What’s more surprising about Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s transfer? The fact that Manchester United let him go for £10.3m or the fact that Sir Alex Ferguson is going to reinvest that money and more in buying Tottenham’s Michael Carrick?
Let’s take the first part. Van Nistelrooy has scored 150 goals in 213 games for the Red Devils. He is United’s leading scorer in Europe with 38 goals. His international record is also impressive - 28 in 53. Conclusion - he is in the top echelon of forwards in the game. Now yes he is 30 years old but so is Shevchenko and Chelsea paid £30m for him. Allowing for Chelsea inflation let’s say a realistic fee for Sheva was £20m. Is Van the Man worth half that? If I had to choose between the two, I would favour Shevchenko. He contributes more to team build-up and is better at creating his own goals whereas Van Nistelrooy is more of a poacher. Still the difference is not £10m, more like £2m-£3m.
The problem is that by washing his dirty laundry in public, Ferguson shot himself in the foot. When Fergie falls out with a player, the world knows that the player will leave - see Stam, Beckham and Keane. As a result, it becomes very difficult to command a certain price. The player becomes a depreciating asset. Teams just have to wait to get him on the cheap. Sir Alex’s attempts at insinuating that he was close to patching up his differences with RvN were just a pathetic attempt to arrest the player’s declining value.
Turning to the second part - is Carrick the man Manchester United need? Their midfield has been a problem area since Keane’s demise and departure. Carrick is not going o change that. He is a good passer but he is lightweight. He cannot however take over the game when his team are struggling like Steven Gerrard can for Liverpool. He is not in that class and he is definitely not worth the £14m to £16m that United are rumoured to be paying for him. Marcos Senna of Villarreal is being targeted to provide the bite that Carrick lacks but he too is a “poor man’s” solution. Conclusion? United will continue to struggle in midfield.
The problem is that they will also struggle in attack where they now only have one truly outstanding player - Rooney. Saha, despite his prolific end of season form is not top class. Solskjaer has not played for two years. Rossi is an unknown quantity. Alan Smith, who will be re-converted into a forward is tough and a hard worker but hardly inspires fear. If a top-class forward is not added there is a risk that Rooney will become frustrated and we all saw in the World Cup how he reacts when that happens…
Many will say that United’s problems stem from the Glazer takeover, but is this true? Is money the reason Fergie can’t capture the star names? No - Carrick and Senna will cost a combined £24m. The problem is Ferguson himself. Unfortunately, the players he falls out with are the stars. Why? because they start to become more influential than him and his ego cannot accept that. The big names see this and decide to go elsewhere. How long before he falls out with Rooney? He may be United’s most successful manager, but it’s time for him to go.