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Manchester United

What’s next for Manchester United?

Manchester United sealed their 20th League title last week after a 3-0 win versus Paul Lambert’s Aston Villa. Having enjoyed a relatively easy title race, Sir Alex Ferguson will now be looking onwards to summer as he begins preparation for yet another campaign as manager at Old Trafford.

In the end, United’s title success came down to consistency, as always, we witnessed the side’s ability to win three points even in games where the team performed appallingly. Also, despite facing defeat in the harder fixtures (vs Manchester City for example), the points gained from wins against the weaker sides were enough to secure the title.

Various players had a terrific 2012/13 campaign, most notably, Robin Van Persie and Michael Carrick. In my eyes Carrick has been United’s player of the season – having performed in almost every single game he has featured in. His nomination for PFA Player of the Year really does not surprise me. Meanwhile, Van Persie has proved to be an incredible purchase – once again an ingenious decision made by Sir Alex. The Dutchman has scored 24 goals in 34 league appearances, an outstanding ratio. He has, without a doubt, been the difference in the title race this season; when United have been desperate for goals, RVP has been the man to rely on.

On top of this, a number of young players have used this season as an opportunity to make an impact in the first team. For me, Alex Buttner, Rafael, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck have all proven their class. Within the next season or so, I’d expect these names to become important starting players.

The pure number of goals scored this season has also been encouraging. Even third choice forward, Javier Hernandez, has scored 8 goals in the Premier League. Whilst, Wayne Rooney has scored 12 in total.

However, despite Premier League success, United failed to carry their good form into the cup competitions. Failure in both the Champions League and the FA Cup will have tarnished the newly crowned champion’s campaign. The Red Devils lost to Real Madrid and Chelsea respectively as the team struggled to prove its quality during important knock-out fixtures.

Despite leading United to a yet another Premier League crown, Ferguson plans to invest heavily in his squad this summer to ensure they stay ahead of their domestic rivals and push for Champions League glory next season.

With a number of players reportedly on their way out of Old Trafford, including Nani, Anderson and Scholes (who will retire for a second time), Fergie will be looking to reinforce these areas, whilst adding quality to other positions in the first team.

The future of fan’s favourite, Wayne Rooney, also seems unclear. With various sources suggesting the striker is set to leave United.

If the rumours are true, Ferguson will be supplied with plenty of cash to improve the current squad. With this in mind, I can see four main positions that’ll need strengthening once the summer transfer window arrives. In my opinion, United need to invest in a new centre-back, improved quality on the wings, a gutsy, defensive-minded midfielder and a new striker.

Youth in defence…

It’s fair to say Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic aren’t getting any younger and I think it’s about time Ferguson searches for a fresh-face in this position – to replace Rio in the first team at least. While Jonny Evans has proved consistent over the past two seasons, he isn’t a world class defender. If United wish to win the Champions League next year, better players are going to be needed in all areas of the field. Within the past few months the club have been linked with Benfica centre-back Ezequiel Garay as a potential successor for Ferdinand and in my opinion, the 26-year-old would be a good acquisition for Ferguson this summer.

Raphael Varane is another player I greatly admire. At only 20-years-of-age, the Frenchman is already showing signs of being a world class defender. Although a move for him would prove costly, he would definitely be a great investment for the future. Finally, Leighton Baines has been linked with the club since the end of last August. The Everton left-back is most likely to arrive at Old Trafford when the window re-opens.

Improvements needed in midfield…

In my opinion, the midfield is still United’s weakest area on the pitch. As mentioned before, Carrick has been a revelation this season, however improvements need to be made if United wish to be crowned champions of Europe next campaign. The priority in this area of the field should be a defensive midfielder. Nemanja Matic and Kevin Strootman are both players that have been mentioned in the past. Both would be appropriate to fill the current space, although I believe the latter would be the best option. Yohan Cabaye is another midfield player who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford. Whilst he is a fantastic player, I don’t believe he’s needed at the club. Kagawa looks like a class player and Cleverley is slowly improving, I don’t think the club have space for another attacking midfielder, unless he is of world class quality.

Furthermore, the wings are definitely an area that need added quality. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young are both great players, however both have struggled for form this season. Nani, meanwhile, has been unhappy since the start of the campaign and it seems very likely that he’ll be leaving in the summer.

It’s easy to forget that Crystal Palace winger, Wilfred Zaha, will be joining the club in July. If all the hype surrounding the England Under-21 is correct, maybe this area will be less of a problem next campaign.

Despite this, the Red Devils have been linked with a number of wingers within the past months, including Jay Rodriquez, Nicolas Gaitan and Cristiano Ronaldo. I’d be happy to see either of these players arrive at OT in the summer. However, I would be ecstatic if Ronaldo made a return.

Although it does seem unlikely, Sir Alex is a magician and we cannot completely rule out a transfer for the Portuguese captain.

However, I believe Gareth Bale should be the priority this summer. Tottenham would be reluctant to sell the Welshman to a Premier League rival, but if Fergie offers the right price Levy will be forced to accept.

Bale has proved his quality so many times this season. He could be the one player United need establish themselves as the strongest team in Europe.

Reinforcements in attack…

United currently have four top class strikers, although this could change if the rumours regarding Rooney’s departure prove to be true (I personally can’t see this happening).

However, if this does materialise, the club have a number of potential targets to pursue.

We all saw Robert Lewandowski destroy Real Madrid’s defence on Wednesday evening, scoring 4 goals in the process. The Polish striker is a player I’ve been fond of since Euro 2012 and this season he has impressed me even further. He is another player who has been linked with a move to Old Trafford since last summer and at one point a deal had reportedly been completed. Nothing has been heard of this rumour since, but this doesn’t mean it a move isn’t going to happen. In my opinion, Lewandowski should be United’s number 1 target if Rooney leaves.

Atletico striker Radamel Falcao is another potential target for United in the summer. Although a move to the Premier League seems fairly likely, I imagine he’ll choose a move to Chelsea over the Red Devils and the latest rumours seem to compliment his view. This season the Columbian has scored 25 goals in 29 La Liga games, not a bad record by any standards.

Sporting Lisbon youngster Bruma has also been linked with a move to Old Trafford, he could eventually replace Robin Van Persie.

To conclude…

United need to spend big this summer if they wish to mount a serious challenge for the Champions League next season. They also need to be wary of their Premier League rivals who will all begin to strengthen their squads as soon as the transfer window re-opens. United may have done enough to wrest the title back from City, the noisy neighbours remain rivals to be feared, despite their travails this season, and are sure to put up a bigger fight next season. If United wish to go on a run of consecutive titles, the first team needs improving. The materials for success are definitely there, but it’s a hard league. If Jose Mourinho goes back to Chelsea, as the press are talking about, you’d expect a big challenge from London. Furthermore, with a few clever summer signings, Arsenal and Tottenham could even prove forces to be reckoned with.

Have your say, who should United sign this summer? Which areas of the squad need improving? And can they win the Champions League next season?