Despite pledging wholesale changes in the wake of Manchester United's stunning FA Cup defeat to Leeds, Sir Alex Ferguson has insisted he will not be looking to the January transfer market for reinforcements.
Nemanja Vidic's late withdrawal with an unspecified complaint just before the United manager suffered his first defeat to lower-league opposition in the competition appeared to have increased the pressure to bring in players from outside Old Trafford. Ferguson has always claimed that the £80m raised by the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo has not been used to service the club's £699m debt but is available for player recruitment.
"Inevitably, people look to this month's transfer window as a solution to our injury worries," he told the United Review magazine. "But it is not the answer. If someone could give me the name of a really good centre-half who would accept a three-month contract, then I would jump at the chance but where do you find a player like that?
"A decent player would be looking for a three-year contract and I don't need that kind of addition. It is already difficult enough leaving good players out without adding another one to the mix. We will continue to scout and recruit young players to develop but I won't be looking for a senior player to ease our defensive crisis. Hopefully, the worst is over anyway and we can get some stability at the back."
That stability would have been shaken with Vidic's withdrawal, especially given the Serb's continuing appearance of being unsettled at Old Trafford. His wife, Ana, has reportedly not taken to life in the north-west and the 28-year-old has been courted by both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Ferguson did little to dampen down the uncertainty around Vidic by replying: "I couldn't tell you at all," when asked what was wrong with the player.
However, the return of goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to United's training ground at Carrington after returning to the Netherlands to care for his sick wife and Jonny Evans' comeback after nearly two months on the sidelines, will give Ferguson further and better options.
Ferguson will escape any FA action over his post-match comments at Old Trafford. Ferguson claimed the time added on at the end of the game was an "insult" but the FA does not believe Ferguson has crossed the line.
United's former midfielder, Lou Macari, argued that there was too little fight at Old Trafford. "The problem is that the players simply are not there any more," said Macari, now an analyst on the club's TV station, MUTV. "In the past United had guys like Steve Bruce, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson and Mark Hughes, who would go to war to win a match. I don't see many of these characters now. People talk about Wayne Rooney and quite rightly so, but he sticks out like a sore thumb. They regarded the game [against Leeds] as part of their job. Football is so big these days that players get built up to be something they are not. They are told how good they are when actually they have achieved very little."
Benzema factor: Can Sir Alex ever spend the Ronaldo millions?
If Sir Alex Ferguson is correct in his claim that the Cristiano Ronaldo move to Real Madrid gives him freedom in the transfer market, then there could be no more obvious target than Real Madrid's mercurial forward, Karim Benzema. The 22-year-old has never really settled at the Bernabeu, where he has crashed cars, struggled to learn Spanish and failed to impress manager Manuel Pellegrini with his work-rate.
Ever since attempting to lure Paul Gascoigne to Old Trafford, Ferguson has relished working with "difficult" footballers. He was first linked for a move for Benzema as long ago as 2008 after the Lyons president Jean-Michel Aulas accused Ferguson of tapping him up following an impressive display against United in the Champions League. However, it was long rumoured in Lyons that Benzema had already agreed a pre-contract with Madrid, although Manchester United did try to muscle in on the deal. Ferguson, however, viewed the eventual €35m (£31.4m) fee as being poor value for money. Nevertheless, Real Madrid are unlikely to give him up for less than they paid.