Sir Alex Ferguson is faced with the unenviable dilemma of having to renew his defence and also review his targets. While Laurent Blanc, his veteran centre-back, confirmed that he will be retiring at the end of the current campaign, Bixente Lizarazu dealt a further blow to Manchester United's manager by pledging his future to Bayern Munich for at least one more season.
Lizarazu, who was approached last summer about the possibility of a switch to Old Trafford, has long been a favourite of Ferguson's. After the Frenchman's performance in Wednesday's 0-0 draw at Old Trafford it is easy to see why.
The 32-year-old defender kept David Beckham quiet for the entire match, and offered plenty going forward.
"I am always flattered when a club the size of Man United show an interest in me," the World Cup and European Championship winner said. "But I have one year left on my Bayern contract and there is no way I would ever break that."
His fellow Frenchman Blanc, meanwhile, has no such problems. His one-year deal with United runs out in June, when he plans to hang up his boots for good. Not that he has been offered a new contract, anyway. "There is nothing to think about," he said. "I have made up my mind and that is that. I have thought long and hard about retiring, and I think it's fair to say that I am feeling the effects of games more. This is the logical thing to do."
Blanc's decision seems irreversible. "Laurent is such a pro," said Lizarazu, who played alongside the 36-year-old defender on more than 30 occasions for France, "that if he says it's time, then it's time. He must know whether or not his body can carry on. It will be a huge loss to football, but I'm just pleased I got to face him one last time." That is, of course, unless they meet again in the semi-finals, or even the final.Reuse content