The Red Devils have kicked off their pre-season campaign in South Africa. There’s an interesting stat connected to our pre-season tours in SA – we’ve gone there three times in the past for our pre-season, and we won the league in all those three years. While I’m not one for blind stats and superstition, I can’t help but hope we make it 4/4 this time. After all, as SAF said, winning back the PL trophy is our top priority.
Last season was a major heart-break of sorts – apparently with our worst squad in years, we came second in the league after amassing 89 points, that too on goal difference. Of course, the fact that the Poznan Pansies won the league after scoring twice in injury time added insult to injury. The wounds are still fresh, as we look to reclaim our rightful place next season – at the top of the perch.
Transfer season is also on, and United have been linked to various players. We have flirted with Leighton Baines, Lucas Moura, and Luka Modric, to name a few. On the other hand we are already done signing the exciting Shinji Kagawa and the promising Nick Powell. Kagawa plays as a CAM, while SAF sees Powell playing CM, rather than the advanced role he was given at Crewe.
How could I forget, our chronic CM problem. The United faithful have been crying out for a top CM to be signed for seasons now. Yet, after Carrick and Anderson, the first CM we signed is Powell. We missed out on Sneijder, Modric and every other CM on this planet and planets in all parallel universes possible. We have even been linked to Joao Moutinho of all players. Not that he’s bad. My question – do we really need to sign a CM?
We’ve been fielding a 4-4-2 in the PL, with the occasional shift to 4-5-1 when we need to crowd the midfield. The CM conundrum is obvious when we play a 4-4-2; which is something I don’t see us playing next season. The signing of Kagawa is a major indicator of this change. We have Carrick, Cleverley, Anderson and Powell already. There’s Scholes, who could possibly be playing his last season for United. Then, we have Fletcher – hope he recovers soon. Yes, Anderson has never really had a major impact and Powell is young – but this could very well be Ando’s season, provided he stays fit.
More importantly, we have a batch of reserves coming through who have been winning trophies like it’s the only thing they know. This is where I’d like to mention Jesse Lingard. The lad put on a fantastic display against AmaZulu in our first game of the pre-season. Yes, he’s young and the opposition was easy, but he has a lot of potential. Along with him we have Davide Petrucci and Ryan Tunnicliffe, a very talented midfield that could blossom into a first-team partnership over the next few years.
I think our left-back needs more looking at. Patrice Evra has been a regular, having played 45-50 games every season over the past few years. However, every United fan will agree that Evra is no longer the force he once was. I have lost count of the number of occasions on which he has been caught out of position. It is high time that we get a replacement. Fabio, who also plays LB, has been sent out on a season long loan at QPR.
Robert Brady did play at LB, against AmaZulu, but he plays as a winger for the Reserves. Whether this was a one-off experiment, or SAF actually looks to shift Brady to LB, only time will tell. Ezekiel Fryers is rumoured to want out, in the footsteps of midfielders Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison. Will we sign Leighton Baines? Or do we give Evra one more year, as Fabio returns a matured player, while Tyler Blackett grows into the role? Only SAF can tell.
This piece would be incomplete without a mention of Will Keane, one of the most exciting forwards to come through our Youth setups in years. This season could have been the one which made him, but for that cruciate ligament injury he picked up towards the end of last season. He is sure to miss the entire 12-13 season. The rest of the team seems in order; and with the return of Vidic, we are stronger in defence. The Serbinator was missed last season, though Johnny Evans more than made up.
Let the rival clubs hear it from us. Our only major competitors remain City and Chelsea. While City have not made any major signings yet, Chelsea’s Russian sugar-daddy has been throwing money around like Santa distributing gifts at Christmas. Arsenal as usual, have to worry about their players leaving and winning trophies elsewhere while trying to sign a cat when they need a lion. Liverpool, well, when Ibracadabra and Thiago Silva can cost less than what they paid for Carroll and Henderson, I’ll leave them to their means. Wait, Spurs who?