Date: 17th May 2011 at 2:10am
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Consolidation of Ferguson’s fourth great Manchester United team may quickly pave the way for the fifth.

So that’s that –  A draw at Blackburn was enough to ensure that United claimed Number 19, as has looked inevitable for most of the season. Yet on the eve of the famous overhaul of bragging rights to the most successful club in English football, and clarification that Ferguson has once again built not just an insatiable team, but a formidable squad, he may have to begin drawing up plans for the next one sooner rather than later.

It’s not that the same team couldn’t do it again next season. With the mercurial adaptation to English football of Javier Hernandez, scoring twenty goals in all competitions in his first year in England, and looking to be the signing of the season at a reported £6 million, there appears to be much potential for time to come. The rapid improvements too, in the abilities of Chris Smalling, Fabio and Rafael Da Silva have allowed Ferguson to play them, with confidence, in big games, when the likes of Ferdinand, Evra and O’Shea have had to sit out.

This too will please the United manager as at just 21 and 20 respectively, Smalling and the Da Silva twins seem to have very bright careers at Old Trafford. When combined with world class players such as Rooney and Vidic, the tireless Ji Sung Park, and the evergreen Giggs and Scholes, Ferguson could go on to win a thirteenth Premier League crown again next season.

The problem arises when future years are considered. The impending retirement of Edwin Van Der Sar, and filling the hole that the Dutchman leaves, is Ferguson’s biggest challenge in the summer. United experienced major problems replacing Peter Schmeichel and may encounter a similar worry if the right man isn’t signed during the early period of the window. If the squad is then consulted, uncertainty over some big name players of the past is highlighted. Paul Scholes, who isn’t the first team regular he used to be, still isn’t sure of whether to hang up his boots at the season close or not. The stalwart Ryan Giggs too, although displaying form and ability that continue to astonish, will not be around forever.

When you pair these two members of Ferguson’s “Golden Age” team with the uncertainty of the fitness of Rio Ferdinand and the obvious retirement of Van Der Sar, if Ferguson is to stay ahead of the game, as he has done on so many prior occasions, he must dip into the market this summer. He has been reluctant of late to spend big on overpriced players. However in losing so many old masters in the next few seasons it seems that his hand is now forced.

With speculation linking Wesley Sneijder, whose current team Inter Milan have had a disappointing campaign, Gareth Bale, who was crowned PFA Player of the Year in April, Alexis Sanchez and a whole host of big name Goalkeepers to Old Trafford in recent months, Ferguson could be well on the way to forging yet another successful team of Manchester United players in his already outstanding career.

It is not yet certain who the Manchester United manager will eventually bring in, or whether the team will reacquire the “Ronaldo factor” which Ferguson himself admitted was lacking during this campaign. Nevertheless with the blue side of Manchester looking to strengthen their squad for Champions League football and Chelsea too thinking of a reshuffle, if Ferguson is to sculpt a new team for a new era at Manchester United he will have to spend significantly to do so.

I don’t think the team will require significant spending as stated in the piece. I genuinely believe had we been luckier with injuries and absentees we would have been a tad more comfortable in winning the league. There will be some new faces but these are necessary rather than luxury signings like a goalkeeper etc

You do have to weigh up the arguments, do you cross the bridges when you get there in terms of replacing the likes of Giggs or do you plan ahead and try and second guess the outcome of events? Whatever path we take (and I expect the former) this summer should be an interesting one – Ed

Written by Oliver Jones of This Is Futbol