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Will Wayne Rooney stay at Manchester United?

Wayne Rooney supposedly asked Sir Alex Ferguson about transferring away from Manchester United. When Sir Alex retired to be replaced by David Moyes, Rooney’s future away from United seemed to be gathering momentum. Last season, Robin van Persie stole Rooney’s thunder as the lead striker for United and the England man ended up bouncing around between midfield and supporting van Persie upfront. His desire to move was driven by a desire to play first team football in a new environment. However, given what happened in 2010, when Rooney requested to leave, citing the club’s lack of ambition, which of course resulted in him becoming the highest paid player in the Premier League, the suspicion of something similar is always there. Now, reports are emerging that regaining that status from Yaya Toure could be enough to keep him at Old Trafford.

He has two years left on his contract now so United need to make a decision. To avoid the kind of forced sale that saw Arsenal lose van Persie and that is causing problems for Borussia Dortmund with Robert Lewandowski next summer, they either need to extend his contract or sell him. The latter option is what he originally wanted, but the lack of realistic suitors may be driving this apparent change of heart. Before they Barcelona signed Neymar and Real Madrid identified Edinson Cavani as their main target, the Clasico sides were the main options. He was interested in moving to Bayern Munich when they won the Champions League but they are chasing Robert Lewandowski and Luis Suarez ahead of Rooney. This seems to leave PSG, Chelsea and Arsenal. However, with Arsenal on the verge of signing Gonzalo Higuain they would seem to be out of the running. And this is if United would even consider selling in England. Chelsea seem to be interested but selling him to Mourinho is a big risk. PSG haven’t made a strong push and it seems unlikely that he and his family would want to move overseas.

Wayne Rooney

So if he’s not being heavily pursued, he might have no choice but to stay. Or, he might have been flirting with other teams in an action replay of his last face off with the club, which netted him his new £250,000 a week contract. As long as Van Persie is there, Rooney won’t get back his number one striker status. But, his role with England is unquestioned, so unlike players like Mario Gomez or David Villa who want moves to assure their position in very competitive squads for Brazil next summer, Rooney doesn’t have that threat. It possibly means his need to move doesn’t have that same urgency.

It’s almost impossible to know what is going on with the Rooney situation but as more and more big clubs that could afford him are looking at other options, his chances to leave look increasingly unlikely. But, this is if he even wants to leave in the first place. We’ve seen this kind of brinkmanship from Rooney before and it got him a new contract. At 27, a three or four year extension would see him in to his 30s, so this could be his last big contract.

It’s hard to tell who really has the power here. If Rooney did indeed ask to leave, he went out on a limb assuming that Bayern/Real/Barcelona would come calling. He’s watched them all choose other players ahead of him. So theoretically United can say that’s he’s tried to attract attention but hasn’t. Chelsea ought to be their main title challengers next season so it seems inconceivable that they’d sell to them. He’s not the main man at United anymore and that seems to bother him. The best thing for all concerned would be for him to work hard to become that again and the problem will go away.

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Nani’s time at Manchester United up?

Nani is a player of immense talent but with the unstoppable highs in form have increasingly come the completely ineffective, often negative lows in form. With only one year left on his contract at Old Trafford, and with United seemingly having given up on him becoming the next Cristiano Ronaldo, as seemed possible a couple of years ago, he is up for sale.

Galatasaray chairman Unal Aysal told Sky Sports News that; ‘We offered £6m for him. But they didn’t accept. We can’t give more than this…They want £8.5million’. Now, at first glance £8.5m for a player with the potential to be devastatingly good when in form seems like a bargain, and the low price is a clear sign that United are willing to move him on. It is quite a dramatic fall from grace for Nani, who as recently as the 2011 was one of United’s key players.

Nani’s first few years at United had been a promising but frustrating cocktail of sheer pace, direct dribbling and an ability to get involved around the penalty box, but it wasn’t until the 2010/11 season that he emerged as truly world class. Coming off the frustration of missing the World Cup due to injury he seemed like a man possessed. He ended the season with nine goals and 19 assists in the Premier League as United raced to the title. Having sold Ronaldo in 2009 United had needed to replace his output and Nani was doing his best to do so. It seemed like, by the end of 2010/11, that he was reaching that level.

Nani

However, the season proved to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. The reason for this is Nani’s playing style. Because he plays at such breakneck speed and takes risks that other players wouldn’t, he is a player that relies on getting in to a groove and hitting form. However, in 2011/12 he took a step back. Despite a solid enough output of 8 goals and 12 assists he seemed to go missing in tight games. This was compounded by United’s purchase of Ashley Young for £18m, which gave Ferguson another option and a reason to drop Nani if his production slowed down.

Much of his output came when United were handing out thrashings. In only three games in the league was he involved in the crucial goal in the game for United. His stats looked solid but they were padded with contributions in games United won at a canter, often against the smaller clubs. Big hauls against Wolves and Fulham weren’t exactly what Sir Alex Ferguson wanted. As he strived for form he got worse as he was trying to do too much, over complicating things. In early 2012 he had a run of playing in only two of ten games as Ferguson lost trust in him.

Nani went into 2012/13 with much to prove, but failed to do so regularly. He only scored one and set up just three in the league. A slow start to the season was compounded by a hamstring injury, which meant he missed 12 games. When he got back he showed the occasional flash of form but his United career was ended in two games. As harsh as the red card against Real Madrid was, he was still the scapegoat. But his showing against Chelsea in the FA Cup just weeks later was totally ineffective in attack and negligent in defence. Most United fans had had enough of his up and down form, which had mostly been the latter and he seems unlikely to fit in to David Moyes’ United.

Despite the drop off in form, he still has the potential to be a very good player, but only if he can go somewhere he will be played every week. His best form came when he was the guaranteed starter week in and week out. He’s going to have games where he does nothing but if you ride through those you can get a stretch of games where he contributes each time. He’s not going to get that at United but for £8.5m he is worth taking a wager on.

Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

Wayne Rooney’s options in leaving Manchester United are very limited

Much has been made of the transition at Premier League champions Manchester United. The Old Trafford club will have to come to terms with the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson will no longer be the man in charge, with new boss David Moyes to assume the position next season. However, a key player could also be on his way out in the form of Wayne Rooney. The England international is said to have handed in a transfer request – however realistic options on where the forward could move to are few and far between.

United have stated that Rooney is not for sale, but if the attacker insists on leaving the Premier League champions could well be forced to part with the forward. Those who bet on the Premier League will know that the Old Trafford outfit will be reluctant to sell Rooney to one of their domestic rivals, despite links with Chelsea and Arsenal of late. The favourable odds are on Rooney moving abroad should he leave Manchester United.

The attacker’s salary and the potential transfer fee will also be an issue. Rooney is rumoured to currently earn more than £200,000 per week at Old Trafford, and the number of clubs that could, or would be willing to, come close to offering this are minimal. Add to this a transfer fee likely to be well in excess of £20 million, and Rooney’s purchase is a very expensive one.

Wayne Rooney

Barcelona have been linked with Rooney, but a move to the Camp Nou seems unlikely given the Catalan club’s policy to build from within. Real Madrid are unlikely to be interested, while a move to an Italian club like Juventus would force Rooney to drop his salary considerably. Bayern Munich have the financial means to buy him, but have publicly stated that they are not interested.

Realistically this only really leave Paris Saint-Germain, with betting tips pointing in this direction. A move to the French capital would make sense, as Carlo ancelotti’s men are on the rise, have the financial clout to buy him and have former team-mate David Beckham in their ranks. However, despite PSG having ambitions to become a major force in Europe, Rooney would have to settle for second-rate domestic football in Ligue 1.

Although Rooney may well be unsettled currently, with Moyes coming to the club there is no guarantee that he won’t see the changes at United as an opportunity to reinvigorate his career at Old Trafford. Given the obstacles such as his wages and transfer fee, the lack of big-name suitors and United’s reluctancy to sell to another Premier League club, and Rooney does not have a lot of options.

Arsenal’s top four chances on line against Manchester United

Arsenal against Manchester United has a certain ring to it, and in past years it has been one of the most glamorous and exciting fixtures on the Premier League calendar. However, with the Red Devils winning the last three encounters between the sides, including an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford at the start of last season, the fixture has lost some of its sheen. When the Gunners host United this Sunday, the home side must buck the trend and get three points to keep their top-four ambitions alive.

Gone are the days of the Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira battles, and United have somewhat forgot their rivalry with Arsenal given that the north London outfit have not been challenging for the title for a number of seasons. Instead of a title challenge, the last number of campaigns have been all about securing Champions League football for Arsene Wenger’s men. The Gunners are an outside, bet here even at home; Arsenal are 3/1 with Ladbrokes to get a much-needed three points.

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson

United wrapped up the Premier League title on Monday night with an easy 3-0 victory over Aston Villa, but in truth the league has been over as a contest for quite some time. Arsenal will hope that United take their foot off the pedal slightly on Sunday, and Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that his side may well be shuffled for the fixture.

One interesting sub-plot is Robin van Persie’s return to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his controversial transfer to United in the summer. Given that this is the first game since United clinched the title, the Gunners are set to give their opponents a guard of honour – which will not go down well with the home faithful.

Regardless of personal vendettas against former players, Arsenal must monitor Van Persie closely, or the Dutch forward could put a considerable dent in his ex-employer’s top-four chances. A hat-trick to round off the title and 24 goals in all this season mean that Van Persie will most likely be awarded the Player of the Year award, and with good reason.

With Chelsea and Tottenham only a point and two points respectively adrift of the Gunners in third, it is plausible that a United victory this weekend could see Arsenal drop to fifth place. Given the tight nature of the race for the top four, it is imperative that Arsenal stand up and be counted against a side that has had the better of them in recent times.

Juan Sebastian Veron at Manchester United: Why it didn’t work.

Juan Sebastian Veron is considered to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s one truly expensive flop purchase in the transfer market. He always makes his way on to lists of United’s and even the Premier League’s worst ever signings and so it is easy to forget that he arrived as a bona fide world-class player, much desired around Europe, who was expected to be a key man in Manchester United’s domestic dominance as well as getting them back to another Champions League final. So why didn’t he?

Veron joined a United side in 2001 which had just won the three previous Premier League titles and the 1999 Champions League as part of the famous treble. Veron cost a then British record £28m from Lazio, who had themselves completed a domestic treble in 2000. He was their key player, the driving force in their central midfield in a team managed by Sven Goran Eriksson who’s own achievements at the club won him the England job.

Juan Sebastian Veron

Veron was a technically sublime player. He scored and made goals but his primary strength was his full range of passing. At Lazio he would dictate the tempo of the team’s moves. When receiving the ball he always had his head up looking for the next pass, which kept Lazio ticking along at a pace that their opponents could rarely cope with. He wasn’t blessed with pace but he was a hard worker. He was a pure playmaker, wanting everything to come through him, and if it did then things were invariably good for Lazio. He was, in every way, the fulcrum of their team. An absolutely complete package of a central midfielder.

With this in mind, it’s not hard to see why Ferguson was tempted. Since winning the Champions League in 1999, Manchester United had suffered consecutive quarter-finals defeats against teams that had this kind of midfield centrepiece. In 2000 they lost to a Real Madrid side that had the obscenely talented Fernando Redondo at it’s heart. Indeed, the most dramatic piece of skill in the famous tie saw him do this to set up the winning goal. For all the talk of Ronaldo it was Redondo who Ferguson was purring about after the game. In 2001 they were put out by a Bayern Munich team that buzzed around the talent of Stefan Effenberg. Effenberg played ‘arrogantly’ with his head up, making everything happen that was good. On both occasions the side that put United out went on to win the Champions League in the very same season.

Ferguson wanted his own one of these and identified Veron as the man to fulfil the role. The strange thing is though, he already seemed to have one in the form of Paul Scholes. Scholes’ partnership with Roy Keane was in full bloom in the middle of United’s 4-4-2 with David Beckham and Ryan Giggs either side, the epitome of United’s Premier League achievement. So why did Ferguson need Veron? Well, he didn’t. He didn’t need him, but he wanted him. This was a time when pretty much all that United were playing for was the Champions League seemingly, having coasted to three titles in a row. The thing to remember with 2001 Paul Scholes is that he was, although a fabulous player, still developing his tactical understanding. He wasn’t the playmaker that he became in later years and at this point was more of the goal getting bustling all action version of himself. Veron seemed to be the ideal candidate to plug in next to the ferocious Roy Keane in Europe. He would also have given Ferguson the tactical flexibility to play all three of them at the same time and dominate possession.

Roy Keane

But Veron never became the United fulcrum. So, why? The oft forgotten thing is that in Europe he was excellent for United, particularly in the 2002/03 campaign where he was the absolute main man. As we’ve seen though, in the league with Scholes and Keane also options, Veron wasn’t the main man. He wasn’t the centre of things like he had been at Lazio and because of this, found it difficult to impose himself. Veron had never been a complimentary player in Italy and was never able to come to terms with that role at United.

It’s often said that his main problem was adapting to the pace of the Premier League and although this was true to an extent, this was made much harder for him because it wasn’t him setting the tempo. Ideally, Veron would have played at a slower tempo than the hectic one often set by Keane and Scholes, who both had a much more direct style. Perhaps this was Veron’s failing but it is important to remember that he joined with Keane not only at the peak of his on-pitch powers but his off-field influence. He was the highest paid player in the land and had been at United for nearly a decade. It was almost impossible for Veron to come in to a club like United and change the way they played with Keane’s dominant presence to overcome. As it was, Veron tried to fit in to the quicker style he was having to play and couldn’t thrive. He was second fiddle and it completely neutralised his style.

In the end Veron was never going to be successful at United. He joined the team to play the specific role as the fulcrum in Ferguson’s team that would win the Champions League. However, he couldn’t ever become that when stepping in to such an established team with as imposing a man as Roy Keane to have to overthrow for leadership of the team. Veron had spent his career being the main man but he could never be that at United and so was never in a position to recapture his Serie A form. He flopped at Chelsea for the same reason but has achieved great success in Argentina back in his role as the focus of the team.

You can read more original, research based content daily by Max at thefootballspace.com

Change of Face, Change of Pace. The shift in Strategy of Manchester United’s attack

Change of face, change of pace; the shift in strategy of Manchester United’s attack

When Manchester United sold Dimitar Berbatov last summer it was no surprise given the arrival of Robin Van Persie and the lack of playing time afforded to the former Spurs man over the previous season. It has become a bit apparent recently though that the move signalled more than just a change in terms of bringing in one gifted front man for another. One of the reasons the Bulgarian cited had been given to him by Sir Alex Ferguson was a shift in the Old Trafford side’s attacking ethos. Berbatov had been told that he did not fit in with a move toward a faster and more direct attacking style.

In the derby on Monday night, United’s new methods were particularly apparent and interestingly a slight weakness in the plan was also on display. Many of the Reds’ wide players in particular regularly seem to overrun the ball when sprinting and on several occasions when the home side were surging at the City backline a heavy touch saw the move break down. Rafael was the main offender on Monday, but an out of sorts Antonio Valencia has been doing this for months. Danny Welbeck displays a good first touch at times but at top speed often resembles a cart horse attempting to dribble a beach ball. Ashley Young is not immune, nor is Nani or reserve left back Alexander Buttner.

Dimitar Berbatov

This may seem harsh given how potent United have looked in attack this season with the addition of Van Persie to an already well-stocked squad of strikers and wingers, but it is something that needs to been fine-tuned before Sir Alex Ferguson’s new design is the finished article. Perhaps Wilfried Zaha’s dribbling ability will improve the situation next term.

United sides of old held an ability to patiently probe for an opening. Slow build-up followed by a devastatingly quick interchange would often see defences unlocked after 30 or more passes had gradually pulled them out of position. Perhaps the demise of Paul Scholes has something to do with the death of this style in Ferguson’s plans. Neither Scholes nor Berbatov would have ever made the local sprint relay team, but their styles complimented an ability to attack while controlling possession for long periods.

The Premier League is faster and quicker than ever and even the top European ties are not the games of chess they were 10 years ago. Intensity, if it isn’t king, was certainly eyeing the throne amid the ferocious pace of Monday’s derby. Ferguson is a master of transition and building new sides, but it would be a shame if his current charges could not revert to a more patient approach if need be. In Michael Carrick they have a player who can take on the Scholes mantle in terms of dictating tempo at least. Wayne Rooney and Van Persie seem currently focused on attempting to spin their man or lay the ball off once before making a run in behind.

Perhaps on Monday this was due to specific instructions from the boss but both front men have the quality to get involved in build-up while waiting for the right time to strike. Regardless of how direct United’s game plan is, expect them to continue to challenge, as their ability to adapt has always been one of their greatest strengths.

Five players Manchester United should sign this summer

There’s always plenty of chatter surrounding football transfers, but often this comprises a name and club being linked with no explanation as to how they would fit in to the team and if the signing continues the manager’s usual transfer market behaviour. With this in mind, the five players suggested below have been selected because they would suit the club and fit in to their usual recruitment methods.

Under Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United have prioritised signing young players with the raw materials they desire who they believe can be developed at the club. Importantly though, unlike Arsenal, these players aren’t usually bought to store away, they are brought in and expected to contribute. He very occasionally goes for a ready made high profile player like a Robin van Persie, Edwin van der Sar or Juan Veron, but the club mostly target younger players.

So, who should they look at this summer?

Mats Hummels – Borussia Dortmund

Mats Hummels

Scout Report Hummels is only 24 and has established himself as the top young central defender in Europe. Hummels is a strong, elegant defender. His top quality is his football intelligence, which manifests itself in his supreme interception rate and his quality pass selection. He is comfortable enough with the ball at his feet to step forward in to midfield and pick passes and has incredible field vision. He is solid in the air and a superb organiser.

Where does he fit? Hummels couldn’t have been better designed for United. From McGrath, through Pallister, Stam and latterly Ferdinand, Ferguson has always deployed a footballing defender in his back four to complement a more rugged partner. With Ferdinand reaching the end of his top-level career Hummels would be the best possible replacement.

How much? For all the attention on Marco Reus and Mario Gotze at Dortmund, Jurgen Klopp would say Hummels is his key player. They would miss him more than any other. With this in mind United would need to part with at least £20 million, if not £30 million to prise him away. But they’ve spent that before.

Toby Alderweireld – Ajax

Toby Alderweireld

Scout Report Alderweireld is the last remaining Belgian starlet not in England. A big, strong and intelligent defender, at only 24 he has become a leader at an Ajax side bubbling with creativity in attack. He is good on the ball and capable of picking passes from defence.

Where does he fit? Alderweireld would fit in to the footballing defender spot in Ferguson’s back line. He is right in the age window that Ferguson likes; old enough to have experience but young enough that being at United could take him to the next level. He is at a similar stage of his development to Nemanja Vidic when he arrived at the club, coming over from a lesser league ready to be turned in to the finished article.

How much? Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen both left Ajax for around £11m so Alderweireld would be in that sort of area. Any sale of Ajax’s other prized assets would affect this though.

Antonio Nocerino – AC Milan

Antonio Nocerino

Scout Report Nocerino is a driving and relentless central midfielder. The very definition of the ‘lung buster’, he seems to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. He is tidy on the ball but his main trait is his ability to get into the faces of opponents and hustle them in to mistakes. Fittingly he took Gennaro Gattuso’s number at Milan, and Gattuso is a player that Ferguson admired in his prime.

Where does he fit? United haven’t really had a pest in midfield since Roy Keane. They thought Owen Hargreaves was going to be, but his injury troubles robbed them of that. Nocerino would offer this dimension to the United midfield which doesn’t really have anyone like him. He would compliment the laconic passing of Michael Carrick and endeavour of Tom Cleverley nicely. He could be the ‘ready made’ player that Ferguson sometimes moves for.

How much? Probably not too much actually. Maybe £8-12m. Milan aren’t in the best financial shape but would still be reluctant to lose him.

Ilkay Gundogan – Borussia Dortmund

Ilkay Gundogan

Scout Report A classy, elegant and technically proficient deep-lying playmaker, Gundogan is only 22 and is already starting to nail down a role in the German national team even with Bastian Schweinsteiger for company. Gundogan sets the tempo for Dortmund when in possession and is comfortable passing over short and long range. He comes deep to fetch the ball from defence before setting attacks in motion but is also a danger around the edge of the box.

Where does he fit? Although he has had a good season, Michael Carrick could still stand to be upgraded long term. Ferguson has been wary of his team’s inability to monopolise possession and territory against the top European teams and adding Gundogan to his midfield would certainly assist that. He is young but is experienced in a top league and has been outstanding in the Champions League. He could be steadily rotated in to the midfield before being given the keys in a few years time.

How much? This would depend almost entirely on if Dortmund sell any of their other desirable youngsters. They may feel like Gundogan could be replaced easiest but he would still cost a lot to bring in. It would surely be north of £15m

Iker Muniain – Athletic Bilbao

Iker Muniain

Scout Report Muniain is only 20 but has been in the Athletic first team for nearly four years. The little attacker plays at a frenzied pace with his jet-heeled dribbling and trickery. He can play in any of the attacking positions other than centre forward and offers directness that scares defences. The only downfall is that he doesn’t score enough goals for such a talent.

Where does he fit? Muniain would offer something entirely different to United’s attack. The last raw young forward with explosive pace who didn’t score enough goals that they signed was a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. He has those raw materials that United look for that they know they can develop in to a world-class player. He tortured them in the Europa League last year too, which won’t have gone unnoticed.

How much? Athletic are a notoriously difficult team to buy from because they don’t give away their precious Basques cheaply. They would be looking in the £20m region for Muniain but if they can mould him as they did with Ronaldo that would be money very well spent.

Manchester United’s wingers must show they are up to the job

This was going to be a piece about the worrying decline of Antonio Valencia, whose abject display against Chelsea on Sunday was that of a man who has forgotten what he is good at. But the truth is none of Manchester United’s first-team wingers have had a season to write home about. In fact you would be hard-pressed to recall the last great performance from any of Valencia, Nani or Ashley Young.

When Valencia moved to Old Trafford in 2009, he was talked of as one of the league’s best wide-men, and as he began beating fullbacks and supplying inch-perfect crosses, it was clear why Sir Alex Ferguson parted with £12million for his services. The Ecuadorian made wing-play look easy.  He broke it down to its simplest form – knock it and run. And his speed meant he won the race more often than not.

Antonio Valencia

When Wayne Rooney enjoyed arguably his best season to date, when everyone started referring to his head as a goal-scoring threat as deadly as his feet – that was down to Valencia. There were no tricks in his armoury, no step-overs or showboating. He ran. He crossed. And United invariably scored.
So who was the player wearing number 7 on Sunday? The player who beat himself more often than his opponent? It certainly wasn’t the man who was voted both fans’ and players’ Player of the Year last season, nor the man who came back from a horrific ankle break to become one of his team’s most consistent performers.

It would be easy to say the pressure of the number on his back has got the better of him. But do players really notice what is behind them when they are so focused on what is ahead? Can a number so significantly alter a mind-set?

With the impending arrival of Wilfried Zaha, many expected Nani to make way. But in United’s last two games it was the Portuguese player’s departure (for two very different reasons) that had a detrimental effect on the team. So perhaps Zaha will be taking the place of Valencia next season, a man who has forgotten that in football, if you can win the race, the goal is all but scored.

Nani

And yet two brief cameos and being championed in his absence should not disguise the fact that Nani has been equally erratic this season. Unquestionably talented, there came a time – back in 2010 – when it all made sense. Outstanding displays against Manchester City and Arsenal showed a winger of terrifying ability, clinical, incisive, a man very much in tune with his talent.

It seemed that finally the penny had dropped. But three years later, it is clear that Nani is a man for whom the penny drops often, only to be forgotten again shortly after. Both United fans and the wider football world must sometimes wonder what he could achieve with consistency. But perhaps that is a trait to be born with or learnt as much as any other in football.

The last of United’s three wide-men, Ashley Young, is the least so in the traditional sense. A right-footed player on the left, it is his natural and often effective inclination to cut inside and cross. He doesn’t beat a man, he stands up to them and relies on his foot to find the box regardless. It was a skill that led his former manager at Aston Villa, Martin O’Neill, to call him “world class”. And it was a skill that has resulted in some truly outstanding goals for his current club, most notably an unstoppable double in the 8-2 win over Arsenal in 2011.

Ashley Young

And yet the truth is United lack pace; which is something of an indictment on the three men employed to supply it. It is no coincidence that Ferguson did all he could to secure Lucas Moura in the summer. In his short time at PSG he has shown just what all the fuss was about.

Perhaps on his arrival, Zaha will share the fearlessness of the likes of Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, adding directness to his new team and shaking up the old guard.

But whatever happens, if United’s current wingers wish to remain, they need to find the form that some have displayed for seasons and others only for games.

Wayne Rooney’s departure from Manchester United: all media speculation

After Manchester United’s elimination from the Champions League at the hands of Real Madrid in midweek, much of the focus for the media in the last 24 hours has been on Wayne Rooney’s exclusion. Despite the England international scoring a sensational fourth in the 4-0 win over Norwich at the weekend, he was not included in Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the most important game of the season, leading to questions over his future.

Danny Welbeck, who on the night was one of United’s top performers, was selected as Robin van Persie’s strike partner, and Ryan Giggs was also picked as a wide midfielder instead of Rooney. The media have been stating that Rooney could well leave Old Trafford in the summer after the selection snub, but this seems unlikely.

Wayne Rooney

Rooney may well have been left out of Ferguson’s starting XI for the game against Madrid, but this is not the first time this season or in the forward’s tenure in Manchester that he has been left on the bench. The Scottish manager had a game-plan on the night to face Madrid and selected the players that he felt were best suited to combat the strengths of the Spanish champions.

Shinji Kagawa scored a hat-trick against Norwich at the weekend and also started in the 1-1 draw against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, yet he too was also not selected for the home leg. The Japan international put in a combative performance in Spain, keeping the ball well in a positive result for United, however not being selected for the Old Trafford game does not mean he has no future at the club.

Rooney likewise will still be a key part of Ferguson’s plans. On the night the experience of Giggs and the explosive pace of Welbeck was selected, and up until Nani’s red card Ferguson’s tactics were spot on. If United had progressed would the same media frenzy around Rooney’s future still be flooding the press? Probably not.

Questions over Rooney’s future will probably continue over upcoming weeks and months, however don’t be surprised to see the attacker in the red of United come the start of next season.

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