Season shape-up - Man Utd

Mark Buckingham looks at how Manchester United are preparing for the defence of their title.

We look at how sides are gearing up for the new campaign

Manchester United have yet to show their hand in the transfer market this summer, with the immediate priority fending off Real Madrid's interest in Cristiano Ronaldo. In the first part of our Shaping up for the Season series, Mark Buckingham looks at whether Ronaldo will stay at Old Trafford and where Sir Alex Ferguson will be seeking to improve after last season's success in the Premier League and Champions League.

What's happened so far

In summary, precious little. There may be a new twist or angle on the Ronaldo story on an hourly basis, but in truth there has been nothing concrete to emerge from the saga aside from United reporting Real Madrid to Fifa for their public pursuit of the Portuguese winger. Ronaldo is currently on holiday with his WAG and, judging by the holiday snaps, doesn't seem to be in too much of a hurry to return to the inclement Manchester climate to resolve his future and undergo a minor ankle operation. Who can blame him? He has repeatedly said he 'dreams' of playing for Real Madrid, but with the Spanish champions saying they won't make a bid until United decide to sell, the stand-off could last until 31st August when the transfer window closes. Upon returning to his desk this week, United boss Ferguson will doubtless look to focus on bringing in new signings, rather than become irked by Real's latest soundbites of respect for United and admiration for Ronaldo. As usual, the Red Devils have been linked with a string of big-name signings - the likes of Dimitar Berbatov, Karim Benzema, Roque Santa Cruz and Bastian Schweinsteiger may not always trip easily off the tongue, but they would certainly add something extra to the United squad. Euro 2008 has not really seen any new names, Schweinsteiger aside, become reported United targets, but much is likely to depend on what does eventually happen with Ronaldo, with half of Real's squad to be used as bait to land last season's Footballer of the Year. Mikael Silvestre and Louis Saha have been tipped to move on, and Ferguson is unlikely to bend over backwards to keep the French duo, with every other senior member of the first-team squad seemingly happy and settled after last season's double success. Gerard Pique has been sold to Barcelona, but the focus and attention has firmly been on the future of 42-goal man Ronaldo, who has stopped short of coming out with an outright declaration of intent to join Real this summer.

What they need

A right winger, if Ronaldo goes! They don't necessarily need to keep Ronaldo to be as successful as last season, but it would all revolve around who was brought in to fill the 23-year-old's boots. A right-back could also be targeted by Ferguson, although much will depend on how club captain Gary Neville shapes up during pre-season after his last campaign was wrecked by injury. An out-an-out striker would be many people's idea of the priority for United's squad given Saha's injury troubles and it would be a surprise if a new No.9 does not come into the club, while cover at centre-half and left-back could also be considered. Ferguson is likely to have around £50million to spend as it stands, although that sum would certainly double, if he does decide to accept a mega profit by selling Ronaldo to Real.

What they'll get

By the time of the Community Shield game against Portsmouth on 10th August, Ferguson will hope to have his squad for the coming season finalised. Exorbitant sums have been quoted for the likes of Berbatov and Benzema, but Ferguson is unlikely to pay over the odds for new signings, particularly when they would not be considered as automatic starters, so Blackburn's Santa Cruz would appear to be the most viable option. Ronaldo is the big imponderable and it is hard to predict the state of United's squad for the start of the season until a firm decision is made on his future. As for exits, Silvestre and Saha could be shipped out to allow a general improvement in the overall squad, while young defender Jonny Evans could also be sold. Striker Fraizer Campbell, a hit in Hull City's promotion campaign, may also be on the move back to the KC Stadium.

Fan's view - Darren Lee

Strengthening our full-backs is a key area for United. Having built their success on defence last year, it's key we get depth on the full-backs. I would see a better long-term option in Danny Simpson etc than John O'Shea from both an attacking and defensive situation. Obviously, the Ronaldo saga will play itself out but I would be looking to strengthen the wingers as we are struggling to find a natural left attacking wingman, as Giggs gets older. Finally an "out and out" striker is needed so as to take pressure off the midfielders/wingers to be the bulk of the goalscorers and allow Rooney as a linkman. Perhaps a 4-4-2 system may be the answer again for the double winners. What do you think to the champions' pre-season transfer activity? Let us have your thoughts using the form below.

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