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Why Man Utd boss Ferguson regrets not signing Tottenham's Parker in August

Sir Alex Ferguson has to be having second thoughts about not going for Scott Parker during the summer.

Admission that Tom Cleverley's injury is worse than first feared only exacerbates the problems in midfield the Manchester United manager needs to confront. The energy and mobility Cleverley - and Ashley Young - added to United in the early part of the season masked problems so exposed by Barcelona in the Champions League final last season - and later exploited by Manchester City in that derby drubbing.

There's been plenty said about the creative void left by Paul Scholes, but Ferguson also lacks a ball-winner. Cleverley was able to cover both shortcomings, but United haven't played with the same pace and snap since Bolton Wanderers captain Kevin Davies took him out at Old Trafford. Ferguson's midfield has looked pedestrian, their build-up laboured and the final pass virtually non-existent. The players are still good enough to challenge for the title in England, but against Champions League opposition - and City - United's flaws have been exposed.

That Ferguson chose to ignore finding a solution over the summer now risks coming back to haunt him - on and off the pitch.

With the January market looming, the Manchester United manager now faces a huge dilemma - which could've been avoided if he'd pull the trigger on Parker before the former West Ham United midfielder had signed with Tottenham.

When winning the prestigious Golden Foot last month, Ryan Giggs was asked by Italian journalists about his former United teammate Giuseppe Rossi. Giggs admitted during Rossi's time at Old Trafford there was little chance of Ferguson keeping the now Villarreal striker happy with the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy ahead of him.

And this is dilemma that again confronts the United manager.

The talk is Inter Milan now need to sell Wesley Sneijder to fund their planned overhaul and have been actively encouraging Ferguson to try again after a frustrating summer in pursuit. Benfica midfielder Nicolas Gatian, Lille's Eden Hazard and now Ajax whizkid Christian Eriksen have all been mentioned as potential solutions to United's creative problem. Then there's Rennes' powerhouse Yann M'Vila, who is greatly admired by Ferguson and would fit perfectly in a midfield lacking genuine defensive steel.

But should any of these candidates arrive, with the pressure of a massive price-tag guaranteeing them an extended chance to prove themselves, where will that leave the clutch of young midfielders which Ferguson has not shied away from talking up since the start of the season?

United staff say they haven't seen a talent like Ravel Morrison since Scholes, Ryan Tunnicliffe is pulling up trees at Peterborough United, Paul Pogba's departure on-loan was blocked by Ferguson as he sees him as first team material - and then you have the fit-again Daniele Petrucci, back after a broken leg and who has been likened to Francesco Totti, plus Robbie Brady, doing so well at Hull City.

The arrival of a 27 year-old Sneijder, or an even younger M'Vila or Eriksen isn't going to go down well with players like Pogba, who is now in the middle of protracted talks over a new deal.

Everything could have been solved if Ferguson had gone for Parker.

As he's shown for club and country, Parker has been dynamic at both ends of the pitch this season. With England he's primarily been employed in a holding role, while at Spurs the former Hammers man is high up the table in terms of assists. And against Spain, he proved himself well capable of matching it with the game's very best.

Parker could've solved both problems weighing heavily on United's midfield and at 31, would not have appeared a threat to the youngsters now expecting a first team chance.

Ferguson hasn't been against signing veterans in the past. Henrik Larsson is the obvious example, but there's been others. Gines Carvajal's revelation that Ferguson tried to sign Raul last year before he joined Schalke is proof the United manager will go for an OAP when he feels it necessary.

But his failure to make a move for Parker has now handed him a huge dilemma. Can United risk waiting for the likes of Pogba, Petrucci and Morrison to prove their value. Or do they now splash out millions on a Sneijder and/or M'Vila - and so force these youngsters to look elsewhere to launch their senior careers?

After 25 years in the job, it's another massive question Ferguson needs to get right for the good of Manchester United.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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