Another summer another 'crisis' for Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson
24 June 2009 12:17
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Every year, the United manager finds some burning issue waiting to be resolved when he sits back at his desk.
In 2005, Rio Ferdinand was threatening not to sign a new contract, 12 months later saw Ruud van Nistelrooy sold and doubts over the Old Trafford future of Cristiano Ronaldo, suddenly England's most 'hated' man following his part in Wayne Rooney's World Cup dismissal against Portugal.
United can't afford 'Ronaldo replacement'2007 brought the drawn out pursuit of Carlos Tevez and Ferguson's stubborn refusal to sell Gabriel Heinze to Liverpool, while last summer just happened to revolve around Ronaldo and Real Madrid once again.
It is never simple at United. Quiet summers just aren't on the agenda at Old Trafford and this one has already seen Ronaldo leave for Real and Tevez walk through the door after rejecting a five-year contract.
When Ferguson gets back to work next Monday, the major issue he has to resolve this time around is just who he can find to replace the 41 goals delivered by Ronaldo and Tevez last season.
United appear worrying light up front at the moment. If they start the season without adding to the current forward line, then the pressure on Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov to deliver the goods will be intense because, behind them, Ferguson only has teenagers Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda.
A few more goals from midfield wouldn't go amiss, but Paul Scholes is no longer a 10 goals-a-season man, nor is Ryan Giggs. Michael Carrick could be, but he needs to make that progression quickly.
Ferguson has no option but to recruit at least one goalscorer, but his problem will be finding that man because the options are hardly over-flowing.
Having banked £80m for Ronaldo, and with £25m set aside for new signings each summer by the Glazers, money isn't an issue for Fergie.
But despite his financial resources, snapping up a player who will guarantee at least 20 league goals next season is looking an increasingly difficult challenge.
If Ferguson could sign any striker in the world, then Fernando Torres would probably be the No 1 choice, but Rafael Benitez would not sell Torres to United for even double the £80m Real Madrid have spent to secure Ronaldo.
Kaka might have been next on Ferguson's list, but he has already been snapped up by Real. Nicolas Anelka topped the Premier League scoring charts last season, but again, Chelsea will not sell to United.
As for the rest, who is actually emerging as the next big thing on the global stage?
Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid and Karim Benzema at Lyon both have potential and United are seriously interested in Benzema, but it would be asking a lot to expect either of them to fill the hole left by Ronaldo and Tevez.
Sadly for England, there is nobody worthy of United's interest in Fabio Capello's squad. Can you really imagine Ferguson signing Peter Crouch or Emile Heskey? Thought not.
In 1987, when Ferguson wanted a striker to become the first United forward to score 20 league goals since George Best in the 1960s, he headed north of the border to sign Brian McClair from Celtic.
McClair did the job asked of him by scoring 20 league goals in his first season at Old Trafford, but it's difficult to imagine United even casting a glance towards Scotland nowadays. The talent just isn't there.
In 1992, Alan Shearer was the hottest striker in the country when he rejected United to sign for Blackburn, but there are no Shearers out there now. There are no Ruud van Nistelrooys either.
Samuel Eto'o, at 28, would be a backwards step, especially with the likelihood of him being away on African Cup of Nations duty with Cameroon for six weeks in the New Year.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be worth a look, but despite topping the Serie A charts with Inter Milan last season, the Swede has rarely lived up to his hype when the spotlight has been on him in the Champions League or at major international tournaments.
Ferguson is faced with farming a fallow field as he attempts to identify United's next great goalscorer, but his scouting network spans the globe and they will be working overtime to come up with the man Old Trafford desperately needs.