Unrelenting hunger sees Ferguson set early transfer running

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The Independent Online

He has told us that he will defer the piano lessons he needs and the belated German lessons that he covets because he has seen what retirement did to his father. "He retired on his 65th birthday, and one year later he was dead. The worst you can do is put your slippers on..." But the events of the past six weeks tell us that something else is driving Sir Alex Ferguson's desire to work on.

The opportunistic £20m bid for Samir Nasri tabled two to three weeks ago contributes to the sense that Ferguson considers himself to be back in precisely the same place as 10 years back, when Roy Keane was railing against the side's inadequacies and Ferguson went out and spent £47m on Juan Sebastian Veron and Ruud van Nistelrooy. This summer United have spent £50m already and are still busy. The sense an overhaul lay ahead began afflicting Ferguson months ago and certainly long before the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona.

It was in early April that Ferguson began pressing Paul Scholes about his plans for the future, about the time the manager met Soren Lerby, Wesley Sneijder's agent, before the away match at West Ham.

Thus began the groundwork which has seen United set the early running this summer, spending £17m on Blackburn Rovers' Phil Jones, £17m on Aston Villa's Ashley Young and £18.9m on Atletico Madrid goalkeeper David de Gea. Jones and De Gea are the easy part. More complex is the reshaped midfield.

Young is generally seen as a replacement for Ryan Giggs, but last month Fabio Capello said Young is best deployed centrally, "not left-wing or right wing". The growing consensus is that Young operates best there.

That would place him in competition with Wayne Rooney, whose partnership operating in the hole behind Javier Hernandez has started delivering such potent results for United. The arrival of Sneijder would complicate things further, but Scholes was exuberant about the idea of him signing. "We've been linked to top players, especially Sneijder who has done it in the World Cup as well," he said.

Ferguson's record on signing expensive attacking midfielders is not peerless – he certainly got Veron all wrong. But Scholes is a believer, where Ferguson is concerned, and said: "He will have been thinking about the Barcelona game all summer and working out how he can avoid that sort of thing happening again."

Where Ferguson's itch is concerned, expect anything in the weeks to come.

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