Fergie: There's life after Ron

07 August 2009 09:04
THE post-Cristiano Ronaldo era kicks off in earnest on Sunday. For the first time since 2003, United will begin a season without their Portuguese talisman, with question marks still remaining as to whether Sir Alex Ferguson has adequately accounted for his loss. In many ways the United manager has avoided the onerous task of replacing the irreplaceable by not even trying. Antonio Valencia is an entirely different player and will assume the role of a more orthodox winger than the irrepressible match-winning machine that was Ronaldo. But as Ferguson has been at pains to point out in a trying summer, United have always been greater than the sum of their parts. And even without the man who has been the catalyst for a hat-trick of Premier League titles and back-to-back Champions League finals, he remains convinced there is life after the World Footballer of the Year. United supporters are not so sure. And while Sunday's Community Shield against Chelsea is technically just one more glorified friendly, the season's traditional curtain-raiser will come under intense scrutiny from those still looking for assurances that there can be a brave new world without Ronaldo. Ferguson's hitherto modest dealings in the transfer market have hardly soothed fears - but rather than replacing Ronaldo with another mega-money signing, he believes the Portuguese international is proof that it is not necessary to break the bank in order to get the best. In the likes of Anderson, Nani and Federico Macheda, he is confident he already has players at his disposal who can emerge as world class performers. Phenomenal "Cristiano Ronaldo was a case in point," said Ferguson. "We spotted him and bought him for a modest £12m. In the six years we had him he became the world's best player. "Of course we will miss him, especially his phenomenal scoring and the way he put the opposition under pressure with the brave way he attacked defenders. We were never a one-man team and we have other players who will rise to the occasion and fill the gap. "My belief in the strength of our squad goes a lot deeper than our recent additions. "We have some terrific young players who are breaking into the side at the moment - players like Federico Macheda, Danny Welbeck, Darron Gibson, Jonny Evans and the da Silva twins. So we're in very good shape. "Anderson and Nani are young players who are nowhere near their peak. They're going to develop and mature. Their best years are still to come. "To balance that, we have Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand and Edwin van der Sar, who give us experience and stability." For all the potential of Ferguson's latest generation of young stars, much will depend on the big names that still remain at Old Trafford. Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, in particular, will be charged with the responsibility of making up for the goals of Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Ferguson is convinced he now knows how best to utilise Berbatov after an indifferent debut season for the Bulgarian international. Pressure

On too many occasions last term the £30.75m striker cut a frustrating and disinterested figure. But played as a more orthodox forward, alongside Rooney, Ferguson hopes he can prove the inspirational force that he was while playing at Tottenham. It is Rooney, however, who will most feel the pressure to replace Ronaldo. A player who both Ferguson and England manager Fabio Capello believe can develop into the world's best, he will become the focal point of United's bid to win a fourth successive title. Often sacrificied to accommodate Ronaldo's free spirit, he should now be afforded the licence to be the chief source of inspiration at Old Trafford. Sunday's Wembley clash with Chelsea should give the biggest hint yet of Ferguson's thinking for the new season. He may yet splash out on the likes of David Silva or Sergio Aguero, but the shape of his side is already very much in place following the signings of Valencia, Michael Owen and Gabriel Obertan. He has suggested that United will play a more rigid 4-4-2 in the absence of Ronaldo, and it will be interesting to see how his side lines up against Chelsea. Defensively he is likely to be without Nemanja Vidic and Wes Brown, which should mean starts for Jonny Evans and John O'Shea. Ben Foster is expected to get the nod ahead of Tomasz Kuszczak in goal following Van der Sar's broken hand. Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher look set to start the season as the first choice central midfield pairing, with Valencia showing great promise in his three appearances so far on the right. But Ferguson is still scrapping around on the left, which is why he has monitored Silva so closely. Zoran Tosic looks too frail for now, while Nani has yet to prove convincing as a left winger. Ji-Sung Park is an effective operator in that position, but lacks the natural attacking instincts of a traditional winger. It is possible Ferguson could continue to play a fluid 4-3-1-2 system allowing Ryan Giggs more of a floating role, though that is at odds with his suggestion that United will revert to a 4-4-2. Owen will push the Rooney and Berbatov partnership hard up front, but is likely to have to accept his role as third choice striker for the start of the season at least. What do you think? Tell us your comments

Source: Manchester_EveningNews