Manchester United’s old guard must be changed

The older players have played a massive hand in helping Manchester United to their 9th Premiership, but it’s time that they are phased out.

Gary Neville

Gary Neville is a very good defender and he brings a lot more to the team than just football – his mental strength and desire to win has a positive effect in the dressing room as well, and as much as you’d want a younger, stronger, faster right-back playing for United you can’t imagine the team without him.

However, I think that while he can play another season (and he should play till 2008 at least), Ferguson must start blooding the successor now.

My pick for that post is Wes Brown and while Bardsley and Simpson are also in the wings, Brown wins through on experience (if not sheer quality).

Gary’s a good player but we have to prepare for the future – once you start resting / rotating a player to keep him fit for the big games, you’ve got to realise that it’s time to move on. player review

Edwin Van der Sar

Whatever I just said for EVDS, ditto for Gary. He’s dead-set to be United’s keeper for the next season, but after that it’s anyone’s guess. The media is putting pressure on him needlessly (and so are some United fans), but he has done quite well apart from that alarming tendency to punch the ball out back to the opposition.

Hopefully next season he’ll have purged that out of his system. He is an excellent keeper and Manchester United should look at retaining him beyond his playing years. His positioning and judgement are almost perfect.

Foster and Kuszczak will learn a lot from him.

Blood a new keeper? Yes, definitely, but more likely send K out on loan and keep Foster around. I’d be surprised to see K hang around along with Foster AND see EVDS play first-choice. player review

Paul Scholes

What a season from a thorough professional. He’s one of the main reasons behind United’s successful title hunt.

However, if Ferguson does not plan – and blood players – for Scholesy’s departure we’ll be left in a situation similar to that of Roy Keane’s.

However, Ferguson is not likely to make the same mistake again and again (although he does kick out the good players), and next season you’ll see Scholes play a deeper role, leaving the play-making to Carrick.

That could also mean that Ferguson goes to a 4-5-1 to protect his star midfielder – Hargreaves and Carrick flanking Scholes, Ronaldo and Giggs on the wings cutting in and Rooney up front.

With Hargreaves coming in, it will be interesting to see how Ferguson plays his 3 midfielders. Scholes is fading (yes, he is fading, even if you consider that he’s turned in some stellar performances this season), Carrick will improve and so will Hargreaves.

Will Scholes stay/play beyond 2008?

Ryan Giggs

Ferguson thinks that Scholes, Giggs and Neville can play for another two years, and I’m inclined to agree with him. The same goes for Ole and EVDS.

The problem is, Giggs included, you’re not likely to see the best of them after next season (and in some cases, next season isn’t going to be too hot either).

Giggsy is the case in point. He is immensely talented and you would be a fool not to have him in your team, no matter what club you are. As he gets older he’ll have to play further infield, which means that either we should persist with Evra at left-back or play someone else at left-wing and push Giggs in a central role.

And this is the time when the question arises – why are we changing tactics to accomodate ageing players? Hell, why are we changing a winning strategy to accomodate players? Let’s not do an England all over again.

Giggs will do great next season, I’m sure of it, and he, more than anyone else, deserves the title this season. He’s been fantastic.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

With due respect to what Ole’s done for the club, I think it’s time he moved to management – and I think that’s the main reason why Ferguson is keeping Ole around. He’s lost his pace and while he’s still got the brains he’s not suited to the Premiership anymore.

I’d like to see Ole stay at the club, but he probably wants to play more than next year. If he doesn’t, he would make a great coach.

Planning for the Future

We have players in all departments to cover for this lot, but I’m not sure we have the players with the quality of Scholes and Giggs yet. And while Hargreaves and Carrick (coupled with Ronaldo and Rooney) can soften the loss of Scholes, we need a successor to Giggs, and we need him this summer.

Up Next

Next, I’ll review our star players and update their status at the club – unlike this lot, our star players are there to stay.

This article is Part 2 of our 7-part Manchester United 2006/2007 season review coverage at Soccerlens.

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