Sir Alex Ferguson is ready to overhaul his strike force despite his free-scoring side standing on the verge of their most prolific season for 12 years.
United need six more goals from their four remaining games to better their second highest Premier League total of 87 in the title-winning season of 2002.
But Ferguson is still set for a clear out of his striking department as he continues to put together a squad he hopes can challenge for the Champions League next season. Reds chief executive David Gill admits there will inevitably be movement in the summer: “We’re looking at all that.
The work goes on all year round but obviously intensifies as we come to the end of the season in terms of players.
“There’s various contracts we’ve got to do, we’ll look at some acquisitions and there will be some players who will leave. It’s an interesting time.”
Ferguson has already admitted that Dimitar Berbatov is almost certain to exit Old Trafford in the summer, despite United activating a one-year extension in his contract.
The new deal will purely mean the club can demand some return on the £30.75m they paid when they signed the Bulgarian from Tottenham in 2008.
Michael Owen is another who has a fight on his hands to remain beyond the end of the season after another injury-ravaged campaign.
The former England international has played just four times this season – and hasn’t been in action since damaging his thigh against Otelul Galati in November.
Despite Owen’s determination to earn a new contract at United, the 32-year-old is running out of time to prove he can still contribute over an entire campaign.
Ferguson allowed Mame Biram Diouf to join German club Hannover in January for an undisclosed fee – and has a decision to make on Federico Macheda who has disappointed on loan at QPR.
The Italian is likely to go out on loan again next season as United try to secure him regular first team football – but any move could prove permanent.
That would leave Ferguson with just three recognised senior strikers in Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez after beginning this season with seven on their books.
It has become a straight battle between Welbeck and Hernandez to be Rooney’s first choice strike partner.
And it is Welbeck who has emerged as Ferguson’s preferred option after Hernandez has struggled to repeat his outstanding goal-scoring form of last season.
The Mexican has struck 12 goals, compared to the 20 he managed in his debut campaign.
That is still one more than Welbeck but the England international’s slick interplay with Rooney has been a highlight in United’s charge towards a record 20th title.
Goals have not been hard to come by for Ferguson’s side. With 82 in the league already, they have scored four more than last year’s title-winning campaign.
Better They’ve had 16 different goal-scorers and Rooney can better his best ever total of 34 in a season with 31 already.
But it is set to be another summer of change at United with Ferguson only part way through his latest transition. Ferguson believes he needs four top class strikers to maintain a Premier League and Champions League challenge.
Athletic Bilbao forward Fernando Llorente is one of the outstanding candidates in Europe at the moment, along with Napoli’s Edinson Cavani.
The two powerful front men would provide an alternative to the slicker options currently at Ferguson’s disposal.
United must also address their midfield and defence in the summer.
Even if, as expected, Paul Scholes signs a one-year extension to his contract, a long-term successor to the veteran midfielder still needs to be found.
Ferguson has made a personal check on Lille playmaker Eden Hazard, but the Belgian international also has suitors in City, Tottenham, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid. Christian Eriksen of Ajax represents a cheaper alternative, while Luka Modric and Bilboa’s Oscar de Marcos are also admired by United.
Ferguson is also aware that he needs to offer encouragement to Paul Pogba if the French starlet is to reject interest from Juventus and sign a long-term deal at United. That could see Anderson being allowed to leave with the Brazilian midfielder continuing to frustrate.
Ferguson had hoped the former Benfica player would prove the long-term successor to Scholes, but as yet is still waiting for Anderson (left) to show the consistency to justify speculation in his early career that he would one day become one of the world’s finest players.
Defensively, Fabio will go out on loan next season, paving the way for Ferguson to move for Crystal Palace right back Nathaniel Clyne, who is out of contract in the summer.
Lyon left back Aly Cissokho would provide possible cover for Patrice Evra and has admitted he would be interested in a move to United.
Ferguson oversaw a major overhaul of his squad last summer with Edwin van der Sar, Scholes and Gary Neville all retiring, while John O’Shea and Wes Brown were sold to Sunderland.
Talent That provided room for fresh young talent like David de Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley Ashley Young and Welbeck to establish themselves.
But United’s disappointing showing in both the Champions League and Europa League this season was evidence that the building is not complete as Ferguson tries to put together what could be his last great side.
He continues to scour the globe for the best young talent in a bid to avoid paying inflated prices for established superstars.
He will try to conduct the majority of his business before this summer’s European Championships to avoid being caught in a bidding war for the tournament’s stand out players – just as he did when signing Hernandez before the 2010 World Cup.
But it promises to be another summer of intense activity at Old Trafford as Ferguson bids to hold off the challenge of City domestically and once again compete with Barcelona and Real Madrid in Europe.
Gill, meanwhile, also revealed he would have settled for the current position of chasing a 13th title in 20 years when the Premier League commenced.
“I think we all would,” he said. “It’s been an amazing run and it’s going to be a tense end to the season. If we do it, it will be fantastic.
“This time of year’s not good [for the nerves]. You do get tense but we’ve done very well and are in good shape now – five points ahead with four games to go. It’s going to be tight but it’s been wonderful.”