Update: I’ve covered the Tevez and Senna rumours here.
What we’ve been saying all along finally happened – Carrick rejected the new contract, told Jol that he wanted to leave and with United finally having the money (from Ruud’s sale) in sight, the transfer of one Mr. Carrick from Tottenham to Manchester United is now a mere formality.
Personal terms over the weekend, a medical on Monday morning and the evening of 31st July, 2006 will see Carrick ‘unveiled’ in a press conference at Old Trafford. He will join the squad in their trip to Amsterdam and that tournament will give us a chance to see if he can really fit in with Scholes, Giggs and co.
But I’m still concerned about Manchester United – we just lost a 20-goal striker and while the fans may feel relieved at finally signing a quality midfielder (and preventing further nightmares of Liam Miller – the white Djemba-Djemba – shoring up the midfield), we’re now a bit short in both the midfield and striking departments.
Don’t get me wrong. The team is wonderfully balanced, but we lack a quality 2nd striker and a quality ball-winner in the midfield. Worse, Carrick will take a lot of money to bring over, so we are short on funds.
Manchester United Need The Right Midfielder
The role of a holding midfielder has been, if anything, over-stated in the last year. Look at France in the World Cup – Makelele was good, but without Vieira there was no chance of France getting to the final. The value of a box-to-box, hard-tackling midfielder cannot be under-estimated.
Gattuso is a great holding player, but he works with someone like Pirlo operating in front of him and doing creative duties. Makelele has the same role – he works best when he has Vieira or Lampard / Cole to pass to. On the other hand, someone like Hargreaves or Vieira or even Diarra and Davids are natural box-to-box midfielders and combine defensive and attacking duties.
So who can we buy to support Carrick and Scholes in the midfield? A box-to-box, hard-tackling midfielder? Gattuso will stay with Milan but apart from him, Vieira, Diarra, Hargreaves – all three have shown that they will be willing to leave their clubs. Mascherano is another option (and much loved by the media), but the Corinthians won’t sell their midfielder cheaply, nor has he shown (yet) a willingness to leave.
United can probably afford only Vieira for now, although if we can we should go all out and splash the money for Hargreaves.
Manchester United Need A Second Striker
Rooney is the only ‘star’ striker we have. Saha, for all his good form, still needs to go a full season without injuries and with goals (a repeat of his Fulham days would be nice) to establish himself, and has a long way to go. Solskjaer is 33 and returning to the team after 2 years. Rossi is 19 and played in the reserve team the whole of last year. Smith will not be back before September, and the kid will also be needed in the midfield to back Carrick and Scholes up.
So we need a second striker. Ibrahimovic is available for under 10 mil (still expensive) while Defoe is not a target for United according to Ferguson. Tevez has been reported as being unhappy because of trouble with the crowds and a militant support group, but he’s already marked for Chelsea.
Who does that leave us with? It could be that Bayern snap up a Juve striker and send one of their strikers packing. No one good enough to plug the gap, no hitman like Nistelrooy (Ibrahimovic can do it, but he would be a gamble).
Manchester United have a fairly balanced look to them now – here’s a possible team lineup:
van der Sar
Neville, Vidic, Ferdinand, Heinze
Ronaldo, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs
This leaves us with Brown, O’Shea, Smith, Richardson, Ben Foster, Solskjaer, Rossi and Park as backups. Not a bad team, and certainly a match for everyone else apart from Chelsea. But then again, we were in this same position last year, and that was deemed ‘not good enough’.
Second place again will not be disaster for Manchester United, but not reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League could prove the end for Ferguson.
Realistically, Ferguson will use Rossi and Solskjaer to support Rooney and Saha, with Smith being held back to support Carrick and Scholes. This should be enough for ‘status quo’, but that’s not what United wants.
So who will be our next buy?
Vieira? Owen Hargreaves? Ibrahimovic?
Take your pick.