What does the new season hold for Manchester United?
It would be unwise to draw too many conclusions from Manchester United’s Community Shield victory over Chelsea on Sunday, but the game itself demonstrated reason to feel optimistic for this coming season. And history does suggest that a triumph in the traditional season curtain-raiser leads to league success. So what exactly does the news season hold for Manchester United?
United displayed some attacking verve in that game, encouragingly, and the usual suspects were on the top of their game against the reigning champions. The Red Devils are good bullies, metaphorically anyway, but it’d help if they pick on someone their own size. They picked up 52 points against the bottom half last season, but only 33 against the top sides. It is crucial that United dispatch the better teams much like they do to the lesser sides in order to win the league this time around.
Wayne Rooney will aim to continue to scare defences much like he did in the previous campaign, but concern remains to just how much the team are dependant on their talisman. Indeed, goals will have to come from other sources, as United’s second top-scorer last season was own goals. It may be last chance saloon for Dimitar Berbatov, for all his quality he may struggle, particularly because there is no room for mistakes what with all the competition at the club.
Javier Hernandez is one the one to watch; a fantastic World Cup and pre-season is a reason alone to be excited. He looks a natural finisher, full of energy and causes difficulty for the opposition with his astute runs. Yet, it may be foolish to expect him to net twenty-odd goals in his debut season. Kiko Macheda and Michael Owen are lurking in the shadows, although Owen’s fitness will always remain a concern.
Expect Patrice Evra to have another good season, a fans’ favourite who is Mr United. Pardon my French, but me, like many others, bloody love the guy. It was no coincidence that he racked up 50 appearances last season, more than any other player. The old campaigners are still here, for how longer we don’t know, and as we’ve seen time and time again, they are vital to the cause. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes are like the Benjamin Button of the English game, getting younger by the day. Expect them to sign another one-year contract extension. Age shouldn’t be a problem this season, but United should continue to build to the future.
Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are perfectly placed in the team, very much suitable replacements for whenever Vidic or Ferdinand may be absent. Of course, both are young and are prone to the occasional lapse in concentration. Darren Fletcher continues to grow in stature every game, while Carrick will look to improve on what was a disappointing season for his standards.
Of course, much will depend on the big guns, Rooney, in particular, spearheading the United attack but this season may be the year some of the youth players break into the big time; such was the success of the youth system in past seasons, it has acted as an appropriate smokescreen for the fact that the club’s financial situation is perilous.
Some feel this could be the make-or-break season money-wise, but the Glazer regime is likely to continue for years to come. The Green and Gold protests will no doubt be in full force, though fans are rather pessimistic; the thinking is that their disapproval of the Glazer reign may be in vain.
The lack of spending isn’t a problem – the current team is good enough to challenge for silverware this season. Antonio Valencia and Nani have been able to develop and hone their skills, the former is particularly good foil for Rooney although fans would like to see him score more goals himself.
Punters also believe that this may be Sir Alex Ferguson’s very last season. How true that may turn out to be remains to be seen, but if it is, Fergie will like to end it on a high. The new season is always filled with promise, but it is up to this lot to surpass the rest; that I’m rather optimistically thinking they can…
Premier League – Champions
Carling Cup – Winners
FA Cup – Quarter Finals
Champions League – Semi-finalists
Top Four – Utd 1st, Arsenal 2nd, Chelsea 3rd, City 4th
Bottom Three – Newcastle, Wigan, Blackpool
FA Cup – Arsenal
Champions League – Barcelona