Date: 23rd June 2011 at 12:30pm
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I have a love hate relationship with this time of the “season” as there is only so much speculation I can take.

I love a good rumour as much as the next fan, but have a low tolerance for gossip and sometimes cut myself off until deadline day. So today, I want to have a quick look at factors we know. The one thing that has struck me recently is how much our current crop is willing fight for a place, it’s that spark of desire to be part of something as great as Manchester United.

Goalkeepers

What We Know– United already posses 3 solid goalkeepers. Transfers aside, look at our options between the sticks.

Tomas Kuszczak, the mercurial shot stopper we prised from West Brom has been fighting for his place for what seems an eternity already. You can picture his relief and despair when Van Der Sar finally gave up the #1 spot mirrored in his shaky performance against Blackburn last term. The gossip mill saw Kuszczak pack his bags in January, but he’s still here, hoping for regular football and that precious #1.

Competing with Kuszczak’s are and Ben Amos.

Lindegaard makes a great case for himself as a keeper in the same mould as Peter “The Great Dane” Schmeichel. A commanding presence behind the back four with shot stopping quality for days. At a similar age, Lindegaard will run Kuszczak right down to the wire for a place and you have to feel that if an established keeper does take the spot,  Kuszczak will be back in his catch 22.

At 21, Amos is a very exciting prospect. Blessed with skill and temperament, Amos has the makings of a super keeper. He’s had a few loan spells and is getting ready for the big stage, again at 21! Expect to see more of Amos next term.

Tuesday’s keeper watch, “An Important Decision Sir Alex Will Have To Get Right”, highlighted how crucial our next custodian is going to be. Last time we lost a beast in goal, it took all of 5 years find a worthy replacement. This time round, you have to say Fergie seems to better prepared in the unlikely event a new face isn’t brought in.

Defence

What We Know – we still have Nemanja “Player of the Season” Vidic, and – the core of our defence and our first choice picks at center back and left back.

transformed from a potentially good player, to a mainstay over night when asked to fill in for the injured Ferdinand. Jonny Evans is a very reliable centre back and is no slouch if thrown out at left back. The Twins are only getting better, and while Fabio looks to have made right back his own, Rafael is more than willing to bomb down the flanks and fly into a tackle. John O’Shea and Wes Brown look most likely to pack up and play “regular football” elsewhere, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both hung around that little bit longer. Oh yeah, and we have actually signed Phil Jones, who proved himself at Blackburn, captained England U21 standing side-by-side with his new club team mate Smalling.

Hardly a crisis at the back then. With these options you can clearly see that with the exception of the core 3, everyone else is fighting for a place. Not to mention Fergie threw Valencia into the right back spot in the title decider against second placed Chelsea! Now there’s food for thought.

Midfield

What We Know – Paul Scholes has retired, the heart breaking saga has come to an end and is a naughty boy. We still have the industry of and Ji Sung Park, the quarter back attack from Michael Carrick, the drive of Anderson and pace and wide supply from Nani and Antonio Valencia.

It’s the end of the #18 era, but again Fergie is more than equipped to destroy and rebuild. 4-4-2 or 4-5-1/4-3-3, the manpower is in place to make even the most dogged opponent think twice. Wayne Rooney could also very easily be dropped in to fill Scholes’ boots and could play (and has played) wide left just like he did to accommodate .* With Tom Cleverley coming in off the back of a successful loan and youngsters like Paul Pogba to potentially call up from the Reserves, the midfield is far from settled for next term. Oh yeah, remember Fergie’s successful “experiment” in the FA Cup against with The Twins on the flanks? Our current options are endless.

Strikers

What We Know – Dimitar “Golden Boot” Berbatov wants to fight for his place. Rooney went too long without scoring a goal from open play but made up for it in assists, energy and leadership. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had the biggest impact on both the league and the team, bursting onto the scene with his natural, predatory instincts.

Once again, boasts a selection of strikers who offer different attacking options. Its safe to say the preferred partnership is going to be Roony and Chicharito so if they misfire who does Sir Alex have to fall back on? Only Owen, Berbatov, Welbeck, Diouf and Macheda, a plethora of talent not to be sniffed at!  Any defender will tell you what a headache each is of their own merit, and every one of them can be drafted in to do a job in the event that one of the preferred two is absent.

So yes, there is room for improvement if we’re going to knock Barca off their European perch. Yes, we’d like some new faces in and there are reportedly some on their way but these players better know that they face a fight for their place. One thing about pulling on that Red shirt is that you need an appetite for success, and to become a United legend you can never lose  your hunger for more.

* Apparently, I’m not the only one who makes creative, executive decisions, seemingly based on video game tactics! Fergie does it, Capello did it against Denmark! Oh yeah, get real, who still plays Championship Manager? It’s all about Pro Evolution Soccer.