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United Must Avoid Mistakes Of 2003

Manchester United have been crowned champions in 2007, four years after winning their last title. In 2003, I believe we committed great mistakes which must not be repeated.

The summer of 2003 had seen great changes at Manchester United who had just wrestled the title from Arsenal's hands. We sold two key players and bought some others who were quite simply not good enough to wear the shirt. Let's take a look at where it had gone wrong back then.

We sold David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron and did not replace them with suitable players.

One might argue that the latter has never been a great player for Manchester United and that Becks' relationship with Ferguson had deteriorated to a point where working together had been no longer possible. And they would be too damn right.

The problem is that both players had been better by a mile than their successors. In the case of Beckham, Ronaldo's turned out to be a talisman, the most valuable player of the club but in his first season he was no more than a one-trick showpony with little end product.

Veron will never be remembered as one of the greats and rightly so: he simply did not fit into our midfield that had been broken up for him. Still, he had the quality and experience to put together decent performances - and the same could not be said of Eric Djemba-Djemba or Kleberson who were meant to replace him.

Quite simply, the problem was that transition was not achieved gradually.

Instead that drastic steps were taken but we did not buy quality: Djemba-Djemba, Kleberson and the third misfit of the summer, David Bellion never had a future at Manchester United. The mistakes of that summer ensured that the next three years would be an uphill struggle while trying to plug some gaping holes.

I'd argue that all of Fergie's purchases in 2004, 2005 and 2006 were successful had it not been for injuries but the rebuilding process had been almost terminally undermined by the mistakes of that one summer.

Now we're in a similar position. The title has been secured and now the papers are talking about dropping the golden oldies, Giggs and Scholes and selling Heinze, Smith, Saha, Fletcher and a number of other players.

Our purchases so far are clearly superior to the flops of 2003. I firmly believe that Nani, Anderson and Hargreaves will go on to become excellent acquisitions - if, and only if, we retain the core of the squad that have won the title.

I had voiced my concerns earlier about Nani: I had feared he would tempt Ronaldo back to his old ways. I'm still sure the Portuguese youngster will need time to adapt to life at Old Trafford. That's why Ryan Giggs' role will still be vital - as a player and as a person whose experience is invaluable to youngsters.

The same could be said of Paul Scholes. He's had a mesmerising season and though I don't expect him to reach such heights again he's still got a lot to offer. He must be eased out gradually, just like Giggs. Throwing Anderson and Nani into the middle of things will not do wonders.

As for the other players: we've never had a big enough squad for the 2003/04 season and paid the price for it during a disastrous winter. So don't sell anyone who could play an important part next season. Sell players who did not do well last season and who are clearly not needed - Richardson, and it pains me to say, Eagles. Saha, Fletcher and Smith should be kept unless we get a quality striker - in that case, one of either Saha or Smith could leave if he's desperate to do so.

Heinze and Silvestre will be linked with moves away from Old Trafford but I think we should sell only one of them AND only if Pique or Evans are ready for a place in the first team. I think both of them are ready but it's not my job to decide.

Therefore, Fergie will have a very important task this summer: he must convince those who might fear for their place, most notably Heinze, Fletcher and Smith that we need a big squad to compete on all fronts as it has been proved the season just past. For the man who convinced Ronaldo to stay after last summer's World Cup, this task can't seem to difficult.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday June 4 2007

Time: 9:58AM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
And those who I didn't mention in the article: O'Shea, Brown and Ole should be persuaded, too. I can't see the latter wanting to leave while O'Shea and Brown are good cover for Gary who's not getting younger and both can play centre-back, too.
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 10:02:00

if we keep this squad together just selling a couple of players i think we can keep our title next season too.
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 14:45:00

Not many United fans genuinely believed back in August that we could win the title. This summer will be different :-)
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 14:51:00

couldnt agree more midolothian, this is the first season in some time that i geniunly think we will retin our title!
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 15:09:00

...unless we sell half a dozen players...
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 15:11:00

we shoulod sell richardson and silvestre but we should try to keep hold of heinze. Im sure this was just a bad season for him and with a full pre season training can back to his excellent best
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 15:40:00

Exactly what I'm hoping for mattweeden. However, if we sell someone it's more likely to be Heinze, simply because more clubs would be interested in him than in Silvestre.
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 15:41:00

evra or heinze?, who's in your opinion considered in the first team when both are fit - for me its evra
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 16:25:00

evra for me too
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 18:34:00

i say evra too but i still wouldnt like to sell heinze
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 21:27:00

Evra, certainly, but when fully fit, Heinze is a close second.
Report Abuse
04/06/2007 23:47:00

heinze is still quality and we get into most teams around the world but evra must be one of the best LB 's in the world
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05/06/2007 03:02:00

Evra should against pacey wingers and heinze when we play teams like barca who play with a man behind the front 2, enabling heinze to come across and become a third centre back, your right though heinze would walk into most sides and should not be sold. Richardson etc should be sold. What about our gk situation, do you feel kuszcack or foster could fill in for van der sar if he does a cech and misses half a season, i hear buffon fancies a new challenge
Report Abuse
05/06/2007 19:36:00

This Buffon thing wasn't serious, was it? Kuszczak and Foster are good enough to provide cover and let's hope that skulls won't crack in English football in the next decade. Evra and Heinze should be selected simply on the basis of form though I understant that against extraordinarily fast wingers (a.k.a. Lennon) Evra is a better solution.
Report Abuse
05/06/2007 21:04:00

Are you telling me you'd turn down Buffon, dont get me wrong van der sar is a good keeper but buffon is a ******** legend. The way i look at it the prems 2 best keepers are Cech and Given so why allow our rivals an advantage from the off just sign the best and buffon is indeed one of the best. Theres no doubt foster has potential but look at chelsea when cech was out they brought in cudicini and then Liverpool last season had dudek as cover for reina they didnt have to worry about their back up keepers experience as cudicini and dudek are vastly experienced dudek won a champions league for ***** sake.
Report Abuse
05/06/2007 21:42:00

Buffon is a class act, obviously. But you can't expect Van der Sar to accept being second choice (as he's one of the best around) and more importantly, we should not waste Ł30 million for a keeper. As for Dudek: we're talking about a man who conceded nine goals in two games back in January, committing some tragic mistakes...
Report Abuse
05/06/2007 21:53:00

Buffon wouldnt cost 30 million i heard he wants a new challenge and will be rewarded for his loyalty to juve when they went down i think he would be allowed to leave as a thanks for a reasonable fee, as for dudek i remember schmeichel; conceding 6 at southampton and another 5 i think at newcastle soon after, i know dudek is mistake prone but my point is he can and has handled big situations when he has had to deputize in goal, remember when we signed van der gouw as experienced cover. Van der Sar may be one of the best around but if you offered me Cech, Buffon, Casilias, etc i would take them because we should always be looking to improve the same way that i really rate scholes highly but if you offered me kaka... also i dont expect van der sar to be 2nd choice but where are his competitors for the number 1 jersey there are none, outside of league cup games you wouldnt think we had a second goalkeeper. Van der Sar has been mistake prone himself lately and a bit of proper realistic competition wouldn't hurt his mindset.
Report Abuse
05/06/2007 23:18:00

Look, Edwin is world class, just like Buffon. Two world-class keepers at the same club is a luxury we cannot afford. And nobody offered us Buffon or Casillas. Selling Edwin, getting Buffon? All right (though I don't like Buffon and I like Edwin, same thing in the Scholes v Kaka contest) but we could use that money to sign a striker instead or pay off some of the interest. I'm happy with vdS, Foster and Kuszczak, it's as good a pack as it gets.
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05/06/2007 23:25:00


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