Sir Alex Ferguson indicated last night that there may be some fundamental changes to his side this summer as he spoke of a need to "freshen", with one or two players possibly on their way out of the club.
Ferguson suggested that the effort of competing for four successive league titles as well as cup competitions had taken its toll and had "a draining effect" on some. "You have to be aware of that and spot the moment where you say it's time to freshen, time to change one or two players. It's not a desire to do it; it's a need to do it simply because the demands and pressures on players over a long period can be quite exacting."
Whom he might feel needs replacing remains unclear, though Dimitar Berbatov's struggle to make an impact when Wayne Rooney's injury curtailed his last month of the season may be a consideration, even though United would sell the £30.25m Bulgarian at a loss. And those who ought to be proving successors to Paul Scholes – Michael Carrick and Anderson – have plainly not this season. "What I have to make decisions on now is how we can improve the team having already built a new team," Ferguson said, on an evening when Wayne Rooney was named fans' and players' player of the year. It was "difficult to say" what levels of change were needed, he declared, though the £20m spent on Fulham's Chris Smalling, the Mexican striker Javier Fernandez and the Senegalese Mame Diouf from Norwegian club Molde does not seem to be the limit of his ambition.
Rooney, meanwhile, joked at his manager's expense that "he's trying to get us to play like he did" and declared himself ready for the World Cup. "We are the best country, so we are definitely going to win it," he said.
Ferguson also revealed yesterday that he had to talk Scholes out of retiring. Ferguson, who disclosed that Jonny Evans has been awarded a new contract, said: "I did speak to him. He'd intimated that he may retire at the end of the season. I said, 'I'll decide when you retire... look, Paul, you can play there's no question of that. Your ability's there, there's no deterioration in your actual play."Reuse content