Will ManU taste glory in 2012?

2012-09-10 15:05
Manchester United (Gallo Images)
The last few weeks of the 2011/12 season, engrossed us with twists and turns in the premier league title race, and ultimately reached a wonderful climax many football fans around the world won't forget. United were seconds away from winning the Premier League for a 13th time.

Then in a surreal moment in which you would associate with United, Sergio Aguero scored a goal in the dying seconds at the Etihad, which was one of the iconic moments in PL history.

So how does Sir Alex wrest the title back from his city rivals? More importantly, did he buy the players needed to do that, and does he have the team to do it, both domestically and in Europe?

Here's my dissection of United to see if they have the players to win back the Premier League, and also to challenge in Europe this season.

In his debut season, David De Gea was criticised for not having the essential elements it takes to be a Man Utd keeper or a successful one in England, such is the physical and demanding nature of the Premier League.

However those that follow La Liga knew that when United acquired his services from Atletico Madrid, David was an immense talent. Given Spain's pedigree of producing world class goal keepers, ala Casillas, Valdes, etc, David just needed time to adapt to the rigours of the PL, and eventually will become just as successful as his Spanish counterparts.

Evidently he is a fantastic shot stopper, and without him in goal against Everton, United could have easily conceded 3 or more goals.

This will be De Gea's defining season.Given more time, coupled with a beefing up of his physique and his assured performance against Everton, I expect David to improve in heaps and bounds this season.


One of the reasons why United lost the Premier League to City and failed miserably in Europe last season was because of their woeful defending in key games. Two games spring to mind when analysing how United lost the Premier League on goal difference.

The 6 -1 thrashing by Manchester City at Old Trafford and the 4-4 draw with Everton. Benfica and Athletic Bilbao tore United to shreds in the Champions League and Europa League respectively. In an interview at the start of this season, Sir Alex said that he may have expected too much too quickly from his young group of defensive players in big, defining games last season.

The loss of Vidic for most of the season and the injury prone Ferdinand, gave much hope to teams looking to score, let alone beat United last season. Coupled with an aging Evra, the trio, who were an integral part of United's title winning seasons of past, United's defence does look shaky.

United's opening 3 games is a stark reminder to Sir Alex, that it's his defence that needs a refresh of talent, and quick if United are to challenge on all fronts this season.

Yes, Vidic is a colossal for United and he will take time to find his imperious form again. Almost like a new signing really, if you take into account that he has been out of the team since Dec 2011.

With an aging Ferdinand injured again, Evra past his best and losing pace quickly and Fabio Da Silva on a season long loan at QPR, Fergie needs to act sooner rather than later in bringing in at least 2 defenders.

He has just signed Alexander Buttner as a back up to Evra, but only time will tell if he really is a good signing or not. Defending in the Premier League is a massive step up from defending in the Eredivisie.

The opening months of this season will test United's resolve in defence. Carrick and Valencia played against Everton in defence, and as we all saw, Carrick was no match for Fellaini's strength, as he powered over him to score the match winning goal.

Valencia's attacking talents and crosses from the right wing will be sorely missed if defensive players are not available through injury. Rafael Da Silva has played well recently, and he is maturing very well into a role which I believe he will make his own this season.

I do see Sir Alex investing in another experienced centre back come January, if United are going to be dogged with injury to Ferdinand or Vidic and are within striking distance of the summit. Yes, we do have Jones , Evans and Smalling, and they were presumably bought by Sir Alex as replacements for Vidic and Ferdinand, but in any big team , you do need that mature player, especially in the middle of your back four.

If Fergie is to dip into the transfer market in January for a central defender, he need look no further than where he did his 1st piece of business this season, Borussia Dortmund. Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels central partnership in defence, are one of the reasons why Dortmund has won the Bundesliga in consecutive seasons. Signing one of them will be great.


Undoubtedly one of the finest midfielders ever to grace the beautiful game and the best central midfielder to come from England, Scholes' time as a footballer is surely coming to an end.

Without the skill and ability to control games that Scholes has in abundance to provide Rooney with the freedom to do what he does best and attack, rather than orchestrating the attack, City would have romped to the title last season.

Anderson has had time to develop and shine, although his performances are erratic, Carrick's passes are great, but he is also on the wrong side of 30, so the player for me has to be Tom Cleverley.

Cleverley's range of passing may not be at the supreme level of Scholes, but what he does do very well, is pass and move into space much like Iniesta and Xavi. With excellent mentors in Scholes and Carrick, I believe Tom will provide that assurance, creativity, and link up play between defence and attack that United have been lacking for the past 2 seasons.

With a current selection of Anderson, Scholes, Cleverley and Carrick in the centre of midfield, Sir Alex's 1st choice should be more often than not, Anderson/Scholes and Cleverley. Carrick will provide a more defensive option, should Sir Alex require him to see out a match winning position or an extra player in midfield should he choose to go defensive.

Valencia will definitely continue on the right wing as 1st choice for Sir Alex. It's the left wing, that gives him a headache. For all of Nani's wonderful skills, he still cannot perform the simple task of crossing a ball. His inablility to beat the 1st defender in the box is as frustrating for me, as it is for Sir Alex. His performances are also very erratic, so if Nani doesn't come right this season, his time will be up sooner rather than later at United.

Ashley Young is the opposite of Nani, brilliant crosser of the ball, but lacks the intelligence and performance needed to prise open the defence of many teams in the Premier League and abroad. His 1st few games for United were great, but last season, I can only remember Young for 2 fantastic performances, Arsenal at home and Spurs away. He also like Nani, faces a quick axe from the team if his performances do not improve.

Ryan Giggs, well the man is a legend. There are no more superlatives that can be showered on him and like Scholes, nothing more to prove.They will do their utmost best when needed by Sir Alex.


Robin Van Persie certainly is a striker at the peak of his powers. When Sir Alex bought him for 24 million pounds, for me it was money well spent, and not for the obvious reasons many are thinking.

Many questioned Sir Alex as to why would he paid so much for a player, who is injury prone, 29 years of age, especially given the fact that it's always been a policy of United's not to pay over the top for mature players, and also we needed a class central midfielder. My opinion is because of Wayne Rooney.

Yes, no doubt that Rooney is of immense importance to United. Rooney has been United's talisman since Ronaldo's departure to Real Madrid. However, I feel that the weight of expectation and pressure of being a player that a team is built around, has gotten to Rooney, and his form and fiery nature that once made him one of the most feared strikers in the world, has left him, at least I hope temporarily. As we all know the saying: "Form is temporary, Class is permanent" and Rooney certainly is a class act.

Also with RVP now at United, Rooney is no longer Sir Alex's 1st name on the team sheet, as he will have to fight his way into a team with is now laden with fantastic strikers. His demotion to the bench against Fulham was the result of a terrible performance against Everton. Van Persie's hat trick against Southampton, certainly is food for thought for Rooney.

The purchase of RVP was a bit of shrewd business from Sir Alex, as Rooney will now have to step his game up, if he is to convince Fergie that he is still worthy to play for United.

Who knows, maybe the next couple of months off from the game due to his injury, will allow him to find himself again, and become the player we all hope he can become. He certainly is when on form, like last season, one of Europe's top 3 forwards.

Welbeck is another player who has just signed a long term contract with United, and his performances for United last season were exceptional. A good reward for someone I feel is going to be very important for United's future. His pace and movement off the ball is fantastic. He was probably, with the exception of Rooney, England's best striker last season.

Javier Hernandez endured what many call "2nd season syndrome" last season, after a phenomenal 1st season. Undoubtedly he has the talent and goal scoring prowess to be a great striker, although how many chances he will get in the 1st team this season, will have been made all the harder with RVP's arrival. However, with Rooney's injury and I highly doubt Sir Alex will play RVP week in week out, there still is a chance for Chicharito to show his worth to United. We know his finishing and movement off defenders' shoulders is great, but what he needs to really improve upon, is his link up play with his fellow strikers, and also the midfield.

When Sir Alex was interviewed some time back to ask why he wouldn't,or many would argue, couldn't pay the exhorbitant fees being paid for talented players by City, Chelsea,etc, he made a point that there was no value for money in the transfer market anymore.

I feel that Sir Alex has now found that value for money player that he has been yearning for these past few years and maybe the final piece of his puzzle to challenge the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid in Europe this season.

Shinji Kagawa may not be someone that instantly rings "world class player" to many, but those in the know in Germany and Japan, will profusely disagree. An absolute steal and value for money buy at 12 million pounds initially, and rising up to 17 million based on performances and results, Kagawa is going to be a world class player for United.

His movement, intelligence, touch and eye for goal make him a wonderful attacking midfielder, and his performance against Everton and Fulham will have United fans all around the world licking their lips. Always passing and moving when receiving the ball, moving into dangerous positions in and around the penalty area.

His transition into United's team of superstars has been seamless. Sir Alex has really made one of the best signings this transfer window.

So on paper, Sir Alex certainly has one of the best squads in Europe and England to win trophies this season. But as we all know, games and trophies are not won with just assembling a group of world class players to go out there and expect to win, as the game against Everton has reminded us. The Premier League is without doubt the hardest league in the world to win, such is the competitive nature of every team. If you cannot mould and develop players into an organised and disciplined unit, you will get beaten, no matter how many good players you have.

This is one of the many reasons that Sir Alex's teams of today and past tend to always be one of the favourites for the title consistently. It's because of his astute management skills and the philosophy of "no player is bigger than Manchester United" that we have been blessed as United fans to see our team lift a trophy of some sort, more often than not.

Sir Alex is nearing the end of his football dynasty with Manchester United, and I feel that he will want to win title 20 and also the Champions League at least one more time before he calls time on his career. That may very well happen this season.


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