May 7 2012
Manchester United skipper Patrice Evra has warned the club's army of critics that next week will not mark the "end of an empire" even if they relinquish their Premier League title to Manchester City.
Relegation-threatened QPR must avoid defeat at the Etihad Stadium next weekend to give United any hope of retaining their crown. With the title seemingly slipping away, there has been intense scrutiny of United's players considering Sir Alex Ferguson's men established an eight-point lead just five games ago.
But Evra is not convinced a major overhaul is required, and said: "I know that if we don't win the league then a lot of people will say this is the end of the empire and ask how we will survive. But there is a lot of talent at this club."
He continued: "We've had to deal with a lot through injuries and losing experienced players last summer and it's never easy to find a solution immediately."
Nevertheless, when United's poor performances in both European competitions are taken into consideration, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that significant reinforcements are required.
Dimitar Berbatov's late cameo against Swansea appeared to be a farewell gesture from Ferguson and the Bulgarian looks set to head a list of departures that may also include Anderson, Federico Macheda and Michael Owen.
Park Ji-sung's situation may also come under scrutiny, Darren Fletcher's health issues need to be resolved, while Paul Pogba still has to make a final decision about whether his destiny remains at Old Trafford or with new Italian champions Juventus.
It is not completely out of the question that Ferguson may also elect to dispense with one of his highest-profile players, although before he did, the United boss would want to make sure he had adequate cover.
Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa has already hinted at a summer move to United from back-to-back Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund and, at 23, certainly fits the age profile of a current Ferguson signing - though United have refused to confirm the impending transfer.
Of course, the season could still end with what Ferguson described as "the celebration of our lives" if they do manage to sneak the title, and midfielder Michael Carrick said: "We kept believing and we still believe anything can happen. It's not over."