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Mass Exodus or Masterful Mind Games?

As we enter ‘squeeky-bum time’ in the season, the entire campaign can be decided by the smallest of margains and if there is a possibility that the old wily master can get an extra 1% performance increase out of his players,  that Sir Alex will utilise such an opportunity is obvious.  The 69 year old Manchester United supremo has dropped a big hint that there could be wholesale changes amongst the playing personnel come the end of the season.  Whilst this may be true, the timing of this statement seems all the more significant.

My job is to manage United and to produce results and I am no different to any other manager. I will not be regarded in the same way if I am not successful.

‘Everything to do with me is black and white. If it’s on the football field and I see something that I feel is a retrograde step for the club, I have to act and make decisions.

‘I can make quick decisions and I am lucky that way. In management, you have to be able to make decisions and sometimes you are not right, but that doesn’t concern me too much because the important thing is being able to do it.’

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By delivering the news that certain players could be on their way out may work advantageously for the best interests of the club.  Those who feel they have a point to prove following recent disappointing displays may well step up their game in fear of their heads being on the proverbial chopping block.  That is, those who have this sort of mentality.  Conversely, it may work the opposite way in that those who are concerned, may take those worries onto the pitch and as a result play with such fear that would lead to a need to avoid failure, a tendency to ‘go missing’ or an unwillingness to get on the ball and try to force the issue.

However, we are talking about professional players.  The same players who have won major honours and represented their respective countries at various levels.  Players who have appeared in Champions League matches and World Cups so surely, these are personalities who can handle the big occasion?  You would think……….

The lacklustre and dour display against City at the weekend may have cast doubt over certain players credibility to stake a claim for the right to call themselves a Manchester United player next season.  The obvious example for criticism would be Michael Carrick.  The midfielders lazy and panicked pass gifted possession to Yaya Toure and, well we all know the rest.  However, Carrick’s recent performances have been greatly improved after struggling for the majority of the season.  Two world class displays against Chelsea in the Champions League seemed to signify that he had turned the corner prior to the FA Cup semi.  Defensively, he had been excellent in the last few games and the fact that he has signed a contract extension certainly suggests he is staying put.

One player who could be saying farewell in the summer is Dimitar Berbatov.  Ironically, the Bulgarian has had his best ever season in a Utd shirt, leading the Premier League’s scoring chart with 21 goals this term.  Despite this, the jury is still out amongst some Utd fans and seemingly Fergie is still unsure.  Berba has been incredibly unlucky to be dropped in recent weeks due to the irresistible form and development of the partnership between Rooney and Hernandez.  That said, he was given his big chance against City at Wembley and ultimately, he fluffed his lines.  After missing two excellent chances in the first half, Berba was a shadow of his former self and was completely bossed by Kompany and Lescott throughout.

Other than his superb hat-trick against Liverpool at Old Trafford, Berba’s goals have generally come against so-called lesser opposition.  Add into this the fact that he hasn’t scored a Champions League goal since his brace against Celtic way way back on the 21st October 2009 and an obvious criticism looms.  These indicators seem to suggest that Berbatov is not a player for the big occasion and this is a notion that will gather more momentum should he end the season poorly.

Fergie has never been shy to wield the axe for any reason if he feels it is within the best interests of the club.  No player is exempt.  Keano crossed the line with one too many verbal assaults on his team mates and was promptly shipped off to Celtic.  Becks apparently grew too big for his boots and again he was out the door.  Other stars such as Jaap Stam, Ruud, Paul Ince, Paul McGrath, Mark Hughes, Dwight Yorke and Andrei Kanchelskis have all paid the ultimate price under Fergie when he has decided that enough is enough.  As Fergie has said himself, there is no room for sentiment in football and if he is of the belief that he has got the best out of a player, regardless of their stature in the game, he will demonstrate and apply his notorious ruthlessness.

Whilst this not-so-subtle hint may be another masterful moment from the master of mind-games, it may well ring true come the end of the season.  Paul Scholes seems likely to join Edwin Van der Saar in hanging up his boots and if reports are to be believed, this may be the final season for numerous other players in a Utd shirt.  Michael Owen has not been offered a new deal and looks set to leave the club.  Likewise Owen Hargreaves where constant injury problems have plagued him and deprived the world of what would of otherwise surely have been a glittering career at the club.  The rumours circulating regarding Berbatov to Bayern Munich may test the clubs resolve if a large offer is received for the now 30 year old.  Add to this the names of Wes Brown, Darren Gibson, Gabriel Obertan, Bebe and John O’Shea who all have uncertain futures and it could well be the case that Sir Alex decides to stamp his authority on the squad once more with one final cull.

Who do you think will/should leave the club in the summer?  Please leave your views below

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