How Can Manchester United Compete with City?
A rundown of the areas that need addressing for Manchester United.
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When the final match of Manchester United’s 2011-2012 season ended, United were sitting on top of the Premier League table. Just a few seconds later, Sergio Aguero scored against QPR to win Manchester City their first league title in 44 years. After the drama had ended, Sir Alex Ferguson likely had only one thing on his mind: how can the squad be improved with United’s limited budget?
This summer has already seen some good transfers from Manchester United’s point of view, with Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell being snapped up as soon as possible. However, United have also lost some players, such as Park Ji-Sung, Fabio (on loan), Paul Pogba, and Zeki Fryers.
Park’s displays for United will be missed, and he could always be counted upon in the biggest of events, while Fabio’s loan spell at QPR is hoped to bring the best out of him. These losses, while big, are certainly not as shocking as the other two. Paul Pogba was widely expected to cement a place in United’s first team in the center of midfield, which has recently become a problem for United. Zeki Fryers was also going to push for a first team place, and though he may not have been good enough to take Evra’s spot, he would have at least kept Evra on his toes. The fact that United are struggling to hold onto players such as these is indicative of the club’s massive debt. United simply can’t afford the wages that other big teams can offer, and so the club must get the best value for players in positions that needs the most reinforcement.
The first area that needs to be reinforced are the fullback positions. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Rafael can all play as rightbacks. Jones and Smalling, however, are both naturally centrebacks, and while they can both do a job as fullbacks, they don’t offer as much as a regular fullback does. This is where Rafael comes in. Blessed with great tackling technique and lots of energy, Rafael is a natural fullback and usually plays very well. However, he has been unlucky with injuries and his form is patchy because of them. He has been unable to cement his spot as Manchester United’s rightback, even though he has had little competition for years. United will likely need to buy backup for him at some point, as it is possible that Rafael will never be able to realize his full potential. The more pressing problem in terms of fullbacks, however, is the leftback position. Patrice Evra is coming off the back of one of his worst seasons, and his decline over the past couple of years has been fairly obvious. With Zeki Fryers and Fabio gone, Evra has no competition for his place, and no one to push him to do better. United are currently looking at Leighton Baines to solve their leftback problem, and while he is a good player with good set piece ability, he is also 27 years old and will start fading within the next few seasons, and it isn’t clear whether he would be able to take Evra’s place on the team. Nevertheless, Leighton Baines would be a useful acquisition for Manchester United.
The second area that desperately needs something new is the central midfield position. Tom Cleverley and Anderson started very well together, showing lots of attacking flair and also substance to go with their style. However, with them in the middle, Manchester United had the most shots against them in the league. This shows that a central midfielder is needed, and needed badly. Someone like Yaya Toure would be very useful for United, as he can win the ball and move forward powerfully. However, there are very few players like this on the market today, and so United will need to do the best that they can with the funds available to them. Shinji Kagawa will also help, as he likes to drop deep to help out with the midfield.
All of this is assuming that United will continue playing a 4-4-1-1 or switch to a 4-2-3-1. In the 4-2-3-1, the positions are essentially the same though the roles are a little different. United would have to sacrifice Welbeck if Shinji Kagawa is to be used effectively, and Rooney will move forward to accomodate him, rather than playing behind the striker like he did during the 2011-2012 season.
If Man United can purchase the necessary players during this transfer window, they will go a long way to reclaiming their title against a City team who, frankly, have more talent player for player.