I think it’s best to stick my head out and say it—with the barely lingering hope of jinxing it and being proved wrong—that we aren’t going to sign anyone. [Fergie, prove me wrong.]
We can only go by evidence. And save for the signings we made in the close season, it’s unlikely we are going to sign any.
More worrying however is if we were to sell existing players. There are rumours that Evra and Vidic might be sold on. Now, with Evra, the rumours have intensified because he sold his house, apparently. But then Wes Brown has just put up his house for sale. We haven’t heard any rumours about his transfer now have we? So I don’t think there is much credibility to the Evra transfer.
In Vidic’s case, I can’t be sure. This is a transfer that has been threatening to bubble up to the top. Last year it was all about his wife being ‘unhappy’. This time there’s a lot more agent-driven talk. Nemanja, who is vacationing in some corner of this world, has been largely kept away from the press, so any leaked stories will have to be from his agent. But there is definite talk from several journos about him wanting to leave this summer, be it Madrid or wherever.
I have almost given up hope on Ferguson signing anyone this summer. But selling a major player like Vidic would be unacceptable, if it were to happen. It’s one thing to keep faith in youngsters and maintain that the current squad is better than the previous because they have an extra season’s experience under their belt. But selling a defensive lynch pin especially considering Ferdinand’s dodgy injury problems is baffling to put it mildly.
I don’t want to go off on the we-don’t-have-money-so-we’re-hawking-players-off-to-profit-from-it line of argument because we are yet to see us hawking off big name players this season. I’d rather reserve my judgement on that till the transfer window shuts firmly. But there seems to be some merit to the Vidic rumours even if it’s not necessarily going to translate into an actual transfer. It just doesn’t feel like a contract improvement would settle this.
A word on Joe Cole’s transfer. The Liverpool move felt a bit odd considering he wanted to stay in London. Spurs and Arsenal are obviously better choices at the moment than Liverpool. And if he were to move to Anfield, United would have suited him just as much. But, as much as I wanted Cole at United, this transfer saga tells us a few things: Redknapp, a well-known admirer didn’t want him enough to break the bank. Arsenal have been strict about their wage structure, so it’s understandable that Wenger didn’t want him enough. Liverpool were willing to buy him which probably casts doubt over their chances of holding onto the likes of Torres and Gerrard over the summer. Ferguson is a known admirer, but it’s quite possible he, Wenger and Redknapp knew something about his fitness or motivations to not take a punt on him. So I trust the combined wisdom of those three men in this case and hope they’re proved right.
However, we do need a player of Joe Cole’s quality—albeit a less injury-prone version, since we already have the likes of Hargreaves and Owen to deal with. I am willing to give the benefit of doubt to our striking department as well as our backline if Vidic stays. But I am just not willing to accept we are good in midfield. We need a midfielder who is dynamic or creative enough to make those forward runs to support our strikers. Scholes is not the solution as much as a lot of United fans believe. Many fans I’ve spoken to throw me the he’s-still-the-best-we-have argument. Which essentially defeats their point. If we have to rely on a 35 year old who needs to be nursed and cannot be expected to perform week-in, week-out, we know we’re terribly lacking in midfield. Carrick has regressed last season, and I just don’t rate Anderson. Fletcher is solid as a defensive midfielder, but any combination of Scholes, Fletcher or Carrick only serves to isolate the strikers up front. Anderson is played more defensively, again. I am not convinced by his consistency anyway. And the less spoken about Gibson, the better. A good shot does not a player make.
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A good word on the pre-season before I end this. It was a welcome relief to watch the lads come on to the pitch after a long time. It was Celtic we were playing and not a Guangzhou-based outfit. They gave us a good game and the back four that we started with was solid; especially impressive was Smalling—despite his penalty-conceding gaffe.
Berbatov stood head and shoulders above everyone, and Diouf seemed to have plenty of pace to burn. Obertan showed flashes as he ran at the defence, but there was a bit of rust, and perhaps, a lack of decisiveness. It’s a pre-season game after all, so I am not going to over-analyse this to ridiculousness.
United are in Philadelphia at the moment where they will play the new MLS expansion side, Philadelphia Union.