Fergie has done it again. That’s what everyone said for the first month or two of the Premier League season. 21 goals in the first five games of the season, with a squad that everyone said had pretty much been reborn. New signings Jones and Young appeared to have slotted in like they had been there for years, some of the older players like Ferdinand were able to be rested.
Scholes and Van De Sar had retired, and Fergie’s genius management was being praised everywhere you looked.
The praise was not without reason; the team had been torn apart by a completely rampart Barcelona in the Champions League Final at the end of last season. United, who had won the league, were not even close to beating Barca, they had been rocked by scandals involving Giggs and Rooney, two of their highest profile players, and the team was aging. And so as the transfer window opened at the start of summer, Ferguson made his signings.
Fast and furious, Ashley Young, Phil Jones, and goalkeeper David De Gea, three young players were brought in, replacing the aging backbone of the team. Pundits and fans alike were excited by the signings, but also well aware that it may take a few months for the new players to fit in.
The season’s breathtaking start took everyone by surprise. Young looked like he had been born to work with Rooney, constantly working together and both getting their fair share of goals. The emergence of youngster Danny Wellbeck, who had spent the season before on loan, continued to bolster the praise of Fergie’s new young boys, and Phil Jones seemed adept to perform strongly in any position. Whilst David De Gea made a couple of mistakes, these were more than matched by the firepower at the other end of United’s eleven, and as his confidence grew, his decisions improved. Fergie had done it again.
In recent weeks however, United have started to slip away. Rooney fell off the pace, Young got injured, and 1-0 grinds have become the standard result week in and week out. Knocked out of the Champions League almost unforgivably, and two losses in recent weeks have taken focus away from two 5-0 wins during the xmas period.
Suddenly, it appears that United are not looking quite the force that they were early on. Lindegaard seems to be playing more and more, and although he is performing sensationally well, it can’t be doing De Gea’s confidence much good. Ferguson has certainly bought him for the long term, but games at a young age in the Premier League are surely the only way to build up fragile confidence and turn him into a keeper who can keep them in games week in and week out.
Phil Jones is constantly being shifted around. Whilst he continues to perform strongly in the majority of positions, he is finding it difficult to build up a strong central defensive partnership, particularly with Vidic also out injured. This means that Ferdinand is seeing a lot of games, and whilst he has been a great player, it appears that his legs have gone and he is struggling to compete in the Premier League.
Most recently, we saw Paul Scholes come out of retirement. Whilst a legend at the club, and a fantastic servant, it is fair to say that he has so far appeared way off the pace. I was as delighted as anyone to see his fairy tale goal at the weekend, but this appears to be covering up a much larger problem. In a midfield that at the start of the season included Gibson performing far above his years in the middle, and Young’s pace terrorising the defence’s of the League’s 19 other squads, the team have appeared to resort back to their old boys Giggs and Scholes as soon as things have got slightly more difficult. Fergie has chosen to let Gibson go to Everton, he has sent Macheda on loan to QPR, and the players like Berbatov, Ferdinand and Scholes, have found their way back into a squad.
As a fan of none of the Premier Leagues best, I would like United or Tottenham to beat City to the title, as I am a firm believer in money not being able to buy the title. I just feel that Fergie is playing into the other squads hands. This season is far from over, and whilst it is true that they have had injuries, rather than continuing down the bold route of bringing the younger players in, he has resorted to handing shirts back to the elder generations, whilst he waits for his starting eleven to come back into the squad.
It will be interesting to see how he spends in the rest of the transfer window, and how the team begin to perform once they have their first elven back out there. I hope, as I’m sure many others do, that their football begins to set the world alight again, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who is a little hesitant seeing lots of last seasons slower players returning to the team.
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