Around 3 months ago and during the summer as well to a degree, many people were getting premonitions of Manchester United on a decline. Some of these people also predicted a decline when Robson, Cantona, Keane and van Nistelrooy left. Yet we survived each and every time, coming roaring back to win all before and behind us.
Rooney had the massive burden of carrying the team after the departures of Carlos Tevez and former World Player of the Year, Cristiano Ronaldo. He more of less carried us last season with an astonishing return of 34 goals. Unfortunately, when he picked up an ankle injury on that catastrophic night in the Allianz Arena, the wheels came off the United bandwagon.
United stumbled over the finishing line for the season as they crashed out early of the Champions League in the quarter final, exited the FA Cup in a humiliating 3rd round loss to Leeds, finished runners-up to Chelsea in the league and won the least coveted trophy, the League Cup.
But those 3 months have now changed dramatically. Signing Mexican wonder kids, tying down best players to new contracts, important players returning from injury and the youthful players having that vital extra year of experience. The squad has not seen any major departures, only major arrivals and none more than the signing of Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez.
He was the sole United player to have anywhere near a decent World Cup as he put a smile on our faces during those depressing summer months. Chris Smalling, the promising central defender from Fulham, also entered the fray to add to an already world class squad. Both were badly need players.
Hernandez to take the burden off Rooney and also give us 4 fantastic options up front for strikers also including Berbatov and Owen. Smalling to provide extra cover for a defense which was struck harder than Gulf of Mexico by oil by injuries last December.
For many long months now, Nemanja Vidic has been sending mixed messages to United fans about his future. Now that has been sorted and you can see in his pre-season performances, he has returned to the no-nonsense, brutal defender he was when he broke into the first team. After last season’s injury-hit and uncharacteristically slightly error-prone season for him, he will seek to make amends and tighten up the leaky defense.
Another boost for Manchester United this season is the return of John O’Shea and Wes Brown from injury. Both missed the majority of last season with a string of injuries and with these solid defenders coming back, the strikers of the league are only going to become more frustrated.
Finally, the young players will just have that extra bit of experience which will play a vital part in the upcoming season. Perhaps Darren Fletcher has been the greatest proof of this. For years he was ridiculed as Fergie’s ‘Love child’ because of his less than convincing displays. Now, with plenty of experience under his belt, he has become one of the first names on the team sheet.
This season, players like Rafael, Fabio, Anderson, Nani, Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson will get more and more games exerting more of an influence on United’s quest for honours this term.
So with Chelsea’s aging squad and the hunger of trophies gone because of last season’s highly successful campaign, they are less of a force. Arsenal have lost 4 of their 6 central defenders from last year to make a vulnerable defense even more penetrable. Liverpool may have a small revival but they won’t contend for the title this year, that’s for sure.
Tottenham will suffer domestically because of concentrating on the Champions League. Manchester City for all their world class forwards they’re signing, that defense which shipped so many easy goals last season, is more or less the same. I fully expect Manchester United to reclaim the Premier League title and do it in style getting the record breaking 19th title in the process.