Sir Alex Ferguson’s believes that “one bad week” cost Manchester United trophies this season but must not ignores very real deficiencies in his team. Bayern Munich knocked United out of the Champions League before the Reds lost to Chelsea at Old Trafford during April – a week, the Scot says, that defined United’s campaign and cost everything.
It’s an understandable reaction from Ferguson, with Didider Drogba’s strike at Old Trafford at least two yards offside, and Bayern Munich fortunate to knock United out of Europe on away goals.
Yet unless Wigan Athletic pull off a remarkable draw or win at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon, Ferguson will have claimed only the Carling Cup this season. United’s lowest priority trophy at the season’s start.
“We are disappointed we haven’t won other things,” Ferguson said on Friday morning.
“But the biggest disappointment was the European Cup. It is an absolute travesty we are not in the final. It’s an absolute travesty, we were the best team, that’s the disappointment. That brought a certain disappointment for the first half against Chelsea.
“That was a bad week for us. One bad week of the season is maybe going to cost us everything. It’s not easy to overcome these things but the second half against Chelsea the players buckled down and got on with their job.”
The assertion that a single week ruined United’s season ignores the club’s 11 defeats in all competitions this season, with seven coming in the Premier League alone. Perhaps instead United’s season ended with defeat to Burnley in August, or the limp draw at Blackburn last month, or being dumped out of the FA Cup by League One side Leeds United.
It is also worrying that Ferguson sees little need to change his squad ahead of next season. After all, we’re told that Ferguson – and not the Glazer family – chose not to invest heavily in his squad last summer after the departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez.
“Apart from the older players we keep talking about – [Ryan] Giggs, [Paul] Scholes, [Gary] Neville – the rest of the squad is reasonably structured in terms of age,” Ferguson added.
“There is a strong nucleus of young players and they are the future, there is no question about that. There is a good foundation there.”
The question is whether Ferguson will – or be allowed to – spend heavily on strengthening key areas that have failed in his squad this season. United supporters will look for the Scot bringing a high quality central midfielder, a striker and potentially a new goalkeeper to the club in the coming weeks.
The issue becomes even more stark with Manchester City and Chelsea likely to spend heavily on the domestic front, with Real Madrid and Barcelona doing the same in Europe.
“It is going to be more competitive,” Ferguson recognises.
“With Tottenham’s achievement of reaching the Champions League and with City, who have money to spend and could buy a new team if they wanted to. They will be strong again next season.
“It motivates you. The challenge is always there, we’ve always accepted that challenge and we have to again.”
With Liverpool out of the Champions League and facing an uncertain future, Ferguson’s side will probably compete with Chelsea and City for the Premier League title next season. Arsenal’s challenge is very much dependent on the Londoners’ own investment over the summer after once again coming up short this season.
“Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool are the established members but, in that gang of four, Tottenham and Manchester City are now going to be there,” added Ferguson.
It’s going to make the Scot’s job even harder next season.