SAF warns against winter deals

Debate amongst fans about the reason for United’s stunning slide

from beaten finalists in May has centred around the midfield. Many

felt it was lacking quality even before Paul Scholes’ retirement in

the summer, and injuries to Tom Cleverley and Anderson, plus

Michael Carrick’s suspension forced Ferguson to rely on 37-year-old

Ryan Giggs and teenage rookie Phil Jones as his central midfield

partnership in Basle. The fact that Ferguson revealed to MUTV

Cleverley may be able to start light training next week after

having a protective boot taken off was a positive sign. However, at

times this season, even Wayne Rooney has been used in that area of

the field, with mixed results. It seems like an unsustainable

situation, especially for a club of United’s standing. However,

Ferguson is not convinced the quality he requires will be available

mid-season. “It is very difficult to buy players in January,” he

said. “You don’t just want to buy any player simply because it

gives you another one. You want to buy someone who can make a

difference. “We have only had maybe four or five signings in my

time here in January. It is not a consistent route for us simply

because of all the disadvantages.” The disadvantages are even more

complicated this year because United are still familiarising

themselves with the rules of the Europa League. For United, that

means they would be allowed to add one player to their Europa

League squad who has played in the Champions League this season, as

long as it was not for one of the other seven clubs who have been

dropped into the secondary competition. “It is not easy to get

players in January,” said Ferguson. “I am not quite sure if you

went for a player if he could play in the Europa League. There is

criteria there in the sense of playing in the Champions League and

whether they could play in the Europa League. “There are a lot of

issues there but there is nothing in my mind at the moment.”

Ferguson has made January signings though. Andy Cole and Louis Saha

for a start, also Diego Forlan. And two of his best buys, Patrice

Evra and Nemanja Vidic, were signed a month after their last

unscheduled Champions League group stage exit six years ago. “At

the time we were looking to get players in who were important in

certain positions,” said Ferguson. “After Denis Irwin retired it

was very difficult to get a left-back with quality. Patrice was the

one we identified. “Nemanja is a lad I went to see in Paris three

or four years before that when he played for Serbia against France.

“But they played with three centre-backs and I was unable to really

get a feel that he could play in a back four. “He went to Russia

and played in a back four there, so we knew there wouldn’t be a

problem and decided to go for him.”