Vultures gather as Fergie’s big sales start to cost him dearly
The prophets of doom pounced immediately the final whistle blew to end Manchester United’s shortlived 2009/10 English FA Cup campaign. The decision to sell Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo last season has come back to haunt manager Sir Alex Ferguson, they said.
Dimitar Berbatov was a £30m flop. If Wayne Rooney is not at the top of his game, United are nowhere. The Glazer family holding the purse strings need to provide upwards of £70m to help rebuild the great club. And so on.
Leeds United admittedly pulled off the first big burglary of the year when they claimed a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford, but rumours of Manchester United’s fall from grace are absurdly premature.
Ferguson himself took out the famed hairdryer when a journalist asked him whether or not Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and the Da Silva twins were equipped to take over once the club had drawn a line under the careers of the magnificent servants Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville.
Ferguson called the interrogator an “idiot” and said he should be “bloody sacked”. He added that he found the whole discussion “unbelievable”.
There are signs that this United squad is in transition. They look more vulnerable than in recent seasons and there are stories flying around that there is not enough money to fund a complete overhaul of players. Added to this is that the club have instituted a policy that they won’t spend “big” amounts on players over the age of 26, and that the £30m for Berbatov was the last time such a sum will be shelled out on an older star.
But, for goodness sakes, this is Manchester United we are talking about. At last glance they were still second behind Chelsea in the English Premiership – and going into the period, postChristmas where United traditionally start hitting their stride, and also at a time when the leaders are missing their African stars, including the prolific Didier Drogba and the untiring Michael Essien.
United are also through to the knockout phase of the Champions League, where AC Milan and David Beckham will be their opposition over two legs. Beatable opposition, it has to be said. They are also in the semi-finals of the Carling Cup (Chelsea aren’t), so all talk of a side on the slide, or a club in crisis, does look decidedly premature.
Sure, there are issues that need addressing, some of which do include the strength in depth, or the lack of strike power up front should Rooney not be at the top of his game. But simply because Leeds United came to the home of one of their most hated rivals and snuck out a (deserved) FA Cup victory should not be cause for global alarm. In the League, we have just gone past the halfway season and only Arsenal have scored more goals and only Chelsea have more points.
Ferguson himself is known to have confided to some of his close mates who live in South Africa that he is “comfortable” where United are positioned and “confident” they can go on to retain the Premiership.
Then again, the reaction and the discussion around United following an FA Cup setback is understandable. The king of the jungle has been wounded in a fight and the hyenas are gathering. Yet for anyone to think that it will simply roll over and play dead is in for a rude shock.
After all, the clubs around United in the League all have to keep winning and keep going forward – and all have their own sets of problems.