Old Trafford needs new faces to justify transfer

United post Beckham: Ronaldinho Ferguson's target

Sir Alex Ferguson, like the fan of horseracing that he is, knows that selling David Beckham for around £25m is a safe bet and a good return in anybody's money. However, that philosophy is not always popular with the punters.

The Manchester United manager will be tested by the way he appeases those who think selling Beckham is related to personalities. However, he can dispel the memory of Beckham by signing players who will improve his side and win that ultimate prize, the Champions' League.

Ferguson is now in a stronger position to move back in for Paris St-Germain's Ronaldinho, the type of match-winning talent his team has often lacked post-Cantona. He will, however, cost about £15m. Real should also now be out of the equation.

United also want to sign a midfield understudy to Roy Keane. Nantes' Cameroonian Eric Djemba-Djemba is the subject of a £2.5m bid, a deal that should be completed after the Confederations Cup. United would prefer to sign Claude Makelele but Real refused to include him as part of the Beckham deal and individually he would cost a prohibitive £15m.

United have already lined up the American goalkeeper Tim Howard for £1.8m. He is cheap but may prove to be significant if he can become the No 1 choice as many insiders believe he can. Sunderland's striker David Bellion is also joining - the fee, which is subject to a tribunal should be around £1m.

Ferguson is strong enough to take the criticism and wise enough to explain the Beckham sale, but the true mark of whether it was a wise move or not is in the way the void is filled. Ferguson has a habit of getting these things right.

However, while the sale of Paul Ince, which was criticised at the time, worked out perfectly, selling the Dutch centre-half, Jaap Stam, was ultimately questioned because of the calibre of the replacements, notably Laurent Blanc.

There is unlikely to be a straight replacement for Beckham, his departure may also see a change of style. There will be no one to take those memorable free-kicks. But if there is someone to hold aloft the Champions' League trophy all will be forgiven.

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