While the reconstruction of the midfield remains the overriding priority, the decision to spend £11.7m on the defenders Nemenja Vidic and Patrice Evra confirms not only that he has the unqualified support of Malcolm Glazer but that Ferguson's frustrations extend beyond the search for Roy Keane's replacement and Chelsea's outstanding level of consistency.
The United manager announced yesterday that Evra, a left-back, will complete a £4.5m move from Monaco on Monday following talks between the United chief executive David Gill, the player's agent Frederico Pastorello and the Monaco vice-president Gerard Brianti in Monte Carlo on Thursday. Tellingly, he also hoped that the French international would play in the Carling Cup semi-final at Blackburn on Wednesday.
Ferguson has not purchased players to strengthen the depth of his squad but to immediately improve 50 per cent of his defence, as the willingness to pay £7.2m to Spartak Moscow for Vidic illustrates. Both players are 24 and have a rich European pedigree, so Ferguson's appeals for time and understanding for his developing youngsters cannot apply to them. Once Gabriel Heinze returns from injury next season United should have a rearguard that compliments their lauded forward line.
"We have been looking at Evra for some time," Ferguson said. "He has improved every season, he's quick, a good football player, and the captain of Monaco."
Having bemoaned his lack of options this season Ferguson insists that he is now happy with the size of his squad, though bizarrely he also admitted: "We are one short in midfield with Roy leaving." He refused to discuss whether the weakest area of his side would be improved during the transfer window or whether his new arrivals would signal the departure of others, notably Mikaël Silvestre and John O'Shea. Silvestre is out of contract at the end of next season and has not been approached about an extension, and interest from clubs in France, including Lyon, makes him a saleable asset. "I have never said he is leaving," Ferguson said.
Silvestre will be on duty for United in the FA Cup third-round tie at Burton Albion tomorrow, a game in which Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is expected to make his first senior start since May 2004. The Norwegian, who has recovered from a career-threatening knee injury, is due to start with Louis Saha, Phil Bardsley, Park Ji-Sung, Tim Howard, Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Smith and Wes Brown in a side that Ferguson hopes will contain enough experience to avoid a repeat of last season's embarrassing Old Trafford draw with Exeter City at the same stage.
"There will be a lot of changes but it is not a question of taking a risk, only of using our squad properly after four games in eight days. The mistake we made last season was playing so many young players who had not had a game for three weeks because reserve-team football had shut down before Christmas. In a way I was delighted for Exeter. They made enough money to keep themselves going for years and it was a reminder that you cannot take things for granted."
Paul Scholes is still unavailable as he recovers from the concussion he suffered at Birmingham on 28 December.
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