Manchester United: Could this be one last hurrah for Sir Alex?
With the Robin Van Persie transfer saga monotonously rumbling on and Lucas Moura preferring the idea of croissants in elegant, sunny Paris to fish and chips in the torrential downpour of Manchester, recent events at the Theatre Of Dreams are raising one or two eyebrows around the footballing world.
After another rejection and with the club's flotation on the New York stock exchange, United are big news at the moment - and for all the wrong reasons.
With Moura’s name being added to the ever growing list of prime transfer targets eventually deciding their future lies away from the red side of Manchester, United’s mammoth ego has been pierced and their powerful reputation is in jeopardy of being severely dented.
Many are beginning to question what a certain faction of United fans have been asking since the Glazers took full control in 2005 - whether the team described by Forbes magazine as ‘the most valuable sports team on the planet’ can compete for the world's very best whilst carrying the crippling debts and ever growing interest costs incurred by the Glazer family’s ownership.
But there is another angle from which to look at United’s recent transfer activity, one that raises a question over Sir Alex Ferguson's remaining time as manager of the club.
Although members of the anti-Man United brigade are relishing the reluctance of many of United’s targets to move to Old Trafford, it remains a fact that it has never been United’s philosophy to go out and buy marquee players. The real change that has occurred is the approach of United themselves and their change in attitude over transfer targets.
Over the years they have prided themselves on ‘building for the future’ and not overspending on established superstars, with the odd exception when seen as absolutely necessary. Yet one could be forgiven for describing this summer’s transfer targeting as a tad ‘willy-nilly’.
Lucas Moura could be considered ‘one for the future’, but the estimated price tag of around £30 million was very much the here and now. And whilst Robin Van Persie had a wonderful season last year, finishing top scorer in the Premier League and winning the PFA Player of the Year award, let’s not forget this is a player whose Arsenal career has been blighted by injury and in seven years has had only one season in which he hasn’t spent a large percentage of it on the sidelines. Couple that with the fact he’s 29 and is apparently demanding around £200k a week and this all seems very un-Fergie like.
Could it be that Sir Alex is aiming for one last push for domestic and European success before he calls time on his glittering managerial career?
The United manager has made no secret of his disappointment at having won the Champions League only twice, losing in winnable semis to Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen and in two finals to the superior Barcelona. So perhaps he sees Van Persie as a player who can help bridge the gap between themselves and Europe’s elite, and cap his legacy with that elusive third European cup he so desperately craves.
Cynics argue that the interest in Moura and Van Persie is a charade, constructed in time for the club's flotation on the New York stock exchange, invented to give potential buyers faith in the club's ability to compete in the transfer market. But the Moura deal was allegedly very close and was scuppered only by PSG’s last-minute move and willingness to pay an astronomical amount of money.
The man himself has always stated that as long as his health serves him well he will remain in charge, stating in 2010 ‘the only thing that determines whether I stay here is my health, and I am in rude health’. But questions over his current physical state were raised after a nose bleed at a recent charity event, with Sir Alex later stating his doctor had put it down to too much flying in such a short amount of time.
With United looking so desperate to add to their squad, and caution seemingly thrown to the wind in regards to targets, could this be the last lap of a marathon career that has spanned three decades and amassed countless trophies and awards?
Could this be one last hurrah for Fergie?
Calling all United fans: How much would it mean to Fergie to go out on a high? Can United finally seal the deal for Robin Van Persie? Will there be any more new arrivals before the transfer window slams shut? Can United still compete for the major honours? Whatever your view, we'd love to hear from you.
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Calling all football fans: Who do you think will win the title this season? Will City retain the trophy or will United or Chelsea get their hands on it? What about Arsenal? Can they stun the pundits by ending their trophy drought? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.