So The Fallout Begins... Who Should Leave United?
On the ruins of United season the speculation gathers pace: who should leave and who should come in to strengthen a squad that is past its best and is now in decline. Many people believe drastic changes are necessary - I do not agree.
Certainly, new players are needed and others might have to leave. Top of the latter list is the name of Dimitar Berbatov. I have been a defender of the Bulgarian for as long as I care to remember but he doesn't seem able to deliver consistently enough. He just does not influence games with the regularity that someone with his talent should.
He can't play up front on his own and while he is capable of providing brilliant passes to a strike partner, he's not consistent enough and is prone to disappearing for long intervals. Too often he hides in the shadow of Rooney and he's easily reduced to arguing with his teammates, something which was distressingly apparent at Ewood Park yesterday.
Apart from Berbatov, there is a question mark over the future of the squad's three oldest outfield players. Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were brilliant footballers in their prime and on their day they are still very, very good. But those days are less and less frequent and their lack of energy and mobility means they are liabilities when the going gets tough. Too often we are bypassed in midfield when Scholes plays; too often we lack pace and penetration on the left if Giggs is fielded there and he's muscled off the ball too easily in central midfield.
They are legends and I do not suggest they should be forced to retire against their will. But we cannot rely on them as key players. Paul Scholes started successive games against Bayern Munich and Chelsea - he is unable to perform to the required level in two consecutive games of this magnitude. He lacks the legs, to put it simply, just as Giggs.
Nani earned himself a future at Old Trafford but another winger will surely leave: Zoran Tosic found his level at Köln in the Bundesliga and we should let him go. He would command a small fee and we could take him off the squad list.
Owen Hargreaves and Anderson are both fighting for their future. Injury denied them the chance to prove their credentials this season so I guess they will be assessed pre-season. I would not sell either, simply because we badly lack options in central midfield so we have to cling to the possibility that they might regain their 2007/08 form.
Fabio da Silva might be loaned out, according to reports. It would surely aid his development but need an understudy to Patrice Evra for next season. That could be the young and injury-hit Brazilian whose brother's progress has been encouraging since they signed in 2008.
I did not want Michael Owen and I do not rate him, apart from his finishing ability. Despite our lack of options up front I would gladly let him go: surely the likes of Hernandez or even Macheda are as good options as Owen. Ben Foster might also be sold, he'll be a third choice keeper at best and let's face it, we can have Ben Amos for that role.
That's about it. My United squad for next season would look like this:
Van der Sar, Kuszczak, Amos, Rafael, Brown, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Fabio, Smalling, De Laet, Hargreaves, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher, a new creative, quick central midfielder, Giggs, Scholes, Park, Nani, Valencia, Obertan, Hernandez, Macheda, Diouf, Rooney and a new striker capable of playing up front on his own as well as supporting Rooney.