Reds approach campaign with no trepidation



As much as Sir Alex Ferguson hoped otherwise, Manchester United’s pre-season friendly against Hannover 96 on Saturday night was unable to detract attention from his employers’ financial proclivities in New York. On the opening day of trading a ‘disappointing’ IPO raised approximately $100 million less than initially sought by the Glazer family, while a myriad of unfulfilled speculation surrounding primary transfer target Robin van Persie prompted suggestions that United’s interest was merely a failed ploy to convey a position of wellbeing. Bad press, it seems, is inescapable for chief executive David Gill and his collaborators right now.

Sadly for United, the club’s woes are not consigned to its endeavours across the Atlantic; unease surrounding an underwhelming pre-season campaign has been augmented by relatively low transfer activity, archetypal of the Glazers’ reign at Old Trafford. And even if Ferguson’s intentions to sign the Dutchman are real, the completion of the transfer will by no means receive the unquestioning backing of United’s supporters.

Van Persie’s age, wage demands, and susceptibility to injury are all cited as deterrents, as is the inevitability that the Dutchman would deprive fans’ favourites Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez of playing time. Furthermore, considering the substantial fee necessary to prise last year’s PFA and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year from Arsenal, any deal will surely deprive the team’s ailing midfield of further investment.

Following a trophy-less campaign least term, continuing negative publicity, and the manager’s apparent refusal, or inability, to address his squad’s key inadequacies, it’s fair to suggest that the season ahead for United appears bleak. Yet, with just over a week to go until the start of the Premier League campaign, Ferguson is not short belief that his side is adequately equipped to regain the title.

Aside from any transfer activity, or lack thereof, United’s squad is already bolstered this summer by the return of Nemanja Vidić. The Serbian has completed ­over 170 minutes of football during the team’s pre-season tour. While Jonny Evans deputised superbly for the United captain last season, dispelling any assertions that the Irishman’s time at Old Trafford is running out, Vidić’s importance is difficult to overstate. Though it is easy to speculate, it is hard to imagine United conceding the two late goals at home to Everton that proved so costly in the title race had Vidić been present to maintain defensive discipline.

Starting the season opener at Goodison Park may be an ambitious target, but having witnessed repeated delays to Tom Cleverley’s recovery last term, and Owen Hargreaves’s haphazard attempts to regain fitness throughout his spell at Old Trafford, United fans are relieved to see Vidić return on schedule from a serious injury.

In addition to the restored first choice defensive partnership, Ferguson expects greater contributions from a number of his younger players this season. Danny Welbeck impressed during his first campaign in the starting line-up, but must improve on last year’s tally of just 12 goals, particularly if the striker is to preserve his place in Ferguson’s team. Having followed-up a decent club season with impressive performances for England at this summer’s European Championships, the Longsight-born player can achieve the 20 goal target set by his manager.

Additionally, Chris Smalling and Cleverley, having also shown much promise already, hope to feature more often after enduring injury hampered seasons last time out. Smalling has developed a reputation for dependability, having continually improved since joining from Fulham in 2010, while Cleverley enjoyed an excellent start to his senior United career before its abrupt postponement at the Reebok Stadium last September. Cleverley’s return may even help observers forget United’s lack of options in central midfield.

Significantly, Ferguson can count on the improved consistency of goalkeeper David de Gea. All but written off by the media following a difficult start to his United career, the Spaniard grew in confidence and stature as last season progressed, winning the team points regularly. Provided De Gea remains composed in the face of renewed competition from Anders Lindegaard, the Spaniard will surely develop into one of the league’s finest goalkeepers.

Additionally, while United’s transfer activity is minimal this summer it has at least been well considered. Glowing praise from his former mentor Dario Gradi has generated considerable excitement in the future of Nick Powell, while Shinji Kagawa’s acquisition could have a decisive impact. The Japanese playmaker made a total of 25 goals in Borussia Dortmund’s double-winning campaign last term, affirming talismanic status, and has looked sharp playing just behind the frontline during pre-season appearances for United. Kagawa could provide a link between the team’s midfielders and forwards that was desperately missing for much of last season, often leaving the strikers isolated and occasionally resulting in Wayne Rooney dropping into midfield.

Away from United it is also worth considering the merits of local rivals, Manchester City. Roberto Mancini’s team has been uncharacteristically quiet in the transfer market, with the Italian failing to offload superfluous players on excessive salaries. Despite possessing considerable strength-in-depth, Mancini’s side looks vulnerable should it lose any one of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré, or David Silva.

Though any team is weakened by losing one or more of its three best players, note that Touré will once again depart mid-season to compete in a rollover African Cup of Nations. Meanwhile, Silva will face an arduous campaign, having represented Spain at the European Championships after a season in which he played through an ankle injury.

The lack of quality cover for Kompany was particularly evident during the Belgian’s absences last season, as is reliance on goalkeeper Joe Hart. While United’s recent luck with injuries has been torrid, City’s has been the opposite; should fortunes reverse this season it is difficult to foresee Mancini’s men faring so well.

Furthermore, City will face the burden of playing this season as champions. Painful as it is to acknowledge, the upside is that teams will raise their performance levels against the Eastlands outfit; a belief endorsed by Wayne Rooney this week, who asserted that “over the years everyone has tried to raise their game when they play against Manchester United. Now obviously City are champions they’ll have to face that.”

Whether Mancini’s side approaches the task of retaining the title with a hint of trepidation remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that United seeks the Premier League’s return to Old Trafford with renewed vigour. The pain associated with losing to City on goal difference no will spur on Ferguson’s side, just as it did in 2006/7 when the title loss to Chelsea prompted a change in system, and one of the most exciting domestic campaigns of the decade.

Once again United enters a season in transition, and with a point to prove. Only a fool will write Ferguson’s team off.

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Comments

  1. Great read… Agreed especially on the fact that with the absence of silva toure or kompany, they are vulnerable by all means

  2. danny welbeck signed up for 5 years

  3. Lovely sentiment, but I think some distance from reality

    Over the entire season, United did have more injuries than almost any other team, while City were the beaming picture of health

    Now, you can either take that as luck, or you can look a little deeper – over the entire season, Citeh had less injuries. Not only that, you can assume they dominated games in much the same as we generally do – more possession, less running around like a mad dullard, and whatnot.

    The key variable here, and it is of course partially unknown, is the sport science / fitness and sporting knowhow in the back room. For me, sport is as much about the science and maintenance of the participants as it is the teeth-gnashingly frustrating artistry during the actual act.

    My challenge would be – is Citeh that much more sophisticated in the management and maintenance of their players, or is it simply “luck”?

    I would be interested to see how many impact injuries we struggled with last season – those inflicted on our players by the opposition, or by our own players on themselves – versus those injuries which occurred from players being exhausted, over-stretched, not appropriately treated pre and post game, not appropriately nutrition’d, not appropriately rested, etc.

    My honest feeling is Citeh manage that side of the game to perfection (see BBC article), whereas United are still in the era of Mickey Phelan giving rub downs after the game and sharing a packet of fags (in comparison).

    • Mongoletsi says:

      The last bit is bollocks Ben. Plenty of players praise the set up. Quieroz is credited with bringing our backroom really up to date.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/manchester-united/8275326/Manchester-Uniteds-Ryan-Giggs-and-Rio-Ferdinand-buy-into-cutting-edge-methods-at-Carrington.html

      I bet Giggsy shagged her too.

    • Not sure I buy into your theory there Ben. These were some of the main injury casualties we suffered last season:
      Cleverly – injured by tackle from that big bruiser Kevin Davies
      Vidic – twisted knee ligaments during match
      Anderson – generally crocked / too fat / out of shape
      Fletch – ulcerative colitis
      Valencia – injured ankle while playing for Ecuador
      Young – knee injury during a match
      Chicharito – missed pre-season due to concussion, stemming from a pre-existing neurological condition

      Not sure you can blame the back room staff for any of these injuries. Anyone can twist / strain ligaments at any time, it’s the nature of the beast.
      Furthermore, the fact that Rio / Giggsy / Scholesy played so many games for us suggests the sports science team are doing quite a good job.
      Hargreaves criticized the medical team when he left United. However, City, whom you have referenced above, were unable to get him back playing. He was obviously beyond repair, probably before we even bought him, although he was sensational for us in 2007/08.
      I think we were just unlucky with injuries last term, and hopefully we won’t have such a bad run again.

  4. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Interesting points raised Ben, but probably worth noting the size and quality of Citeh’s squad versus ours – they had the luxury of more than adequate replacements when first-teamers got injured, whereas we…

  5. That’s actually great, Mongo, because it might simply mean we were unlucky in the games and that teams are more likely to try and physically intimidate United. (Which may have its own underlying causes and themes). If we are doing all the futuristic sports science stuff and really buying into that, then you reduce the number of other root causes.

    (Btw my comparison wasn’t literal, more than anything the thought of Mickey Phelan giving anyone a rub down is frankly terrifying and I think most players would be VERY happy to avoid that….)

    If we are continuing to innovate and lead in this area, then that’s amazing and really good news.

    I guess we’ll see during this season – hopefully we won’t have such a bad time of it.

  6. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Hargreaves is a bitter cunt… and he was NEVER sensational.

  7. Good read. This season is going to be another battle between the Manchester clubs. Another player that is crucial for Citeh is Hart and he’s currently injured. This is a huge miss for Citeh and him missing a few games at the start of the season with Pantilimon in goal is good news for us. I’m hoping for more howlers from him like the one in the Community Shield :)

  8. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:
    Not sure I buy into your theory there Ben. These were some of the main injury casualties we suffered last season:
    Cleverly – injured by tackle from that big bruiser Kevin Davies
    Vidic – twisted knee ligaments during match
    Anderson – generally crocked / too fat / out of shape
    Fletch – ulcerative colitis
    Valencia – injured ankle while playing for Ecuador
    Young – knee injury during a match
    Chicharito – missed pre-season due to concussion, stemming from a pre-existing neurological condition

    Not sure you can blame the back room staff for any of these injuries. Anyone can twist / strain ligaments at any time, it’s the nature of the beast.
    Furthermore, the fact that Rio / Giggsy / Scholesy played so many games for us suggests the sports science team are doing quite a good job.
    Hargreaves criticized the medical team when he left United. However, City, whom you have referenced above, were unable to get him back playing. He was obviously beyond repair, probably before we even bought him, although he was sensational for us in 2007/08.
    I think we were just unlucky with injuries last term, and hopefully we won’t have such a bad run again.

    I agree we were slightly more unlucky than City with injuries last year. The only caveat is that of those players only Valencia would get into City’s first 11.

  9. eltricolor2014 says:

    If the squad can stay reasonably healthy we’ll topple Citeh. The addition of Kagawa is to reenforce our UEFA campaign and RVP is icing on the cake. GGMUFC.

  10. Herbie Simms says:

    Are you all dreaming? The team is no better than it was last season. Poor midfield, no defence. We need a right and a left fullback. Who will cover for Rafael and Evra?
    Where is our defensive central holding midfielder?
    If there are no more signings, our best bet is just a top 4 finish and another early exit out of the champions league. Why did SAF waste so much time chasing 19 year old Lucas Moura, putting in a 30 million pound bid when he could get the same player in 20 year old Douglas Costa for 20 million. This has been the hot topic with United fans on other websites. Why did he not go back in for Douglas Costa? Why was he willing to spend 30 million on an unproven 19 year old Brazilian? We got outbid by PSG, they put up 40 million and the rest is history. Now its Van Persie. It looks like SAF will get his man, but we cannot win anything this season with this same old midfield and suspect defence. Lot of injury prone players in defence.

  11. Commenter said:
    Where is our defensive central holding midfielder?

    when have we ever played a bloody CDM? it’s never been ‘the united way’. If you can’t be positive on day one of the season, what’s the fucking point?

  12. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Tommy said:
    when have we ever played a bloody CDM? it’s never been ‘the united way’. If you can’t be positive on day one of the season, what’s the fucking point?

    Hear hear! In Carrick we trust!

    • Damian Garside says:

      It’s Ferguson’s new formation: a GK, a classic number 10, Carrick, a United hero of yesteryear dragged out of retirement, six wingers and since there is no central defensive MF and a hole in the middle, there will have to be a marki II Challenger in at central defender.

  13. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    I try.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  14. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    I try.

    God loves a trier

    But there is no god….

  15. Stevie – that’s great, seriously, I am literally over the moon to see the information in your post

    Because, as you eliminate the things that are more likely you get to a point where you might simply be able to say we did just have the most terrible luck with injuries.

    It shows we are doing the right things in that area which is superb.

    I would be happy to see us avoid any blooming daft injuries all season and not have the insane injury list we carried literally all season

  16. Fletcher came on against Aberdeen yesterday

    No new midfielder then

  17. James Doran says:

    I am puzzled by the statement:

    “Relatively low transfer activity, archetypal of the Glazers’ reign at Old Trafford”

    By my reckoning under the Glazers we have brought in:

    Van der Sar, Ji-Sung Park, Ben Foster, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Kuszczak, Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson, Tevez, Manucho, Possebon, Bardsley, Petrucci, Fabio, Rafael, Berbatov, Tosic, de Laet, Valencia, Owen, Obertan, Diouf, Vermijl, Smalling, Hernandez, Bebe, Lindegaard, Jones, Young, De Gea, Vesili, Kagawa, Powell.

    That’s 35 players in seven years or 5 per season.

    So relatively low to whom?. Also how many players do you think we should have brought in?

    • James – I’ve seen some dumb posts on this board before, but that’s a corker. Quite obviously the writer is talking about spend rather than volume. It’s spend that has been low during the Glazers’ regime. Don’t believe me about that though.. just take a look at the club’s investor presentations, where they proudly displayed just how low they’ve managed to keep spend (together incidentally with a promise not to spend more than £20m net per season in the future).

      But if you really want to talk about volume the following players have left during the Glazers reign….

      James, De Laet, Norwood, Kuszczak, Park, Pogba, Dudgeon, O’Shea, Brown, Akose, Obertan, Gibson, Drinkwater, Morrison, Diouf, Foster, Tosic, Heaton, Zieler, Gray, Catchcart, Chester, Stewart, Ronaldo, Martin, Campbell, Eckersley, Manucho, Galbraith, Tevez, Simpson, Jones, Eagles, Lea, Saha, Sylvestre, Pique, Shawcross, Heinze, Smith, Rose, Rossi, Richardson, Marsh, Howard, Jones, Miller, McShane, Steele, van Nistelrooy, Ebanks-Blake, Mike, Johnson, Spector, Lee, Picken, Heath, Wood, Fox, Keane, Kleberson, Neville, Steward, Tierney, Bellion

      … which by my reckoning is a quite a lot.

  18. James Doran says:

    “Deprive fan’s favourite Danny Welbeck of playing time”

    No let’s see, last season RVP scored 38 goals to DW’s 12 bringing his season on season average to 24 goals per season over 8 years.

    • James -37 goals last season, taking his total to 154 in 11 seasons as a professional at 14 per season. Or if you just want to take his tally while at Arsenal it’s 132 in 8 seasons – 16.5 per campaign in all competitions. Or another way of looking at this – van Persie has scored more than 20 league goals just once in his career. Last season.

    • Alfonso bedoya says:

      James… uhh… you’re not very good at this, are you?

  19. Denton Davey says:

    Signing Angelo Henriquez and now RvP, it’s pretty clear that SAF considers attack to be the best form of defence.

    This signing seems to be to indicate that TheWayneBoy might move back into midfield, alongside KagawaBunga and ahead of Michael Carrick in some sort of 4-1-4-1.

  20. Herbie Simms says:

    If you think Iam talking stupid, well I hope you have been reading all the experts ppredictions. They are saying the exact same thing that I have been saying, NO DEFENCE. We have all the fire power but take a good look at the defence. We now need world class left and right fullbacks. Look at down the middle, Ferdinand always out with a recurring back problem. Vidic back but from a serious knee injury. Once you have bad kness, your career is over! Rafael at right back is also injury prone and Evra just too slow at times. Where are the backups for these players? Are we gonna play Valencia at right back and Nani at left back if we get injuries? Even with Van Persie and Kagawa, if we don’t fix these problems now, we’ve got more problems when the season kicks in.

  21. 19 and Counting says:

    Now that everyone is shits and giggles over the RVP deal, just go watch United sell Rooney to City tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me.

  22. 19 and Counting said:
    Now that everyone is shits and giggles over the RVP deal, just go watch United sell Rooney to City tomorrow. Wouldn’t surprise me.

    yeah, gotta agree, this is way too much by united’s standards. fingers crossed its berbatov though.

  23. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    If you think Iam talking stupid, well I hope you have been reading all the experts ppredictions. They are saying the exact same thing that I have been saying, NO DEFENCE. We have all the fire power but take a good look at the defence. We now need world class left and right fullbacks. Look at down the middle, Ferdinand always out with a recurring back problem. Vidic back but from a serious knee injury. Once you have bad kness, your career is over! Rafael at right back is also injury prone and Evra just too slow at times. Where are the backups for these players? Are we gonna play Valencia at right back and Nani at left back if we get injuries? Even with Van Persie and Kagawa, if we don’t fix these problems now, we’ve got more problems when the season kicks in.

    Oh ffs Herbie… stop talking shit… our defence is the one place we are relatively strong. Rio/Vidic is an excellent pairing when fit, and we’ve got their long term successors in Evans, Smalling, Jones… our full backs aren’t as well covered, but it’s the same as last year, and we had a decent goals against record…

    Rafa, Jones, Valencia will do us at right back for now, and Fergie just needs to rest Evra once in a while to keep him from burning out…

    Besides, he may neglect the midfield, but the one thing Ferguson has always looked after is his defence… and he’s got a good record for spotting top defenders as well… when it comes to our defence, that’s one place where I’d happily say, “in Fergie I trust”.

  24. Damian Garside says:

    Given the players he has now and the distinct lack if balance that appears Fergie will have to move towards a radical reconceptualization  of formations and tactics. He has so many good attackers he just has to try to get as many on the field as possible: and RvP, Rooney and Kagawa are players who need to play in fluid formations. So I think there will be a strong move away from formations that allow for conventional wingers and wing play, that his wingers and some of his attackers will have to play deeper: and that going fluid we will have to play a high- tempo, passing game, where we look to constant recycling of the ball: and blistering unpredictable shifts from defense into attack. 

  25. Denton Davey says:

    Damian @ 11:26: “a radical reconceptualization of formations and tactics.”

    kinda like the beginning of last season, eh ?

    The clearest indication that SAF is NOT going to sing from the old hymn book is that he has signed NO “midfield destroyer” but three attackers (RvP, KagawaBunga and Henriquez).

    With Michael Carrick acting as the “BiscuitsRoie” and two very attack-minded fullbacks (the increasingly maligned NinjaEvra and ?? AV7 ??) this squad is beginning to look a lot like Barcelona.

  26. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Commenter said:
    Damian @ 11:26: “a radical reconceptualization of formations and tactics.”
    With Michael Carrick acting as the “BiscuitsRoie” and two very attack-minded fullbacks (the increasingly maligned NinjaEvra and ?? AV7 ??) this squad is beginning to look a lot like Barcelona.

    As in Barcelona Lite: “the same number of players, but only half the talent”?

  27. BiscuitBarrell says:

    RobDiablo said:
    As in Barcelona Lite: “the same number of players, but only half the talent”?

    In Bebe’s case that might be overstating it by a factor of 100

  28. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Commenter said:
    Given the players he has now and the distinct lack if balance that appears Fergie will have to move towards a radical reconceptualization  of formations and tactics. He has so many good attackers he just has to try to get as many on the field as possible: and RvP, Rooney and Kagawa are players who need to play in fluid formations. So I think there will be a strong move away from formations that allow for conventional wingers and wing play, that his wingers and some of his attackers will have to play deeper: and that going fluid we will have to play a high- tempo, passing game, where we look to constant recycling of the ball: and blistering unpredictable shifts from defense into attack. 

    There’s no doubt in my mind that this team will carry a greater attacking threat than last year. However the problems of legs in the middle of the park, and disruption of play against the top teams have not been addressed. The team looks unbalanced to me, and the suggestion that Valencia, Carrick, Scholes and Fletcher have the mobility or flexibility to play like Barca seems fanciful. Valencia is a great player for me, but the idea of him playing in a fluid front line or midfield seems absurd. I suspect he’d have a panic attack if he wasn’t within 15 yards of the right touchline. Should be exciting though. I predict many thrashings of the premier league fodder, but ultimately falling short in the league. The game is won and lost in midfield, ours is at best 3rd.

  29. 19 and Counting says:

    RobDiablo said:
    As in Barcelona Lite: “the same number of players, but only half the talent”?

    Yeah fell off my chair when I read that. Now that Barca have Alba and Villa is back, their only weakness would still be at CB. If they bring in a quality CB they will be unstoppable.

    By the way, while SAF has been busy trying to sign 35 more attacking players, teams like Real, Bayern, and Juve have been or are in the process of strengthening their CM – st we should have been doing. Maybe Fergus is just to go all out in the EPL this season because I can’t see us beating the other top teams in Europe this year.

  30. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    “Yeah fell off my chair when I read that. Now that Barca have Alba and Villa is back, their only weakness would still be at CB. If they bring in a quality CB they will be unstoppable.”

    Real will beat them again this year.

  31. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    La Liga’s the equivalent of the SPL

    Or it used to be until Rangers got chucked out – now it’s an even bigger farce

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