We saw a few United players in action for an extended period of time for the first time – Kieran Lee, Dong Fangzhou and Chris Eagles.
In addition, with the season almost over it was also a good chance to see the second string in action for probably the last time – West Ham will meet a stronger squad – and I think it’s as good a time as any to discuss the value of each player to United.
Eagles looks to be the most promising of the lot, and I think that’s because he’s been training with the senior squad for quite some time now. I hope he plays against West Ham as well, so we can get a better look at him and then see if he’s worth rooting for next season. He could be sold in the summer, but if we’re not bringing in the heavy artillery in wingers during the summer then he definitely needs to stay.
Dong’s as good as he was in pre-season, which isn’t saying much. He saw very little of the ball so it’s hard to form any real opinion, but with him (as with Park) it could simply be an issue of settling in at United and that will take time. He needs to get as many games under his belt as possible, but I don’t think he has the talent to be a top striker at United. He could be a good 4th-5th striker, but we’ll have to see next season. He’s not going anywhere though, not after the amount of time United have spent trying to get him to play for us.
Kieran Lee still has a lot of time to go before he can get a place on the United bench. He was outfoxed by Scott Sinclair several times and overall had an average game. With Simpson, Bardsley, Brown and Neville ahead of him, it’s a tough ask. Hopefully a good loan spell for him next season will make him a better player.
Kuszczak – he’s a good shot stopper, but he needs a regular season in goal to be better at his positioning and composure. He’s a good backup option, but doesn’t look like the ideal successor to van der Sar.
Brown is very, very under-rated, IMO. He might never be the superstar centre-back like Rio or the brawn like Vidic, but he’s a mix of the two and has the added ability of being a decent right-back as well. I wouldn’t sell him at any price right now – United need him to be in the pack, even if all he does next season is play at right-back.
O’Shea is a good squad player, a peg below Brown I think, but with Pique and Evans coming back to United next season do we really need him? I’d move him on, maybe sell him to Sunderland, and let Pique or Evans take his defensive role, and hopefully with Hargreaves coming in we won’t have to rely on an O’Shea to play in midfield.
I like the guy, but he might be the hard call that the manager has to make.
Heinze is a good left-back, ideally first-choice for me ahead of Evra and overall, I don’t see why people are going on and on about him leaving United. He’s out of contract, yes, but from where I stand United want to keep him and they should keep him. He’s a senior player, he’s well respected and he always gives his 100%. I’d rate him over Silvestre and Evra at left back and over O’Shea at centre-back (tied with Silvestre, actually). With those ratings O’Shea and Silvestre should be the ones leaving, not Heinze.
Fletcher is turning into a good squad player, and I’m sure that we’ll see more of him next season. He’s a versatile player who HAS gelled with the United players (especially Rooney and Ronaldo) and that’s key if you want to be a part of the team. I know I talked about him as a player who had to leave, but he earns a reprieve for one more season. He still has to improve though.
Richardson For all his talents, Richardson lacks footballing intelligence and he lacks composure. Like Fletcher, he should probably stay another season but depending on United’s recruitement policy this summer he could be out.
That, or if United try to play for all four trophies (and keep in mind that Euro 2008 qualifiers will be in full swing), he could be used in the squad. He’s on dangerous territory, and like Eagles I think he should get one last game against West Ham to see if he can cut it.
He seems a bit separated from the squad though, or maybe that’s just my view.
Alan Smith was wasted in midfield today – I would have started Carrick alongside Fletcher and pushed Alan Smith up forward in attack instead of Ole. He’ll be around next season, most likely, but if Dong does improve Smith has very little to offer to the club and does he really want to sit around as 4th in the pecking order (Rooney, Saha, Rossi ahead of him, even if United don’t sign anyone)? Smith obviously thinks that he can improve, but he’s not going to be better than Saha (although he might be more reliable in terms of injuries) and he will have to face being a support striker as long as he is at United.
Smith out? Possible, as possible as Saha going. With Ole not as much in the frame next season, Smith will get his chances as long as he isn’t ousted by Dong.
Solskjaer should not, in ideal circumstances, get any games for United next season. Assuming that Rossi, Smith and Dong stay (or even if 2 out of 3 stay), United need to play them instead. It’s not just about giving the younger players a chance, it’s also but playing those players who give your team the best chance to get goals and right now Ole’s only getting goals when he’s got a full-flowing United quartet (Scholes, Rooney, Ronaldo, Giggs) in support.
Ole’s not going to get younger – and he’s been a fantastic player for United, but like O’Shea, he’s another hard call that the manager has got to make.
Ole isn’t going to be jettisoned, but he will play a much smaller role next season – because the only way he’s starting most games is if United have a serious injury problem.
That’s it for tonight, I’ll do a more detailed over-view of the full squad, but guys, we’ve won the Prem, let’s relax till the end of the season and soak it in, arite? We can all play Football Manager after the 19th.