Manchester United have not had their best season by any stretch of the
imagination. Their handing over of the Premier League trophy to Chelsea tells
the story perfectly.
is premature to say that their failure to retain the
title for a third time in succession signals
the end of an era.
It's true that United now have a number of players well into their 30s
and that a certain amount of freshening up is needed over the summer months,
but it is not the time
for a complete overhaul of Alex Ferguson's squad.
Certain areas do need to be addressed though, namely the right-back
position, central midfield and a striking berth.
I can't see Gary Neville putting in another full season and with doubts
persisting over the suitability of Rafael da Silva occupying a defensive
position, a more reliable right-sided defender, both in terms of fitness and
form, is needed this summer.
United are well stocked in terms of personnel in midfield, but too many
have failed to make the grade this season.
Nani has done okay, especially in the latter part of the campaign, but
he is still not the finished article and nowhere near being considered a
replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.
Antonio Valencia, like Nani, has done well enough, but I was surprised
to see his name included on the Premier League team of the season.
United have traditionally excelled in wide areas and while I believe
these two deserve another chance next season, they still have a great deal to
But it is in the middle of the park where United have been badly lacking
something this season. Darren Fletcher has been the one player to perform with
any kind of consistency but Michael Carrick will surely be looking over his
shoulder this summer after a disappointing campaign.
Paul Scholes has shown in fits and starts just how good he can be but,
like Neville, he is close to the end of his career and cannot be relied upon
In fact, a young version of Scholes is exactly the type of player United
need to find this close season if they are to inject some creativity and
mobility into their midfield.
Then, of course, there is the striking department.
Wayne Rooney has been sensational this season but United have never
really recovered from the departures of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and the goals,
assists and energy they brought to the pitch.
Rooney will again be important next season, but he desperately needs a
new strike partner he can rely on.
Dimitar Berbatov has not cut the mustard, again, and forgotten man
Michael Owen is unlikely to make a difference like he once could when he
returns from injury.
Rooney has performed gallantly up front on his own this season but
playing that role has ultimately taken its toll on his body, as his recent spate of
United cannot afford to lose him again for big matches and the only way
of avoiding that outcome is to bring in someone to take some of the burden off
It's not been a classic season for other teams as well as United. Ferguson may be asking
how his team can improve next year, but so will every other club - Chelsea included.
has been littered with poor performances, from the top right down to the
bottom. That unpredictability has made for an entertaining season, but the
Premier League can no longer claim to be the best league in the world.
It was on the wane last season and the lack of big names arriving in
this country last summer indicated the Premier League was no longer regarded in
the same light. This season has done nothing to change that and this summer's
transfer market is threatening to suffer the same fate.
It is no longer the attractive proposition it once was - and
unfortunately that, more so than any funding issues, may hamper United's
efforts to find a suitable partner for Rooney this summer.