Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Falling short of Champions league glory and the future of Manchester United

Congratulations to the Blaugrana for winning the 2009 Champions league. Barcelona outplayed my favorite Manchester United and this triumph will bring joy to the Catalan support. Barcelona played very well all year and I had predicted that they would probably win the UEFA Champions League when MAN U was struggling at the beginning of the year. It was meant to be. For Pep Guardiola to win a treble in his first year in charge is magnificent. Barcelona has a great future, but so does Manchester United. The Red Devils will be back and even stronger if they do a few things. The first one would be to replace Sir Alex Ferguson with me. :-)

I am very happy for Thierry Henry. I think it's a crime he's never been crowned the world's best player. He should have won in 2003 but it was given to Zinedine Zidane and in 2006 if Zidane had kept his cool in the World Cup final. Henry went to Barcelona to win the Champs league and today, he's a winner. He had a bad season last year but he found his scoring boots this season and it paid dividends for Barca. He's still a step slow and I've seen him miss too many good chances but he's still a world class player.

Lionel Messi was going to win this year's World Best and this triumph will pencil that in. He's been marvelous all year and deserves the accolades. I don't think the criticism of him disappearing in big games is warranted. Barcelona is a pretty predictable team, if you park the bus defensively and have the speed and skill to attack them, the job is half done. Lionel Messi is targeted in big games and when you have three people marking you, there's not much you can do. Manchester United played okay defensively but we gave the ball away too easily and couldn't string together many good attacking moves. And Messi scored a header! Who would have guessed?

MAN U ended up with the premier league, Carling Cup, and World Club Championship. That's a treble too. :-D It is painful that we'll be missing out on the FA Cup final, especially in the wake of this Champs league loss. We had never lost a major European final but I guess, there's always a first time. Fergie wasn't outcoached, he made every decision I would have taken, we just run into a very good team who didn't seem to suffer from the absence of two first-choice defenders. We have a very good team and with a few tweaks here and there, we'll be even better next season.

In defence, we need to hasten the progress of goalkeeper Ben Foster. Van Der Sar probably has one more excellent season in him. We should make Rafael the first choice right-back, convince Gary Neville to retire and find a way to give John O'Shea more games. Wes Brown will be back to be an insurance in central defence. We also have Fabio da Silva who should be able to contribute more next season. Our defence was super this season and though it let us down in Rome, we needn't change too many things.

Anderson needs to be able to shoot/score. How can we have a Brazilian who can't score goals? He's great in possession but he needs to give us more in attack. If he fails to do that, he shouldn't be Paul Scholes' long term replacement. I like Darren Fletcher better and that guy deserves more playing time. We also have Owen Hargreaves. The biggest issue with United's midfield is shooting. We need someone who can score from long-range and I am not talking about Ronaldo. Darron Gibson has shown promise and he must be encouraged. I hope next season would be Giggs and Scholesy's last. Before they leave, we need to find a midfielder who can cause problems with set-pieces. Hargreaves is great but Carrick should learn to do this too.

On the flanks, we need help. Rooney shined in the latter part of the season playing '11' but that is not his calling. Is Zoran Tosic going to become a star? Nani is too inconsistent, we hoped we'll start to blossom like C.Ronaldo did, but it's not happening. I believe we should buy a good left-footed winger. Frank Ribery comes to mind but he'll be too pricey. I will settle for Stewart Downing. He'll be great for us. Nani may have to leave, but Park Ji-Sung must stay. So far, it seems Ronaldo wants to stay. If he throws tantrums of wanting to leave, he should sell him to the highest bidder. The Red Devil army didn't die after David Beckham or Ruud Van Nistelrooy were sold, so why keep this ballerina? He's an exceptional player who's saved MAN U many a day, but he needs to dedicate himself to the cause, and prepare to defend.

Our attack was a pale shadow of what we had in the previous season. Many people blame Dimitar Berbatov and there's really no alternative. Berba slowed our attack and though he had many assists, with him in the game, we didn't create many chances. Fergie has done some bad business in his managerial years (Veron, Djemba Djemba, Kleberson) and Berba is one of them. I doubt we can sell him now so we are stuck. He needs to inject some pace and urgency into his game or prepare to play as a striker who has no business dropping into midfield to pick up balls. Carlos Tevez has served MAN U well but we must not pay a fortune to keep him. If we can't get him for less than 20 million pounds, we should let him go. Wayne Rooney had a very good year and if he is given more freedom next year, he will have an even better season. Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda should get more games to grow into dependable squad members.

Manchester United has won 22 trophies in the last 20 years. There have been times where we've not won any or not been good enough. Times like that may be coming soon. We must not pay for near-successes. MAN U must allow the young players like Da Silva twins, Eckersley, Jonny Evans, da Laet, Gibson, Possebon, Lee Martin, Welbeck, Macheda, etc to grow. We have some great youngsters on loan as well. Don't forget about Manucho (yay Angola), though I don't think he can produce much for the team eventually because of his age. We should adopt the Arsenal approach while keeping all our best players at reasonable prices. Who's going to replace Sir Alex and when? I'd love to do it. Every thing I said above makes sense, doesn't it? Good.

Glory, glory, Manchester United. Kiddology rules. We'll remain at the top for a long time. Success will be sustained.

PS: Can we find a way to get Michael Essien? I believe he is the answer to all our problems. It was very very sad to see Chelsea grab him in 2005.
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