As another season approaches, I’m going to analyse where we stand against our Premier League rivals:
Manchester City will start off as the team to beat. They have decided not to alter their outstanding squad too much, and have decided to destroy promising careers instead with “poor” (no pun intended) Jack Rodwell, the player chosen to keep Kidd company on the bench. Chelsea are the reigning champions of Europe, and they have chosen Roberto Di Matteo as the man to ask John Terry what team he’d like to pick. In Hazard they have bought possibly the most exciting mercenary, sorry, prospect in European football. They are now just a defence away from mounting a serious title challenge. Arsenal have, uncharacteristically, bought exciting, experienced players this summer. Lukas Podolski allegedly rejected us to sign for them. Sir Alex didn’t hold too much of a grudge as he ensured the Polish German striker had a starting berth at the Emirates. Tottenham have changed their philosophy from Redknapp’s all-out attack, with a couple of old heads in there, and see what happens, to Villas Boas’ sophisticated style of play, which includes a contingency plan, and a strategy for the future. And finally, Liverpool. A new, youthful manager in, and he continues Liverpool’s tradition of wheeling and dealing and buying the best around. As well as the new Paolo Rossi, they’ve signed, according to stats, “the best midfielder in Europe”, and a player on whom Andres Iniesta allegedly models his game.
All our rivals have sufficiently strengthened and the competition will be fierce; so where do we stand against our biggest adversaries?
Dodgy David de Gea went from being the new David Seaman, to the old David Seaman in just a matter of months. He has the talent; few ‘keepers in world football have the ability to pull off saves like his against Juan Mata. At just 21 years of age, inexperience is the main worry, but last season he was pushed right in at the deep end, and this time round he should have Nemanja Vidic in front of him, which will be a massive help. In Anders Lindegaard we also have a terrific replacement.
Jonny Evans went from being the player whose inclusion meant we lost to City to the player whose exclusion meant we lost to City. The partnership of Smalling and Jones was meant to oust him, but he became our best defender of the season. Vidic, cliché as it may be, will be like a £40m signing. Smalling is once again injury, and it was injuries that disrupted his last season. Rafael has taken Evans’ mantle as everyone’s favourite scapegoat. He does play on the edge, and is prone to rashness, but on form he’s a top player and has an almost tacit understanding with Valencia down the right side. I have high hopes for him. The left side is the worry. Talk of a new left back disappeared since the Van Persie deal became apparent; but Evra needs to recapture his form. He was so inconsistent last season, and if that continues this time around, we may regret not buying cover. Phil Jones?
Well I see Phil Jones as more of a midfielder. He wanders out of position too often in defence. We lack a terrier in the middle of the park. His early season “new Bryan Robson” form saw him start deep and bulldoze from one end of the pitch to the other. If he returns to fitness, and sadly it doesn’t look too imminent, Fletcher will help in that department. I think Michael Carrick needs a ball winner alongside him. He played well last season, but we still need more strength in that department. The following could have been said in any of the previous four seasons, but this is a big season for Anderson. He needs to produce. In Valencia, Nani, and to a lesser extent Young, we have the talent to rival most. Valencia and Nani are amongst the most the best wingers in the league. Tom Cleverley was impressive against for England in midweek, and with Kevin Davies no longer in the division, he has a good chance of an injury free season. Finally we come to Shinji Kagawa. Finally the midfielder to excite the fans has arrived. The link up with Rooney we saw against Hannover in pre-season could be crucial in the big games.
In Van Persie and Wayne Rooney, we now have the two best strikers in the league. In Danny Welbeck we have a fantastic prospect who he an extra 10 goals a season from being a top striker. We have Hernandez who’s had two extremely different seasons, and on whom the jury is still open, and in Dimitar Berbatov, the most naturally gifted, unwanted striker in the history of football. Van Persie proves that prolonged transfer sagas can have a happy ending for United and is the world superstar United have finally failed to miss out on. It’s also worth pointing out that amongst the heartache of the 4-4 draw against Everton, in their last start together, Welbeck and Rooney struck up a “Dwight York-Andy Cole” partnership. I honestly think, no one in the league has a striker force like ours.
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