New Manchester United coach Paul Scholes says that the club will rebuild this summer but only if Sir Alex Ferguson deems it necessary. Scholes, who retired at the end of last season, says he is as excited as the fans, with a string of names linked to United in the press over the past fortnight. Reports suggest that United will embark on the largest spending spree in the Glazer family’s time in charge of the club as Ferguson aims to bridge the gap between the Reds and Europe’s best.
Ferguson has already committed United to the £16.5 million acquisition of Blackburn Rovers’ teenager Phil Jones, while Ashley Young and David de Gea will arrive at Old Trafford in early July for an additional £34 million. Meanwhile, United’s 69-year-old manager continues to search for an elusive ‘world class’ central midfielder to replace Scholes in the squad.
“The manager will know what he needs and if he needs to buy players or he’s happy with what he’s already got,” Scholes said on Wednesday.
“Over the last couple of years he’s not really added that much to it, and if he feels the need to do it now, he’ll do it. He’s built three or four teams now and if he needs to do it again, I’m sure he will.
“I don’t know where the answer lies about a replacement. That is up to the manager and his staff. There is no doubt there is a lot of talent at this club. You only have to look at the youth team this year and what they have done. There are some great players.”
Most supporters and pundits have identified central midfield as United’s primary area of weakness and Scholes’ retirement, along with Owen Hargreaves’ departure, has depleted Ferguson’s resources. Darron Gibson will shortly move to Sunderland while youth team players Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison and Ryan Tunnicliffe are considered too inexperienced for first team duty next season.
However, primary targets Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric seem unlikely to be available this summer. Sneijder has remained non-committal on his future at Internazionale but a £4 million net wage and a £30 million plus transfer fee could put the Dutchman out of Ferguson’s reach. Meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Modric is wanted by both Chelsea and Manchester City, pushing the price to exorbitant levels.
Given the weaknesses in central midfield Ferguson’s apparent pursuit of Alexis Sanchez, the Chilean utility-forward who current plys his trade at Udinese in Italy, is perhaps surprising. Sanchez primarily operators on the right-side for Udinese but has played from the left and as a shadow forward for club and country; positions in which Ferguson is well stocked. After all, Young will compliment Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung, Nani and Wayne Rooney in those positions. Youngster Tom Cleverley will also return to the club this summer.
Sanchez would be a frighteningly expensive acquisition too as City and Barcelona also bid for the 22-year-old’s services and Udinese demand more than £30 million. Moreover, when the European champions Barça comes calling, few players turn the Catalans down.
Still, with high quality names oft-repeated in the press, Scholes says he has high hopes for this summer’s transfer business; a window he will watch as both fan and United employee.
“The ones we have been linked with are great players as well,” said the 36-year-old former player.
“I am sure the manager will buy or bring through the right players and will be just as successful and hopefully get towards the Barcelona level as well. Even when I was a player you see all these top players around the world that you’re linked with, and you’re excited about maybe playing with them. As a fan now, just like my son is, we’re hoping we buy the best players in the world and that they make us even stronger for next year.”
Whether United secures the star names is very much dependent on money of course. Quality, even when completely inexperienced as demonstrated by Jones’ capture, comes at a very high price. Indeed, if United truly is competing at the top end of this summer’s market then the club is in an élite group. While City and Chelsea enjoy the patronage of huge private wealth, Barça and Real Madrid monopolise La Liga media rights money.
It is fact that United fans may well bare in mind when browsing this summer’s red tops. After all, talk is cheap and while the noises emanating from Old Trafford suggest a splurge – and around £180 million in cash sits in the club’s bank account – recent history might suggest otherwise.
Capturing just one of Sanchez, Sneijder or Modric remains a big ask. But like Scholes, fans may well have fun watching the summer’s drama unfold.