United are walking a fine line between brilliance and failure

August is over and we have no one new to show for the last two torturous days…feels like shit, doesn’t it?

I’m reminded of an article I wrote a month ago – Manchester United are two steps away from being fucked. Read it. Seriously, take 5 mins out and read it.

Revisiting it confirms that David Gill, Alex Ferguson and the Glazers have taken the first step, and failed to sign that one elusive player that we really needed (midfielder, not striker). Now, only injuries separate us from a ‘good season’ and absolute failure.

But before you get on your podium and start telling me how bad (or good) a squad we have, here’s my take on it:

August saw a well-prepared, perfectly-drilled Manchester United take out 3 relegation-contenders with considerable ease (and all of those matches were without several first-team players). The team has shown a fighting spirit that was so severely lacking for Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham in all their games (Liverpool managed to turn it on long enough to help them score two goals, but that’s about it). This team may be short of quality and short in numbers, but their passing and sheer control of the game’s tempo is something that Manchester United fans have sorely missed over the past couple of years.

But they were relegation fodder. Watford will cause upsets, definitely, while Fulham and Charlton will mess around in the bottom 10. What about some serious opposition? Watford came the closest in disturbing Manchester United’s rhythm but once we get Vidic, Heinze and Neville back for Tottenham and Rooney and Scholes back for Arsenal, who would bet against Manchester United taking away all 6 points from those two games?

At full-strength, Manchester United are a match for any team. This is a settled outfit, and they have had excellent preparation under Ferguson and their passing and will to win are comparable to Arsenal 2004 and Chelsea 2005.

If the squad stays free of injuries (and that’s a BIG if), we won’t be seeing too much of Darren Fletcher. He will be fourth-choice behind Scholes, Carrick and O’Shea. If worse comes to worse, Smith can always come back to the midfield. Not ideal though. At the back, we need Ferdinand and Vidic to stay fit, because I don’t trust Brown and O’Shea to man central defence against the big guns. Brown has done well on the right and I hope that Evra improves his crossing and tackling so that he can take over from Silvestre.

Up front, Manchester United have 6 strikers, not 4. Apart from Rooney and Saha, Ferguson can call upon Giggs, Ronaldo, Solskjaer and Smith to fill in – and that’s not just because we’re short on numbers, but because Giggs and Ronaldo are such talented players that they can easily fill in that role. The presence of Ronaldo and Giggs in the team is extremely important for the balance of the squad, and they can do the job perfectly well. Richardson and Park can cover the flanks for both players, and while they are not the best replacements they do possess the same fighting spirit that the United squad is endowed with this season.

Right now, Manchester United easily has the first-team capable of winning the Premiership. Champions League too, although I doubt if we have the numbers and we will really be relying on the loan players coming back in Jan AND perhaps a new signing in January to deal with the full season.

Barring injuries, Manchester United should be in for a very interesting title-run.

Incidentally, the Fink Tank Predictor says that Manchester United will win the Premiership (Chelsea second, Liverpool 3rd, Arsenal 4th, Tottenham nowhere to be seen). I’m not going to argue with the maths behind it except to say that these predictions change after every match, so in a month or so the picture could be very, very different.

And about our failure to sign anyone in the transfer season (other than Carrick and Kuszczak)? Well, what CAN I say? I’m gutted but I haven’t lost faith in the team or the club – we knew beforehand that Manchester United were moving slowly in the transfer market and that they made serious mistakes by not approaching the right players (not to mention that Bayern Munich refused to sell a midfielder who is FOURTH-choice in their team), but a manager should not be judged solely on his transfer dealings.

Sir Alex Ferguson is a very flawed man but he is also the man who made Manchester United into a fearsome, all-conquering, never-say-die club. He can do it again, but for that we must judge him on the results the club can accomplish on the pitch.

Tottenham awaits, 9th September, Old Trafford.

Bring it on.

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