Supporters unhappy with no big name arrivals at the Theatre of Dreams

LONDON: David Beckham’s gone to Real Madrid and Juan Sebastian Veron has joined Chelsea. 

Manchester United defend the English Premier League title with two of their midfield jewels no longer at Old Trafford and the pressure is mounting on manager Alex Ferguson to explain why he hasn’t replaced them. 

“So what is going on with United?” Red Devils fan Andrew Egan said on the club’s official website. “For the first time that I can remember United have weakened their squad. Arsenal might not have strengthened – but at least they have not weakened.” 

“We’ve sold the two best passers of the ball in the Premiership and we still haven’t seen anything close to what resembles a star player coming in,” wrote Pierre Reklev. “This is a sad day for Man United.” 

Ferguson has spent some £10mil on three players – American goalkeeper Tim Howard, Cameroon midfielder Eric Djemba Djemba and French forward David Bellion. Brazilian midfielder Kleberson is awaiting a work permit before he joins. 

COOL CAT:Real Madrid's David Beckham watches a security member stopping a supporter running with a ball to beautographed during a training session in Hong Kong yesterday. - REUTERSpic.

But Ferguson failed to persuade another Brazilian, Ronaldinho, to move to Old Trafford and the World Cup winner moved to Barcelona instead. Damien Duff, also a reported target, is one of seven players so far recruited by Chelsea’s new billionaire Russian owner, Roman Abramovich. 

So maybe Ferguson’s team isn’t quite the attraction he believes it to be. 

After selling Veron to Chelsea for £15mil on Wednesday, Ferguson said he planned to use the cash as well as the £25mil received for Beckham to hire a defender and a striker. 

He has until the end of the month before the domestic transfer deadline. 

“We’ve added three players but we do need two players, possibly up front, but we do need a defender. That’s something we are looking at,” he said. 

“There are clubs selling because the gravy train has stopped at the moment. There’s one massive buyer, that’s Chelsea, and the rest are trying to be sensible. 

“We at United have always kept a good ship, very well balanced in terms of salaries and money paid out and we are always competitive in terms of winning things.” 

In terms of domestic trophies – eight league titles in 11 years – he’s right. But his biggest goal is the European Champions League. 

The Scot guided the Red Devils to a Champions League triumph in 1999 but that’s only the second success the famous club have had in Europe’s premier club competition. The other was in 1968 under Matt Busby. 

Unless he buys soon, Ferguson will go into this season’s competition with a squad the fans believe is weaker than last term. 

“It’s always difficult to let good players go,” Ferguson said. 

“When the first opportunity concerning Juan Sebastian Veron and Chelsea came up I initiated the interest in Kleberson because I felt Kleberson was one for the future and in the long term was good for Manchester United. 

“The initial response from Chelsea was that they didn’t come back and we (still) carried on with the Kleberson deal. 

“The situation was we had a choice of central midfield players and then when another offer came in for Seba we decided to take it.” 

If Kleberson gets his work permit, then the Red Devils will still have a wealth of talent in midfield. 

Ole Gunner Solskjaer, initially signed as a striker, performed well for the Red Devils when Beckham was injured or left out last season. And then there’s Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Phil Neville, Quinton Fortune, Bellion, Djemba Djemba and youngsters such as Kieran Richardson trying to break into the first team. 

But the only experienced alternative to striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy is Uruguayan Diego Forlan while the Red Devils haven’t replaced the retired Laurent Blanc at the back and have defender Wes Brown sidelined until January after knee surgery. 

Injuries have caught up with Keane, who is no longer the foraging midfielder of old and may be switched to a central defensive position. 

Howard is set to replace French World Cup star Fabien Barthez as first choice goalkeeper while Bellion and Djemba Djemba have been hired as back-up players. – AP 

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