With the announcement of the sale of Guiseppe Rossi yesterday, a player who the United faithful rate highly, and are eager to see given a chance in our squad, the familiar grumbles were once again heard. What is Ferguson thinking about? Why on earth would he sell off Rossi? I was one of those grumbling, utterly pissed off with the decision to let the lad go.
You would think by now we would be sick of Sir Alex Ferguson proving us all wrong by now wouldn’t you? That we wouldn’t be so quick to judge the situation. Afterall, what has the past taught us…? Let’s take a look.
In December 2005, The Telegraph reported that, “the media’s disapproval is something Ferguson has long been able to discount but yesterday Hugh McIlvanney, the man who worked with him on his autobiography and who counts as one of his oldest friends, said in the most eloquent and elegant terms that the task of rebuilding Manchester United was now beyond Ferguson’s strength and he should seek a dignified exit in the summer.” Our good old friend Oliver Holt said that Ferguson’s judgement was “waning faster than everybody thought” last summer, after his dealings in the transfer market. So now we get to sit back and obnoxiously beam at all the doubters.
The subject of Ferguson “losing the plot” has gone on for sometime now, which was sparked by his decision to make a U-turn on his retirement plans. Despite claiming he would leave at the end of the 2002 season, in the February he changed his mind and penned a new three year deal. When at the end of that season Wenger was victorious with the Double, the talk began. Had Ferguson made the right decision staying on? Despite winning his eighth title in eleven years the following season, after an incredible comeback against Arsenal, the supposed regret for United that Ferguson stayed began to pour out from the press the following season when Arsenal went unbeaten, and United finished 3rd.
Since then, the idea that Ferguson was now incapable of making United a dominating force was a popular one from the media, rival fans, and even some United fans. His activity in the transfer market was something which earnt him a lot of stick, and was deemed another tell tale sign that he was losing it. It was never an argument I fully understood though. Since winning the title in 2003, Ferguson has signed Eric Djemba-Djemba, David Bellion, Tim Howard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kleberson, Louis Saha, Alan Smith, Gabriel Heinze, Wayne Rooney, Edwin Van der Sar, Park Ji-Sung, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Tomasz Kuszczack and Michael Carrick.
Out of those fifteen players, I’d say three of them were poor buys. Out of the remaining twelve, I’d say a further three failed/have yet to prove they are of United quality. Whilst Howard was sold off, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he was the PFA Keeper of the Season in his first year at United, the same year that Arsenal went unbeaten with Lehmann in goal, and Chelsea came second with Cudicini between the sticks. Any problem with Howard was an issue of personality and confidence, rather than ability. Alan Smith could be sold off any day now, and whilst a favourite with the fans for his tireless efforts on the field, he hasn’t proved that he is good enough for our first XI. United fans shall forever have fond memories of his Man of the Match performance in the centre of midfield when we beat Chelsea the season before last, and for £7 million, he was just about worth what he has given us. I am a fan of Park Ji-Sung, and whilst he’ll never be starting XI material, he has proven to be a useful squad player, and at £4 million, a great addition to our team.
That leaves us then with Ronaldo, Saha, Heinze, Rooney, Van der Sar, Vidic, Evra and Carrick (with Kuszczack intended as our reserve keeper, and giving us nothing to complain about in the games we have seen him). Has any manager in the Premiership signed better players than those in the past three years? Even Mourinho with his unlimited cash supply hasn’t done a better job in the transfer market.
When in the weeks following lifting the title the club confirmed the capture of signings Anderson, Hargreaves and Nani, most United fans felt like they were dreaming. Three quality players brought in to show that we really do mean business. Whilst the press will quote a figure of £50 million as the combined total, it is important to note that such a price will only be paid if the players are successful and do well for the club. If this is the case, then they are worth the money. If it’s not the case, then the transfer fees for each player is much closer to the £10 million mark than the £17 million.
Next on the agenda, Carlos Tevez. Whilst this has been one of our messiest transfers in, well, all of a season (thanks Mikel), there appears to be only one outcome really, that the player will be ours. Whilst the issue of him playing alongside such a similar player in Rooney is on our minds, it is still a nice problem to have.
Things really did start getting too good to be true when Richardson was offloaded for a whopping £5.5 million. Our love for Keane is unrelenting, but just to secure a place in our hearts forever, he actually paid us a good sum of money to take Richardson away from us. However, there was still time for the bubble to burst, and it did yesterday.
Whilst £7 million for a player who cost you nothing and hasn’t ever established themselves in your team is nothing to be scoffed at, Rossi is the player who, above all others in our youth ranks, has been tipped for success. Rooney and Van der Sar are amongst the players who have named him as the best finisher at the club, and after a successful period in Italy this season, it made sense that the lad would return to us. To hear that he had been sold on was close to devastating, absolutely gutting.
But now is the time to breathe a huge sigh of relief, as Sir Alex does it again. “We have put in a clause in the contract, so maybe he will come back to us at some stage,” Ferguson said. “We wish Giuseppe well and we know he will do well at Villarreal. It was a difficult decision to let him leave. I had several meetings with him to try and convince him that he would get plenty of football with us this season and all he needed was a bit of patience. But, having been on loan last season, he wanted first-team football all the time.”
Now, our fears aren’t entirely alleviated. Whilst we got away with a strikeforce of Rooney, Saha, Solskjaer and Smith last season (astonishingly, some might say), there is no guarantee of the same this season. Whilst Tevez might come in and be a scoring machine, whilst Saha might stay fit, whilst Rooney might improve on his 23 goals of last season, and whilst Ole might continue on with his super-sub status, there’s every chance that luck goes against us. If we are let down by injuries or form, we could be left to rue the decision to get rid of Rossi.
However, as always, I’d like to look on the more positive side to this. Tevez’s advisors are meeting up with West Ham on Thursday, in a bid to settle the transfer outside of court. If this is resolved then, it means he will be with us for the first game of the season. Rooney and Ronaldo have had an impressive pre-season and it’d be smart to imagine this will continue. We’ve got the addition of Hargreaves to put a bit of grit in our midfield. We’ve got great potential in the likes of Nani and Andersson, who we can hope not only add something to our team, but can give Scholes and Giggs a break. The latter two players could barely run come the FA Cup final last season, so the option of these youngsters will help us get the best out of our experienced veterans for longer. All of this added to the fact we were the best team in England last season.
If Rossi shows himself to be the talent we’ve all been hoping he would emerge as, then we get to bring him back to the club. If Rossi doesn’t fulfil this, then we’ve made £7 million on a player who played just five times for us in the league. This, on top of Richardson’s fee, has earned us over £12 million this summer.
I’d like to see Rossi turn in to a great player, and I’d like to see him return to Old Trafford, however, this deal ensures the best possible outcome for us. After complaints left, right and centre about Ferguson’s handling in the market, being branded naive and out of depth, the club are really starting to make headway.
Come the end of the transfer window, we should have our deals settled, and I hope on top of the brilliant deals we’ve already made, there are a few yet to come, and that Ferguson, yet again, will get the last laugh.