Manchester United claimed their 13th Premier League title on Monday, so attention now turns to how the team can stay ahead of their rivals.
The Red Devils may have lost the Manchester derby earlier this month, but nobody inside Old Trafford was thinking about that during the euphoric post-match celebrations after United had comfortably beaten Villa 3-0.
And, so, attention now turns to the 2013/14 season - and manager Sir Alex Ferguson will already be planning the for the future.
Assessing the forward situation:
Robin van Persie. What a buy, eh? On paper, United weren’t ever meant to sign a 29-year-old with a long record of injury problems, in the last twelve months of his contract from one of their domestic rivals at a price of £24.5m. But they did, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Unlikely and an inordinate amount of money to pay, might the recent link in the Express to Radamel Falcao be a similarly bold move in the market that steals United a forward march ahead of the 2013/14 title race?
People will point to the Wayne Rooney situation as the reason either for or against what would represent the transfer of the coming summer. There are persistent rumours that Paris Saint-Germain are ready to pay the equivalent of a Sheikh’s ransom to partner Rooney with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the French capital which would then finance a move for the Colombian ace, but most of the Old Trafford faithful will not want to see Falcao come in if it meant that Rooney were to be shipped off to Paris - and quite right, too.
But would it really take Rooney moving for Falcao to come in?
In recent times, Ferguson has deployed Rooney in a central attacking midfield role, and although the results have been inconclusive, there is everything to suggest that the current No. 10’s ability, drive, vision, and aggression would make him an excellent choice to finally succeed Paul Scholes in the playmaking role at Old Trafford. Simultaneously, and off the pitch, United have reportedly moved early to secure what has largely been seen as a down payment on Falcao, much in the manner that took David de Gea to Manchester United almost two years ago. Given the shrewdness of the great Scott, it is hard to imagine that these two events are not linked.
A forward-line that then comprises either two or three attackers from a pool of Van Persie and Falcao in the central positions, and Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in the supporting (4-4-1-1) or wide roles (4-3-3), and augmented by the likes of Rooney as well as players more conventionally identified as midfielders in the shape of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Nani and the in-coming Wilfred Zaha (4-5-1) would signal a titanic threat to any of United’s rivals, at home or abroad.
There is, then, every possibility that Falcao could come to United – or, even, Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski. Sir Alex’s admiration of the Pole may, however, represent a Plan B in the face of what would prove to be stiff competition for the Colombian’s signature from the likes of City, Chelsea, and even Real Madrid, who – given their cross-town rivalry with Atletico Madrid – would more be likely to secure the signing of another mooted United target in Tottenham’s Gareth Bale.
Lewandowski is tall, strong and leads the line well in a compact Dortmund side, but is hardly in the same league of finishers as Van Persie and Falcao, despite registering 25 goals from 35 games so far in the Bundesliga.
Among the other rumoured striking targets, it would be difficult to envisage Mirko Vucinic, scorer of 11 goals for Juventus this season, as a player who would offer much more to the current crop of talent at Old Trafford, despite his creativity, while talk of Neymar seems off the mark given the player’s continued calls of preference for sunnier climes and, particularly, Barcelona, where he would team up with Lionel Messi.
In any case, one thing remains certain: the No. 9 shirt at Manchester United is currently unoccupied.
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