Manchester United are becoming ‘ze Germans’ of club football. Regardless of their squad’s supposed weaknesses, debt-worries or the omens of bad form, United are always there-or-thereabouts when it comes to the title. This season shall prove to be no different. Sir Alex Ferguson is the longest serving in the Premier League for a reason; he continually puts out excellent teams rotated amongst an excellent squad. They are by no means infallible and in a few key positions looking very old, nevertheless you can count on United to fight on all 4 fronts for another season. All of this is much as my colleague Kratik said just last week. Whereas he indicates that United don’t need to improve for the upcoming season, and Sir Alex agrees, I feel they do need to improve but for the future.
In terms of improving the squad though, there is still some work to be done and as Sir Alex continues the final phase of his stewardship he would want to leave United in a position to win after his legacy is complete. For this he will require some young talent to supplement and then replace the older talent left in the squad. First and foremost the continual question of the goalkeeper.
Goalkeeper: Edwin Van Der Sar has been a stalwart since his transfer from Fulham. The two Champions League winners medals are a testament to his ability and the gap between them shows his longevity if a couple of poor career choices. Van Der Sar will continue to be the prominent goalkeeper for United this season but doubts will remain over his injury-proneness. He missed a substantial part of last season due to injury problems and also unfortunately some domestic health problems as well. Whilst this isn’t a blueprint for the upcoming season it is something United should keep in mind. With Thomas Kuszczak a reliable, if uninspiring, back-up Ferguson could go into the new season without bolstering his squad. However that does leave question-marks over the next season as Van Der Sar turns 41. There are some young talented keepers available on the transfer market at the moment and with Arsenal also looking to strengthen this area there would be fewer choices at the next transfer window and prices would become inflated as teams realise that United need a keeper. Any potential targets are going to be disillusioned to playing second fiddle for a season so United have left themselves a problem. It is difficult to predict who United will bring in but the likes of Igor Akinfeev and Maarten Stekelenburg have been discussed. Stekelenburg had a good world-cup with a few minor gaffes due to the movement of the Jubalani, at 27 he enters the prime of his career and due to Ajax’s money worries could be available at a fraction of his true value. The main positive for Stekelenburg is that he, like all the Dutch, is fluent in English. One of the Keys to Goalkeeping is communication look back to the roars of Peter The Great.