Why Fergie has to sign a playmaker like Sneijder or Schweinsteiger to replace Scholes
Defeat, exit from the Champions League and time to take stock and wonder where United go from here.
The impact is bigger for United because this was Manchester City’s first time. Expectations are lower in the Champions League. It also highlighted the deeper lying problems for United.
Basel took four points off United. They didn’t manage to beat Benfica either. The other team, Otelul Galati, were just making up the numbers in that group.
It showed United need surgery. It’s not about desire or whether players are committed. It is a lack of quality.
Ryan Giggs is on the wane. Old Father Time is catching up. But the player they have missed and not replaced is Paul Scholes.
Michael Carrick, Anderson and Darren Fletcher are all good players but they need that someone special alongside them. Someone to inject a bit of X Factor.
That has been missing so much this season they had to even use Wayne Rooney as a holding central midfielder.
For them to have to say: “we’ve got no-one else” is just a staggering admission. This is Manchester United for pity’s sake.
It’s so obvious it’s almost become a cliche. They needed a central midfield player with quality, a playmaker, a player of the calibre of a Schneider or Schweinsteiger. Now the problem is worse because they have lost Nemanja Vidic for the rest of the season.
The loss of such an experienced player is a hammer blow – and comes on top of the retirements of Edwin Van der Sar and Scholes at the end of last season.
Vidic is the defender who knits the team together. When he plays they look more stable, more secure and strong. He is the player who can help the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling blend into the team.
The trouble is you can’t generally buy top quality in January. That’s because they’re not for sale as they are still in the Champions League. Furthermore, Vidic and Patrice Evra were signed as January deals and it took them a while to settle.
United also have issues with the keeper. David De Gea is a bright prospect. But that’s what he is: a prospect. A young keeper who can make outstanding saves as well as mistakes.
Normally, a top club would have an experienced back-up to supplement a young emerging keeper. United don’t have that.
But United do have Anders Lindegaard and sooner or later, he may get an extended run.
Fortunately, the Glazers seem supportive. If Fergie needs players they dig deep. The buying policy in the summer was for young players, albeit it was an expensive spree.
De Gea was expensive, Ashley Young, too and Phil Jones. Jones is top quality, the others are good players. But United needed a real stellar signing.
They didn’t get Sneijder and are living to regret it.
They must address the issue this summer or they simply won’t be able to compete again in the Champions League next season.
There was a stage in the early to mid-Noughties where United didn’t win the title for three years. People were questioning Fergie. We’re not even at this stage now.
I was on Five Live the other night and we had callers ringing in to say it’s time to get rid of Fergie and Rooney is over-rated. Do me a favour.
Yes, United have a daunting task with City ahead of them in the Premier League. But they will rise again.
The difference is they need new world class quality to reach a new level. Fergie still has the appetite, and United know what they need to do to come again.