There’s nothing every football fans loves more than to speculate on where their team needs to strengthen, how much to spend and who to buy. Our team-by-team analysis of what needs to be done is the perfect chance for just that.
We have pinpointed the weak spots and given our suggestion for who should be the number one priority as well as a handful of alternatives.
Back-up Left Back: Maynor Figueroa (Wigan) Left back is perhaps the only area where United can be a little short on cover, particularly when Fabio seems unable to finish a match without getting injured. Much is expected of the other Brazilian twin, who is extremely highly thought of, and Patrice Evra seems more focused on slagging off Arsenal than getting on with defending. The Frenchman has never really recovered from being given the Wembley runaround by Aaron Lennon and Sir Alex may be thinking of providing a bit more competition in this area, even if the adaptable John O’Shea can always fill in.
Alternatives: Phillipe Lahm (Bayern Munich), Leighton Baines (Everton), Aly Cissokho (Porto)
Holding midfielder: Gareth Barry (Aston Villa) If Owen Hargreaves returns as good as ever then there will be little to worry about but there are obvious concerns about the long-term availability of the England international. Hargreaves’ harrying was sorely missed against Barcelona in Rome and, although Darren Fletcher provides similar energy, the options for a similar type of player were thin on the ground when it came to picking the XI for Wednesday. Considering Fergie likes his English players, as it is always something to beat some of his opponents over the head with, United could do worse than look to Barry to provide more solidity in this area. If Villa cannot persuade him to stay put, a move to Old Trafford would not be the worst idea in the world but only if he plays like he did at The Theatre of Dreams this season rather than his Anfield audition.
Alternatives: Hernanes (Sau Paulo), Franco Zuculini (Racing Club), Fernando (Porto)
Winger: (If Ronaldo goes): Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) The million-dollar question is will Cristiano Ronaldo leave? The picture seems to change every day depending which rag you read and you get the feeling Ronaldo simply loves all the attention one way or another. It seems likelier that he will stay, he was adamant on this recently before returning to playing guessing games, but, if he does depart, it will leave a massive hole in the United side. Outside of Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, the starting XI at Stadio Olimpico looked bereft of a goal threat and he would be sorely missed. One of the few names big enough to fill the gap is undoubtedly Ribery, who has been the Bundesliga’s brightest star for some time now since joining Bayern Munich. The only trouble is the world and his wife seem to want him.
Alternatives: Alexis Sanchez (Udinese), Antonio Valencia (Wigan), Douglas Costa (Gremio)
Striker: Karim Benzema (Lyon): Presuming Carlos Tevez’s goodbyes are genuine and he is eyeing Anfield or The City of Manchester Stadium, Ferguson is left with a conundrum in attack. Tevez is capable of changing a game when coming off the bench but his goal return is insufficient to justify a regular start. As he seems unhappy with this little arrangement, it will leave the manager with Dimitar Berbatov, Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Federico Macheda and the returning Frazier Campbell as options, plus Ronaldo if he perseveres with the idea of playing the World Player of the Year down the middle. Would that be enough (especially as Campbell is likely to leave?) Well, Macheda is good cover for Berbatov, who must be given a chance to prove his worth after what has ultimately been a disappointing first season in the red shirt. Rooney needs to start playing as a striker again and Fergie thinks Welbeck could even gatecrash England’s World Cup squad, even if he has fallen foul of the boss’ ‘play a striker on the wing’ concept. Manchester United being Manchester United, a new striker would give everyone a lift if Tevez departs and Benzema is an obvious choice after his displays against United last year, even if Lyon have surprisingly struggled this term.
Alternatives: Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Edin Dzeko (Wolfsburg), David Villa (Valencia)