The hurt, and in many cases anger, from Manchester United’s agonizing Champions League exit to Real Madrid will still be raw for the club’s fans and players.
One man that is likely already thinking about the future, though, is manager Sir Alex Ferguson. The United boss has created his phenomenal legacy out of recovering from disappointments and immediately rebuilding for a fresh challenge.
Ferguson has admitted many times that he feels United should have won more European Cups under his charge and, with a 20th league title for the club all-but sealed, it is quite possible that another Champions League triumph is his last goal in a glittering career.
United were certainly unlucky against Madrid, but there can also be little doubt that the squad can be strengthened. Here are six players who United could target this summer to bring European glory back to Old Trafford next season.
Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund)
Manchester United have been linked to the prolific Poland international since last summer when he was reportedly pursued before the signing of Robin van Persie. Lewandowski has confirmed that he won’t be extending his contract that expires in the summer of 2014, with a move this summer increasingly likely.
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Another front man would not appear to be a priority at Old Trafford, but, if Wayne Rooney were to depart this summer, then there would be a vacancy. Lewandowski, a natural No.9 would also add a physical penalty box presence that would complement United’s other strikers. Ferguson will have to move fast, though, with Bayern Munich said to be close to a deal.
Victor Wanyama (Celtic)
United have been lacking a genuine strong midfield presence for some time and this summer could be the time to fill that void. Anderson has seemingly been in last chance saloon for some time and has yet to fulfill his potential, meaning that his exit could be on the cards.
Powerful 21-year-old midfielder Wanyama has reportedly been scouted by United several times in the past year and could add an extra dimension to the side. Having excelled in the Champions League, notably against Barcelona, Neil Lennon claimed that Wanyama is worth £25 million, although it is likely he will be available for considerably less.
Marouane Fellaini (Everton)
Fellaini would provide a similar strength to Wanyama in the midfield, although adding more of an attacking threat. The Everton man has saved some of his best performances for matches against United, dominating the clashes at the end of last season and beginning of this. Sir Alex Ferguson is clearly aware of his threat, having deployed Phil Jones to marshal Fellaini in their most recent meeting.
Chelsea are also thought to be strongly interested in the 25-year-old, who would cost in excess of £20 million.
To describe a move for Neymar this summer as ambitious would perhaps be an understatement. All of Europe’s big clubs are seemingly biding their time to swoop as soon as the Brazilian superstar decides the time is right to leave Santos. It appears that moment will be after the 2014 World Cup, although there is mounting evidence that the 21-year-old is stalling his development by remaining in Brazil.
United would appear to be far down the list of potential destinations for the forward, with Barcelona linked strongly for some time. There was a report, though, that United made a late bid in last summer’s transfer window and the signing of Neymar would be an ideal way to show that they mean business.
Ezequiel Garay (Benfica)
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic reunited for a rare appearance together in the second leg against Madrid but there are increasing doubts as to how long the two veterans can continue as a fixture in the United side. Vidic has been hampered by two serious injuries, while, aged, 34, Ferdinand’s contract has yet to be extended this summer.
There are younger alternatives a the club, but Ferguson may decide he needs to bring in another experienced central defender this summer. Various reports have claimed that United are scouting Argentina international Garay with a view to a £15 million summer move. Having had a disappointing spell with Real Madrid, the 26-year-old has been a big success at Benfica.
Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven)
Young Netherlands international Strootman provides another option to strengthen Manchester United’s midfield, having reportedly been on their radar for nearly 18 months. The 23-year-old can ably perform both defensive and offensive duties in midfield as has already captained his country.
Strootman’s agent has hinted that the player could be set for a move to a big European league this summer, although United would likely face competition from Italian giants Milan.