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24 Jun 2011

Sir Alex Ferguson knew major work needed to be done to rebuild his Manchester United team at the end of last season and he has responded in style with his dealings in the transfer market so far this summer.

Ashley Young's arrival from Aston Villa comes swiftly after the signing of Phil Jones from Blackburn, with Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea also expected to move to Old Trafford along with a high-class midfield player.

This underlines what Ferguson will have known when he saw United outclassed by Barcelona in the Champions League Final at Wembley. The loss did not exactly do United a favour but it would have confirmed in his mind that the time had come to respond and address the fact that they were obviously on the wane.

Some may have been fooled by United winning the Premier League but they were the best of a bad bunch and Ferguson is brutally realistic. I stand by my belief that Ferguson dragged those players to the title and if he had been in charge of any other team in the top four they would have claimed the crown.

How United won the title playing as badly as they did away from home, where they were abysmal on so many occasions, was almost beyond belief and Ferguson will have been well aware they may not have got away with it next season.

Ferguson had two factors to address. The team was awful for long spells last season and really suffered against Barcelona, while the natural passage of time was the catalyst for change with goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes retiring and Ryan Giggs coming towards the end of his career. Giggs was magnificent last season but can you see him having another season like that at the age of 37? I can't.

He has bought Jones, who is only a youngster, and there must be questions about whether he will be an exciting and important player next season because he is clearly a signing for the future. Young is a proven, fabulous player with great delivery who will add much.

But if you watched United last season and tried to uncover where they were struggling you could not be specific because it was right through the team, they were weak all over. The fact that they won the league was a work of art in itself, the sign of a great club and a great manager with Ferguson as the key component.

The loss of Scholes and the fact that Giggs is another year nearer the end of his career means Ferguson is almost certain to strengthen in midfield. He has been linked with Tottenham's Luka Modric and Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan, both fabulous players.

I do not know where Modric is going, or even if he is going because Spurs chairman Daniel Levy gave Chelsea very short shrift last week, but if I was Ferguson I would break the bank to land the Croatian as he would fit the bill perfectly.

Modric is a class act and his performance when Spurs won at Liverpool on the final day of last season was as good as it gets. When the ball comes to him he doesn't just instinctively know his three options, he knows the best one to take. He also always has time and space in abundance - the hallmark of the great player.

Ferguson will obviously recruit a goalkeeper to replace Van der Sar and that is going to be a huge decision because Edwin was a major part of their success last season and has been for the last five years.

De Gea appears to be the chosen one but the hardest person to replace in your team is always the goalkeeper, as proved by United's struggles to find a quality successor to Peter Schmeichel. Bringing a foreign keeper into the English game is always hit and miss because a big part of the game here is the ball into the box.

We have seen the likes of Heurelho Gomes struggle to cope with that aspect whereas Van der Sar was consummate and his communication skills were wonderful as well. De Gea is only a young boy so it will be very intriguing to see how he goes if he does sign for United.

Retirement and age has taken some of Ferguson's best players out of the equation as well as powerful influences in the dressing room, but he is a master of this sort of situation.

Sir Alex will also be aware of the challenges coming from elsewhere. United and Chelsea undoubtedly came back towards the pack last season and Manchester City may feel they will never have a better chance of winning the Premier League than next time around.

They will spend, Roman Abramovich will back his new Chelsea manager Andre Villlas-Boas while over at Anfield, where not much escapes Ferguson's attention, they now have the Kenny Dalglish factor.

Liverpool will clearly strengthen their squad this summer and there is still the feel-good factor from the way Dalglish galvanised the whole club when he came in. Luis Suarez will also be ready for his first full season and he was sensational after coming to Anfield in January.

So Ferguson will have factored all of this in and history tells us there is nobody better at coming out on top when put in a pressurised position. He clearly means business after taking stock of the current condition of his squad and wants to move forward to new successes.

And you would never back against Ferguson, you can't back against Ferguson, because if he can take his team to the title playing the way they did last season then they would have to start as favourites next season as he begins the process of building his latest Old Trafford model.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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