Whilst reigning English Premier League champions Manchester United have had their pre-season tour of Asia constantly interrupted by the nagging irritation of the Wayne Rooney saga, that has seemingly followed them around the continent like a hungry mosquito, there is perhaps another more searching bug that may find them out when they begin the defence of their crown in a little over two weeks from now that will not be so easy to swat away with spin.
United’s relentless pursuit of Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas is surely testimony to the hole that needs to be filled in central midfield, vacated by the retirement of the outstanding Paul Scholes.
Scholes became the butt of many a joke with relation to precisely what time in a game that he was going to get booked. However, very few players could deliver a deft pass so frequently as Scholes could in his heyday.
Two seasons ago when the noisy neighbours of Manchester City pipped their more illustrious rivals to the title, it was the shy ginger haired lad from Langley who was the linchpin in keeping tabs on City.
The acquisition of Robin van Persie last year alleviated some of the pressure on United’s midfielders and Rooney often slipped back into the pocket behind the regular Dutch goalscorer.
However, should Rooney depart to Chelsea or elsewhere and Fabregas stays as expected at his boyhood club in Catalonia, then unless they fill the void quickly United may well find themselves reliant solely on the skills of the outstanding Shinji Kagawa.
Will that be enough though? With Giggs turning 40 in November and nobody in the mould of Keane about to protect the heart of their defence anymore, the Red Devils could once again find themselves chasing a City side, that has been spending more money in the summer window than is handed out to a retiring BBC executive.
Manchester City’s spending has already topped the £90 million (US$136.9 million) mark in the past few months, with the smart looking investments of Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo. United on the other hand have only so far bought the Uruguayan fullback Guillermo Varela.
Fernandinho is considered good enough to feature for Brazil, and Navas and Negredo have played a combined 42 times for World and European champions Spain. There will be no African Cup of Nations this coming season to deprive City of Yaya Toure for an entire month, and with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko to call on, Man City look stronger than ever.
David Moyes needs a miracle midfield makeover and fast, or else the sounds of Blue Moon and the rhythmic sways of The Poznan will be ringing and lingering in the ears and eyes of United.
However, a certain man from Portugal might just poke his way into the fray, or may be it is time for the Wenger Boys to finally deliver. Whatever happens, it should be another season to savour.