Manchester United are undoubtedly a team in transition. With a few notable exceptions the majority of the squad that won the 2008 Champions League remains intact, albeit four years older and wiser. In addition to this old guard, Ferguson has begun to blood the new generation; the youthful exuberance of messrs Welbeck, Cleverley, Smalling and Jones yielding remarkable success in the early stages of last season, but ultimately lacking the substance to push United over the line to secure a record 20th league title.
That the margin of failure was so narrow- United were mere seconds away from snatching league victory from their cross city rivals- must stand as testament to the extraordinary ability of Ferguson to craft a successful team from a squad which, on paper, appears somewhat inferior to those of his Premier League title rivals. The fear from Manchester United fans must be that Ferguson’s managerial wizardry can only bridge the gap in quality for so long, and without serious investment the sky blue ribbons which adorned the Premier League trophy in May could become the norm rather than an anomaly.
Ferguson has indeed acted to strengthen his squad this summer with the additions of Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa and promising youngster Nick Powell, as well as the promise of “one or two” more to still to come. However, that the iconic number 7 shirt has been given to last year’s Player of the Season Antonio Valencia after being respectfully declined by Kagawa perhaps suggests that the forthcoming arrivals may not be the true marquee players that the fans so crave and that City have recently made such a habit of acquiring.
Although quiet thus far in the transfer window, it is surely just a matter of time before City hunt down their next superstar, which combined with Roman Abramovich’s renewed enthusiasm for big money signings mean that United face another fierce fight for the title. The United old guard must remain assured as ever and the young generation must grow up quickly, or else United fans face the very real prospect of another trophyless season.