan’s manager, Roberto Martinez, with his sharp performances all season and that has been confirmed with two well-taken goals in their last two outings.
No matter what Sir Alex Ferguson decides to do this summer, the Manchester United supporters need to show their backing for him and his judgement, because he has always had the best interest of the club at heart.