Time was The Reds could send out the same team and play the same formation, week in week out. Featuring a supporting cast of ready-made, like-for-like subs that quite simply got the job done. And hey, if that didn’t work, you could always send on that number 20!
The glut of goals came from a budding partnership up-front, but there was a good spread throughout the squad with midfielders and defenders netting their fair share.
But 12 years on, we’re plagued by the nightmare of trying to emulate past success. The search goes on and it’s time for yet another reshuffle – the quest to recreate the team that was, the Class of ’99.
So: 1) Do we have 11 players who we could send out every week without thinking, “Oh, but its (insert team name), maybe we should go with experience?”
2) Why the apparent obsession with trying to recreate the lauded 4-4-2 diamond?
The answer to both questions lies somewhere between now and August when all Sir Alex can do is run little experiments before he makes us believe again.
Filled with fringe players who show potential and glimpses of brilliance, the current squad is a gift and a curse. The gift – players are fighting for a spot and, have something to prove and given their chance we’ll start to see what the backroom staff sees. We start to appreciate the Gibsons, the Obertans, the Andersons.
The curse – players who should be ready-made replacements, who we can rely on to step in as subs, play a full game to cover suspensions and injuries, simply are not ready. A good case for loan spells, blood them at a good level. Realistically speaking, how many loans have come home the finished article and taken the league by storm?
If the plan was replace Roy Keane and Paul Scholes, why not use the players brought in and the few who come through the ranks more often? Could the problem be that you can’t replace these players? It seems to take 2 players to fill Roy Keane’s boots, and the best solution to the Paul Scholes situation is still Paul Scholes.
Is it time to change tactics, try a 4-3-3, a 4-5-1, an all out 1-1-8? But wait, we only have players who suit a 4-4-2.We know our best back 4, our options up front and for the most part, these spots have cover. Our wide options are numerous, interchangeable, pacey and provide decent service, for the most part. So, to the centre of the pitch, the heart of the team, the void still gapping with Roy Keane and Paul Scholes sized silhouettes.
On paper, the man power is there.
There are and, over the last 12 years, there have been multiple solutions to “the problem”. Yet, the void remains and is all the more real, now that (Sir) Paul Scholes has hung up his boots. The Reds have to really consider their next move very carefully. The top 2 contenders to fill the gap – Arsenal’s want-away Samir Nasri and Inter Milan’s “is-he-really-on-themarket?” Wesley Sneijder.
Samir Nasri we’ve liked since his Marseille days. When Arsenal swooped, it spelled one thing: trouble. Lo and behold, the first time he locked horns with United, he stole the show. Possibly Arsenal’s biggest success story in the last 5 years, Nasri would be a great addition to The Reds… 3 years ago.
Having found his way as a Gunner, can he adapt to United’s style with tight time constraints? Considering Arsenal’s brand of play, Nasri is strikingly selfish and may not suit United’s neverending team effort. His fantastically French swagger left us gasping when he waltzed through the Fulham defence, but come on, it was the Fulham defence.
Wesley Sneijder. A great talent, ready for a new challenge and whose passing range and creativity command a possible starting price over £30m, Sneijder is easily Inter’s most coveted player. Main concern: he will have the same problem as Veron. Veron has since gone on to achieve greatness for both club and country, but was lost at sea in the Premiership.
You have to hope that Sneijder would not fall into this bracket as he presents a bit of a conundrum: he almost takes up too much space! Sneijder loves to sit a bit deeper than the average attacking midfielder. Great idea, but you get the sense that Sneijder may end up getting in the way. Both Nasri and Sneijder, could do a job, but in different games: Nasri for flair, perhaps against “lesser” opposition, or simply to rile Arsenal; Sneijder offers composure and reliability. Now, consider the pink elephant, Rooney would be the perfect replacement for Scholes, dropped into the midfield at the top of a new diamond.
No new tricks to learn, no new patterns to adapt to -Rooney, will be Rooney. Passing range, tracks back and scores goals. Since illness seems to have forced Fletcher back to being the World’s Best Average Midfielder, what we need is a defensive midfielder who knows his job. Box-to-box, make big tackles, do the simple things exceptionally well, launch an attack, give it to Rooney – our new attacking midfielder. Didn’t that Phil Jones who we’ve just signed from Rovers have a stellar season playing in a defensive midfielder role?
Between players at our disposal, players back from loan spells and the vast transfer kitty, the future is far from grim. Last season taught us 1 thing – a team written off by every pundit going, that wins the league with 9 points to spare, can’t be far off greatness.
Piece courtesy of Lusungu Chikamata