Date: 11th August 2011 at 12:47pm
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Could Owen be a surprise start for United?

So, a summer that saw the arrival of Ashley Young, De Gea and is nearly over. The back pages are due to be, thankfully, full of match reports, previews and team news instead of idle transfer gossip (although expect the Sneijder saga to continue up to August 31st).

This weekend the Premier League is back and United’s defence of the title they’re looking to win for a record twentieth time begins at the Hawthorns, West Bromwich Albion.

Any other day of the season I’d fancy this to be a comfortable ride to three points. However, as a season opener, I think West Brom, under a career reviving Roy Hodgson, will prove to be tough opposition. I see us winning this one by two goals but we’ll have to work very hard in the Midlands.

My United team for the West Brom game:
De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Owen.

At the back De Gea has to, quite simply, start. Some people have called for Lindergaard to be given the gloves for this one but I think that would be confidence shattering for the young Spaniard if he was dropped after what was, let’s be honest, not the but certainly not the worst goalkeeping performance.
I worried when I saw Chris Smalling at right back on Sunday’s team sheet but he was brilliant and shows us why Fergie was so happy to let O’Shea and leave for Sunderland this summer. His attacking play and robust defence should have played him into this Sunday’s team.

A lot of talk has been made about Tom Cleverley’s very impressive second half appearance during the Community Shield and I, for one, would love to see him start on the weekend but I’m not sure if Ferguson will throw him in an away fixture for a season beginning. Expect Cleverley to appear on the bench and get a decent thirty minute run out in order to develop his footballing education. On the wings I can’t see how Fergie can play anyone other than Young and Nani. Both were outstanding against City and offered United an interchangeable front line that they haven’t had since they won the Champions’ League in 2008 (Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo). Both and Young are equally happy on both wings and Rooney is becoming more and more comfortable in his free role, popping up all around the pitch like a mole with a dodgy hair style!

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Owen start this one. Welbeck is nursing a sore ankle and may not be thrown in for the same reason as Cleverley. I also see this fixture as a potential banana skin and Ferguson may prefer experience up front with Rooney.
On the whole, even though I fancy this to be a slight struggle, I am expecting United to win 3-1. Our attacking four will prove far too elusive and skillful for West Brom who, by the way, I fully expect to be a top ten team this year and will take several points of the top five/six at the Hawthorns.

There you go, a Manchester United report that only sparingly mentioned Sneijder once. Well, twice!

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