Monday, 15 June 2009

The End of Fergie's Third Era

I'm not going to write about the Ronaldo transfer at the moment. Plenty of others have done so, expressing viewpoints from across the spectrum. I made my opposition to the move clear in my last post, which was published less than 12 hours before the move was announced and therefore made me look a bit silly. In short, though, I'm disappointed by it and I think he'll be hard to replace, we got a good price and I'm taking it in a fairly philosophical fashion.

I want to look at this from a wider perspective, from the point of view that Ronaldo's departure is the most eye catching aspect of the end of Fergie's third era. There are other losses too - Tevez is certain to depart (and I, for one, unapologetically hope he does); Giggs, Neville and Scholes are at the very end of the twilight of their careers; van der Sar is fading fast; and those of a particularly pessimistic mindset might argue that Rio's recurring back problems mean that his partnership with Vida will never be when it was.

This, in one way, is why the Ronaldo money is a godsend. There is significant regeneration to be done across the squad, and in particular across the forward line. Our first XI next season will look very different to our first XI last season.

In truth, this change has been coming for 12 months or so. All the plaudits dished out at the end of last season - the majority of them before the loss to Barcelona - talked about this side being the peak of Fergie's third great team. In fact, it is hard to convincingly argue that it wasn't a team in decline compared to the Champions League-winning side of 2007-08.

07-08 vs 08-09

That side played with flair and panache, as well as exhibiting the steely spine that achieved records in 08-09. It was a scintillating team to watch, with various supremely gifted players operating at the peak of their powers. It was Ronaldo's finest season, one that he'll find hard to top no matter what he does at Real. Tevez, too, played out of his skin - a level of performance that raised expectations too far for last season, and yet still was responsible for much of the rose-tinted "Fergie, sign him up" chants. Giggs was still a threat from either wing and Scholes could still run games from the centre of midfield. Carrick matured, Anderson played as though to the manor born. Nani sparkled, intermittently but with promise. More prosaically, Wes Brown played out his most effective and influential season in United colours. Vidic and Evra's names were written in the column headed "Fergie's shrewdest buys ever", rather than the slightly less flattering category in which they were placed. In the Premiership, we scored 88 and conceded 22.

The 08-09 vintage was efficient rather than dazzling. The majority of our squad were inconsistent - great one week, indifferent the next. Fergie squeezed every inch of performance out of them by rotating them ruthlessly, but only Darren Fletcher could claim to have improved substantially on his previous season's showing. Ronaldo still scored crucial and spectacular goals and remained amongst the leading scorers in the country, but too many displays were characterised by petulance and frustration. Berbatov could make your jaw hit the floor on occasion, but didn't find a consistent place in the United passing geometry. Tevez worked hard but achieved comparatively little. Anderson seemed unsure of his role and performed fitfully. Vidic was mostly immense but made several high profile errors. Nani only turned up in the Carling Cup. Scholes' legs appeared to have gone. Giggs' player of the season award was for some stunningly accomplished cameos, but cameos nonetheless. Evra looked defensively shaky at times, and van der Sar periodically a complete liability. We rarely demolished teams, preferring instead to monopolise possession and nick the odd goal. In the Premiership, we scored 68 (20 less than the previous year) and conceded 24 (2 more), and would have lost the league on goal difference had it come to that.

In this context, some rebuilding was inevitable this summer. As I have already made clear, I don't think getting rid of Ronaldo constitutes rebuilding, but putting a flaky, uncertain stone in the foundations of Team Four would hardly be good workmanship from Fergie.

In my next post, I'll talk about how I see Team Four shaping up.


MoYa said...

Interesting post mate! Never quite looked at it in that way really...

In your opinion do you think there is gonna be a major overhaul for next season? Will we go transfer crazy or blood in a lot of our talented youth...

I feel we need a holding mid desperately. Yaya Toure seems like the best option for me. Ideally De Rossi, but he is untouchable at Roma.

A striker as ronaldo is gone and hopefully tevez soon. ronaldo played a lot upfront for us. I would dream of Aguero.

Desperately need a new keeper! Van Der Sar, we can do better. Foster is too injury prone for a keeper. Akinfeev anybody... Or Asenjo.

Vishnu chari said...

yeah, a good aticle, a very nice point of view, Sir Alex will need to either "bring in or blood" players. Hopefully, we can do a combination, we have players who are talented in our reserves, as well as players out on loan who can grow into roles in the first team. Gibson, Possebon, Simpson,(who hada decent few perfomances in the UNited first team a couple of season's ago, but failed to impress at blackburn in 08/09), Martin,James, Cleverley, Chester, Evans,. But the goalkeepng situation needs a bit of work, i don't think we have a 1st team keeper, in any of Foster(maybe), KitKat, Amos, possibly Zieler, maybe we'll need to strengthen, I'm hoping we keep Campbell, and make sure Rooney is the man we build the team around!

swapnil said...

awesome does seem like an end of the era..we need to fing several high profile replacements.not only ronaldo but for vdsar,maybe a cdm as hargreaves looks less likely to play.a quality striker too!!!but even with the huge sum we got out of ronaldo's transfer its looking less likely that we'll get replacements for a right price as teams will demand crazy money from will never be the same after the crazy money real have spent this time....

marc said...

how about one of them young german keepers?theres too many of them out there, 20-24 years old, immensly gifted and only need one or two seasons of shaping (VDS will def. be able to play for a little time...) and then they take over the team, talking about the neuers etc.

MoYa said...

Yeah mate I would certainly give one of them a shout. Neuer looks real quality.

I do feel Akinfeev, the Russian keeper, would be the most ready to take over the gloves.

Dan said...

Nice post mate. Well writen too.

I'll def be reading more of your articles so thank you.

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