Standing still might be the best way forward

Nemanja Vidic

One year ago, Manchester United sold Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez left the club after refusing terms on a permanent deal. Though fans can lament Antonio Valencia and Dimitar Berbatov squandering chances at Ewood Park, or Mike Dean’s suspicious refereeing at Old Trafford against Chelsea, it would be commonly accepted that losing the best player in the world probably cost United a point or two. Now, with the new season drawing near, the sight of our rivals losing players from their squads while we seem relieved to hold onto Vidic (at present, at least) shows that standing still might actually be the best way forward in next seasons Premier League title race.

Chelsea’s loss of Michael Ballack and Joe Cole with the imminent departure of Deco might not, on the face of it, seem like as big a body low as losing someone like Ronaldo. Conventional wisdom however would suggest that loss of numbers in that central area drastically alters Chelsea’s game, with a sudden huge dependence on Essien staying fit, more so than before, if only to fully utilise Frank Lampard. Sir Alex Ferguson commented two years ago about the age of Chelsea’s squad counting against them; this year, with John Terry’s form consistently more inconsistent, Ashley Cole’s mind elsewhere, and Ricardo Carvalho also casting wistful glances at potential suitors, the Stamford Bridge exodus might not yet be over, either. They could of course strengthen but one never knows about the compatibility; and regardless of that, City seem to be adopting the same tactic as Chelsea did in the wake of Roman Abramovich’s takeover when they signed most players United had tracked for a long time, just pick the players strongly linked to your rivals and sign them.

That same conventional logic would suggest that City will probably develop into strong title challengers, but just as with Chelsea, City’s strengthening only directly effects United two times a season in the league. It wasn’t good enough for City last season as United (just) took maximum derby points, and should United just do their job in the other 34/36 games then those head to heads lose significance. Easier said than done, of course, but the point remains, and was essentially what set us apart in our title winning campaign of 2006/7.

Liverpool have made a steady appointment in Roy Hodgson but their freak season in 08/09 was very much the exception to the rule; Arsenal’s loss of numbers in central defence won’t necessarily effect them with Arsene Wenger’s shrewd signings, but the transfer saga surrounding Cesc Fabregas is a little unsettling for the club – standing still in that case may be the best step forward for Arsenal, too, but it was woefully inadequate when it mattered last season. Sure, a years development and experience may prove key, and I certainly don’t see them falling out of the top 4 – a fit van Persie might even help them in a serious trophy push for the first time in 6 years – but man for man, United are undeniably stronger, as the last few seasons have proven.

Our rivals’ fortunes are one thing. Our own are another – Ronaldo’s void was filled by Rooney, while the effect Valencia and Nani’s emergence as (alongside Malouda) the best wingers in the country will have from the off cannot be discounted. Last year, up until January, the disjointed appearance of the side was probably down to the tactical re-adjustment post-Ronaldo. This time around they will have had the 6 months getting used to the system.

A tired cliché it may be but the return of a fit Owen Hargreaves and Anderson will be like two new signings – Hargreaves’ absence speaks for itself but Anderson’s future is undetermined, not helped by the fact he appears to be an enigma. I’ve made no secret of the fact I’m a huge admirer of the Brazilian, but I couldn’t really describe what I think is his best role. His best performance last season was when he man marked Essien high up the pitch; he did the same job on Steven Gerrard when his United career is in his infancy and has also dominated Cesc Fabregas in a number of competitions. His potential is so much more than negating the opposition, as his assist play in the Carling Cup against Blackburn in the 08/09 season showed. If the team can be built around the energy of Rooney and Anderson then it should, but he needs a settled role in a defined position.

Another enigma is Dimitar Berbatov, who looks likely to have a last chance at United next season. He won’t succeed in a 4-3-3 but may start in games against sides expected to finish in the bottom half. He has to hit the ground running or could find his place under threat by Javier Hernandez whose stock rose in the World Cup. Waiting in the wings are Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda though either or both of them could go out on loan.

In goal we’re sorted for next season at least; in defence, Jonny Evans emergence means that even with concerns of Rio Ferdinand we needn’t be too concerned. So taking into account we finished just two points (one converted chance at Ewood Park or one fair refereeing display between United and Chelsea) then the task of finally getting to the 19th league championship isn’t as daunting as it would appear. There are those craving the signing of a forward, winger, or creative midfielder. Of the three, I would choose the latter, though if you were to offer me a signing or a prolonged chance with Anderson, I would take the Anderson option every time. It’s all very well plucking out a name such as Alexis Sanchez and concluding that he would do a fantastic job at the club. He may well do a great job at Old Trafford but what would happen to Valencia or Nani? How much further down the pecking order would that push Tom Cleverley, just to use one example of our exciting crop of youngsters? If you rephrase the question to ask which, out of those four players, you would want to succeed at Old Trafford, you’re surely not a true fan if you don’t choose to back those currently at the club.

We have no divine right to success; some people are appalled because last season we ONLY won the League Cup. Put it into perspective; when Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville retire, and when Sir Alex finally calls it a day, the heart of the club the majority of us grew up supporting will finally be transplanted. Three of the best players this country, never mind our club has ever seen; three players whose retirement will significantly alter the inherent desire to play in the Manchester United way. That is a desire that comes from players who grew up with the club; that is the desire that we should want to see, not another expensive mercenary who has no real attachment to the club. Think I’m overplaying it? Our win at Eastlands at the back end of last season was a direct result of the heart of Paul Scholes and his refusal to accept anything less than 3 points.

Money doesn’t always talk; just as well, in our financial predicament. Those concerned about our lack of spending should look at the relative positions of our rivals. Aside from City, there is no notable step forward that should strike fear, nor should City’s recruitment, to be honest. The players that we have at Manchester United are good enough to give our legends the glorious swansong that their careers deserve.

20 Comments on Standing still might be the best way forward

  1. City take it as a compliment that Utd now have to turn out their strongest side when a derby match is played. Two very close games last year (4 if you count the Carling Cup.) Expect the same this year. No guarantees who the winner will be though!!

  2. Good, interesting article mate. As a blue I try and stay away from blogs and sites from the dark side (Republik Of Mancunia being the most noticable case) but it is good to read thought provoking blogs from rival fans who don’t have massive chips on their shoulders.

  3. Surely you don’t think the Champions are not going to replace Belleti,Ballack,Cole,Deco.There best right back Bosingwa will be back plus Kakuta and Bruma,two superb young
    players.They’ve signed Benayoun and i expect they will sign
    at least three more top players,so don’t get your hopes too

  4. Of course im agree we should let those youngster progress. But we need to address some problems too. VDS, Giggs, Scholes,Neville will retired. But then who to replace them? Cleverly and? Who can play in Giggs and Scholes place? Giggs for me is the creative ones and what we lack now is a creatively midfielder. The wings are the one that im most comfort with. No problems there as Valencia and Nani is playing well there.

    Forward we have Rooney and Hernandez. I feel excited and think Hernandez can be a great assets. We need fast striker and for now i wont mention another striker. Defense we are trouble too. If Vidic were to go, we will be one short who can defend with his life and head whatever comes in to the box. Evans is doing great but he is not at Vidic level. Ferdinand most probably had one year left as he is in his 30s and with his injury keep coming we need some covers.

    Anderson is one player i admire too. I believe he could come good. I believe Anderson is in a position better than Gibson. I hope Fergie will let him play more often. I will let my hope for Hargreaves down for the moment as i dont want to be too disappointed having been waiting for him for 2 years. We need a player who can do splitting pass, in the likes of Xavi. I hope we can buy one more player in the midfield area and i believe that will make us stronger than last season.

  5. Right i’m going to have my say.

    First of all I’ve had to delete some moronic ‘Munich’ comments from some intellectually challenged buffoon (who by the way couldn’t even spell it correctly). Clown.

    Secondly, Brett the handball was debatable, whilst Drogba WAS offside. I presume you may now be confused, so I’ve taking the liberty of putting together this diagram for you:


    Right to the actual issue at hand. Yolkie isn’t claiming that we are in a great position and we don’t have to sign someone – FAR FROM IT. We are extremely Anti-Glazer on and are opposed of this illegal takeover. They are scum, crooks and are burying the club before our very eyes.

    United go on under this regime (and the protest and oppositions will continue until the Glazer’s leave or die) and Yolkie is analysing what to do with the current crop of players. Nemanja Vidic has been linked all season with a move away from Old Trafford and it will be a great feat if Sir Alex manages to hold onto him. No one on here wants to see United paying the Glazer’s whilst our performances suffer on the pitch. Looking at Ozil, Sneijder and Villa – it is frustrating to know that we can’t buy these players due to the financial constraints imposed on United by the Glazer family.

    Sir Alex is steering the club through this turmoil as best as he can and Yolkie and I have faith in his judgment and the players around him. Anderson should look to Nani as an inspiration in what he can achieve quite quickly and I believe we will see a ‘new signing’ in the Brazilian this season.

    We well always Love United Hate Glazer.

  6. A good article mostly fair but I do think some United fans need to wake up. I cannot honestly say United won’t win the prem this season, after all it has become a bit of a habit. However I would not at all be surprised to see them 4th behind Chelsea Arsenal and City, and if you are 4th why not 5th behind Spurs? 4th place would carry a fair degree of shame for younger United fans brought uo on success but its no big deal really. 5th place would be disaster with Uniteds debt.

    Standing still is never the best way forward especially if your rivals are running, then you are going backwards.

    I won’t lie, I hope United are 5th next season, United have had more than their fair share of success funded by Sky TV and the champs and prem league, its time to spread that success around a bit.

  7. Sean – Cole shouldn’t have been given a foul against Fletcher in the 1-0 defeat at Stamdford Bridge AND Brown should have been given a foul against Didier Drogba who hurled him down.

    We could be here all day.

  8. Brilliant appetiser for the new season, cant wait.
    Totally agree regards Anderson and Owen if Anderson can get his act together and his head in the “United way” right place we will have a new player.As you say in your article also a fit and firing Hargreaves will be brilliant.
    Bring it on and lets get the Cup back to where it belongs.

  9. Just wrote a long balanced consideed article only to see it disappear from my pc for some reason. Not writting that all out again so heres the jist.

    Standing still while your rivals are running is not the best way forward.

    As a blue I cannot say United won’t win the prem next season as it has become a bit of a habbit however looking at your squad I would not be surprised to see them 4th behind Chelsea Arsenal and City and if United are 4th then why not 5th behind Spurs?

    4th will mean a lot of younger United fans (below 30) feel alot of shame but it won’t really matter. 5th will mean big trouble for United trying to pay off their debt.

    I predict 4th for United this season and I am hoping for 5th but there are still alot of player to be bought and sold yet so who knows

  10. Russ the blue – please don’t double post. 🙂

    United will finish top four as Fergie is in charge, but can the greatest manager of all time create a title winning side under a greedy corporate regime?

    Opposing fans laugh and moronically chant ‘USA!’ all day long, but true Reds know the turmoil and trouble we are in under the Glazers’. We can’t compete in the transfer market with the likes of yourself and Chelsea who have an endless pot of money – and no one is kidding themselves – we are in the shit! But we have to go on and in Fergie we have the best man for it.

    United will finish top four and have an impressive bunch of players coming through. The signings of Silva and Toure won’t make City into world beaters overnight. For the quality and craft of Silva, he will take time to settle.

  11. Awesome article, well put well said.

    Been a city fan for 30 plus years.
    In all honesty I look forward to the demise of Man U BUT! I want it to be accomplished on the field of play, not by the Glazers.

    They are running the business and removing profit. get em gone..

    I do hope to see you make the champions league (as we win the Prem. lol) So I do hope you finish high enough to get your spot for the CL. but below Man City and then engineer your defeat in the CL final. lol

    Get rid of the Glazers Bring the old time Derby’s back.. Gud Luck!

  12. Standing still is never the best way forward especially if your rivals are running, then you are going backwards”

    The point being that Chelsea aren’t running; they’ve lost players from their squad. Liverpool peaked two years ago, and Arsenal/City have much ground to make up to compete as consistently as United.

    It’s very much a here and now article – I’m not naive to think that investment won’t be needed in 12 months time, with van der Sar, Neville, Scholes and Giggs due to retire at any time and Ferdinand looking like a long term concern. For this season at least though Edwin will be ok; Neville’s form was enough to suggest he is a capable fill in for Rafael; Scholes and Giggs (Giggs in particular, having created as many chances for teammates per minute on the pitch as anyone in the PL last season) can have a huge say as technically they are still peerless in the domestic game.

    It doesn’t matter how much City spend; as I mentioned in the article, even if they thrashed us on head to heads, we have 36 other league games.

    For this season at least I believe we have a real chance; it would be foolish to think otherwise considering we won three league titles on the bounce and came second by a single point.

  13. Money doesn’t always talk, but it has been doing for utd in recent years. It seems its not on City’s critics agenda to mention how much other clubs have spent to achieve their goals.

    £10m for Hernandez
    £16m for Valencia
    £31m for Berbaflop
    £17m for Hargreaves
    £17m for Nani
    £18 for Anderson
    £14m for Carrick
    £27m for Rooney
    £7m for Vidic
    £6m for Evra
    £5m for Park
    £6m for Kléberson
    £4m for Djemba-Djemba
    £12m for Ronaldo
    £13m for Saha
    £7m for Smith
    £7m for Heinze
    £29m for Ferdinand
    £19m for van Nistelrooy
    £29m for Veron
    £7.5m for Forlan
    £8m for Barthez
    £4.5m for Taibi
    £11m for Stam
    £12.5m for Yorke

  14. Oh my, this is tiresome.

    Macheda’s goal against Chelsea: Clearly a handball WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE VIDEO REPLAYS.

    Drogba’s goal against us: Clearly an offside for ANYBODY WHO UNDERSTANDS THE OFFSIDE RULE AND HAS EYES.

    One is an unfortunate infringement that hardly anybody aside from John Terry was in a position to 100% know touched his hand. One was a mistake that was in open field and clear for at least one, probably two of the officials to see.

    Anyway, re: the main subject it’s hard to say at this stage really. There’s still a lot of time for everyone else to buy some players. There’s no real reason to believe United are going to plummet (wishful thinking from our rivals aside) but nor is there much cause to get excited about improvement just yet. No idea whether Berbatov’ll finally find some form, no idea if Rio and Owen will stop being injury magnets, no idea how the youngsters’ll do (though I’m hopeful about Hernandez) and no idea whether Anderson (who I’m a fan of) will finally have a ‘true’ position found for him.

    We need to stop changing Anderson’s role as he seems to have played a plain anchor man, box-to-box midfielder and a man-marker at various stages. I think box-to-box might be what he’s best at.

  15. It seems its not on City’s critics agenda to mention how much other clubs have spent to achieve their goals.

    United spent money they generated.

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