Mathieson: Don't write off the old guard yet!
A quartet of serial trophy winners could all exit United this summer, but would they be wise to lose all that experience?
If a ‘show us your medals’ debate brews at Old Trafford next season then the table containing the evidence won’t look as laden with silver as it once did.
There is the distinct potential that a suitcase full of medals, a shed-load of experience and no little character will be passing through the exit door, leaving United shorn of vital know-how and spirit.
Definitely going, of course, is captain Nemanja Vidic.
He will fly off to Italy and Inter Milan with 10 major mementoes from Reds successes, including five Premier League titles. His United career stats will close at around 300 first-team matches.
Possibly following him will be Rio Ferdinand. The good money has been on the 35-year-old retiring after a season that has petered out or looking for a swansong payday on another continent.
However, the central defender has intriguingly forwarded the notion when he was a TV pundit last weekend that he would like to remain at United.
If he were to go then he would leave with 10 medals, six of which are title souvenirs, and only a season short of clocking up 500 matches for United.
Patrice Evra has sensibly kept tight-lipped about his plans for the future until the dust settles on this campaign.
The French left-back will be 33 next month and the speculation all season as his Old Trafford nears to its end has been that he will return to France, probably to his former club Monaco.
He would go back to the playground of the rich with five Premier League champions gongs and a total of 10 major medals from his eight-year Reds career and nearly 400 senior appearances on his United CV.
Then, of course, there is Ryan Giggs. His playing career looks like it has been wound down with that ageless individual performance at Old Trafford last month against Olympiacos as a memory of his glory days.
The 40-year-old could still stay on as an aid in manager David Moyes’ backroom regime, upping his part-time coaching role to a full-time brief. That is still open to debate, however, as rumours have circulated that his ideas do not fit in with Moyes’ blueprint.
Giggs is United’s most decorated player with an astonishing 26 major medals and a record 13 titles. He is the club’s all-time No 1 appearance-maker with almost 1,000 matches to his name in a United shirt and 23 years’ senior service behind him.
All told, that is over 51 years of United senior service, over 2,000 first team matches, 29 Premier League titles and 56 major medals potentially being lost at the end of the season.
For any youngsters being produced in the United ranks and any new signings dipping their toes into the Old Trafford waters for the first time, that leaves the cupboard almost bare if they want a private word about handling the United experience or any titbits of playing advice.
Can United really afford to enter what will be a pivotal season next August with that kind of character and influence unavailable? It is a difficult conundrum for David Moyes and one which may have caused him some difficulties throughout this season.
There is no evidence whatsoever that senior players have been so entrenched in Sir Alex Ferguson’s ways and mindset that they couldn’t taken on board a new face and new ideas.
But it wouldn’t be a major shock if the majority of the squad have found the handover tough. It is human nature to be suspicious of change after so much success. To embrace new philosophies is hard.
However, to lose so much experience in one fell swoop could have a big impact on United getting that curve on an upward trend again.
Ferdinand has shown he would stay on board. Giggs has to be a must to remain on the payroll in a non-playing capacity and if there are any issues about strategy then surely they could be ironed out.
And maybe as an influential on-field and dressing-room figure, then Evra may be persuaded to stay on.
The Frenchman has embraced the United story from day one. He gobbled up all the history of the Reds with visits to the Old Trafford museum and books on the club.
He talks intelligently with passion for United whenever his views are sought.
After so much publicity about Moyes’ pursuit of Leighton Baines Evra has not sulked but admirably got on with the job in hand.
A new left-back may be on his way, with Southampton’s Luke Shaw, the favourite, but keeping Evra’s bubbly personality on the staff has to be worthwhile.
Pruning has to be done and fresh minds and bodies sought but the £200m war chest cannot buy everything. United cannot afford to lose too much of the spirit that embodied the glory years.
A fine balance has to be found.