Where Do We Go From Here?

“There’s no rest for the wicked” as the famous saying goes, and there is nobody more wickedly brilliant than Sir Alex Ferguson.

As Sir Alex sets his sights on building a team capable of beating the newly crowned European champions, Barcelona, it seems appropriate. It is testament to Sir Alex’s character that his immediate reaction to the crushing defeat was to find a way to win the next time the two sides meet.

The big question is, how do you go about building a side that is better than the team that the press are describing as the best the world has ever seen?

 I’ve spoken to numerous United fans this week in the aftermath of the defeat and the general consensus is that it was a case of a very good team, facing a great team.

 Also, not a single person has said that they held realistic hopes of victory. Like me, they thought that if we gave it our best shot and hoped Barca were off form we could do it. But in all likelihood we knew that we would be coming away from Wembley empty handed for the second time in almost as many weeks.

Before the final I would have said that I only saw one weak area within the squad, an area that hasn’t been as strong as it should have been at least since the 2009 final and possibly for a few years longer than that. That area is midfield. But we’ll come back to that.

 Defensively we’re facing up to the departure of Edwin Van der Sar and, sadly, Rio isn’t getting any younger.

We have a ready made replacement for Rio in the form of Chris Smalling, who had an excellent debut season after an error prone final 6 months for Fulham.  He immediately settled in at Old Trafford and I feel confident every time I see his name on the team sheet.

Replacing Van der Sar, however, is likely to be a tougher task. Much like the great Peter Schmeichel, Van der Sar is leaving behind a reputation that is exceptional and will be hard to live up to.

If the David De Gea deal comes off, he will be a more than able candidate but, we have to give him time to settle in. He is, after all, only 20 years old and still a work in progress, but I don’t think there is anywhere better for him to progress than Old Trafford.

Up front, if Dimitar Berbatov leaves, which I think is likely to happen, we’ll be left with only 3 recognised first team strikers.

Wayne Rooney is, without doubt, world class. Chicharito is on his way but, I feel, it is too early to rely on him to play 50+ games a season. Michael Owen is an impact player to come of the bench and an injury worry and is likely to figure more in the League/FA Cup.

Luckily, we have some quality players coming back from loans, namely Danny Welbeck, Mame Diouf and Kiko Macheda.

All would be reliable replacements for Chicarito if needed, or we could switch to 4-5-1 with Rooney as the lone striker.  I think Sir Alex will be happy with his attacking options regardless of whether Berbatov leaves or not.

Now, the Midfield. Out wide we could do with at least another winger. Really, we only have two first team wingers in Nani and Antonio Valencia. Ryan Giggs can still play there but is likely to be playing his final season and Park is more suited to a central role.

Ashley Young is a name that has been discussed by the press and he’s someone who can play anywhere across the midfield. He would be a good addition to the side. His pace and dribbling ability scare defenders and his excels in dead ball situations.

Our biggest weakness though, is in the centre. Michael Carrick and Giggs never got a look in against the trio of Xavi, Iniesta and Sergio Busquets even with Rooney in his deeper role.

Carrick got taken apart in 2009 and has never recovered. His form toward the end of the season was good but, and this view is shared by many, he is just not good enough.

We’re missing some steel in the middle of the park, something Owen Hargreaves was bought for way back in 2007. Sadly, he’s been released from the squad after a lengthy battle with knee, hip and shoulder problems.

Daniele De Rossi would be my choice for this role. His energy levels, tackling and passing ability with both feet would benefit the team as a whole. He can also score goals and has good leadership qualities as well which would benefit the team.

Apart from this we’ve got some extremely talented midfielders in the team. Anderson (who needs to work on his shooting), Fletcher, Gibson, Cleverly (back from loan at Wigan) to name a few.

There’s also the prospect of the academy players who’ve just won the FA youth cup. Widely regarded as the best crop of youth players we’ve had since the class of ’92 and we all know how that turned out!.

In short, we only need 2-3 players to take us up another level.

We’re the most successful club in English history, we’re in the Champions League and we’ve got Sir Alex. If there’s a club that can attract the players we need, it is Manchester United.

By James Ellis – @I_am_Jamm_F1