With few weeks remaining in the transfer window, the media were eager to write off the current English and European Champions from retaining their Premiership crown.
The logic behind it was that Chelsea now had a better manager than last season and they had signed Deco. As they had finished so close to United the season before, the argument was that with a better manager and another World class player thrown in to the mix, they would win the league.
Of course, as a United fan, I’d argue against this until I was blue in the face, with the main point being that our most effective players last season weren’t even 24 years old yet, whereas Chelsea’s were in their 30s, meaning our best players were a year closer to their peak whilst Chelsea’s were a year further away. Another point being no South American World Cup winner has ever made a success of their career with a European club.
Really though, this is all by the by. One of the major arguments against United was we hadn’t signed a new striker. The fact we hadn’t signed a new striker since Ruud van Nistelrooy left in 2006 was seemingly forgotten. The fact that we’d won two league titles and the European Cup in the two seasons without him was as well.
As Louis Saha was still registered with the club, nobody seemed to take in to consideration he only had a couple of 90 minute stints under his belt last season. When it appeared as though he would be off, the press rang the alarm bells, on United’s fans’ behalf.
When reading the season preview in The Guardian, I couldn’t quite get to grips with what was being said about us. Was it because it was nonsense, or because I had my red tinted specs on?
There are problems on the pitch too. The absence of an orthodox central striker, which seemed like an oddity or even a tactical innovation last season, could be a real problem this time around – it was certainly dreadfully apparent during the Community Shield.
I read another write up in preparation for the season from The Times:
Without Dimitar Berbatov, I am convinced that Manchester United would watch Chelsea cruise to the Barclays Premier League title by a good ten points.
Would Chelsea honestly be 10 points better than United if we didn’t sign an out-and-out striker? Am I the only one who hasn’t seen the decline in United over the summer and missed out on this apparent resurgent vision of Chelsea as champions?
What worked so well last season suddenly couldn’t work this season? Whilst I’m not expecting a repeat performance from Cristiano Ronaldo this season, I certainly wouldn’t fancy ruling it out either. I remember all too well back in January how Ferguson laughed off the idea of Ronaldo scoring 30 league goals.
This season he’s had his injury, but it’s important to note that if predictions are accurate, and he does return at the end of September, he’ll have missed just four league games. Last season he missed three because of his red card and Portsmouth, and before October started had just one Premiership goal to his name.
Wayne Rooney played in just 27 of the 38 games last season, missing close to 1/3 of the Premiership campaign through injury, yet he was still the highest scoring Englishman, the 11th highest scorer in the league, with only two players assisting more goals than him.
Carlos Tevez in his first season at United, starting the season lacking fitness and match practice, was the 9th highest scorer in the league. The fact that he has since shown obvious signs of improvement, proving himself to be our Man of the Match in every game so far this season, only adds to that.
If Cristiano Ronaldo was not in the Premiership last season, United would have had two players in the top 10 scorers in the league. It’s telling how much Ronaldo’s blinding season has overshadowed the contribution of our other strikers, but that’s the tunnel-vision of the media for you.
Former Juventus star and 1982 World Cup winner Paolo Rossi has sung United’s praises, saying, “the Red Devils are ahead of everyone in terms of their attacking line up.” He claims that on a World scale, it is Inter who follow, boasting the talents of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ricardo Quaresma, Adriano, Mancini and Hernan Crespo, then Barcelona, with Samuel Eto’o, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry, in 3rd.
Whilst I still am firmly of the view United would compete for top honours again next season without Dimitar Berbatov, I can also agree that we look a far stronger squad with his inclusion. The problem now is not the mythical “where are the goals going to come from?” Rather, it’s “how on earth can Fergie pick a team of just eleven men?”
To include Rooney, Tevez and Berbatov would mean just picking just three players from Paul Scholes, Owen Hargreaves, Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Anderson, Nani, Park Ji-Sung and Darren Fletcher. Whilst some of those names are easier to cross out than others, United with a fully fit squad is quite frankly terrifying. Our attacking options are by far superior to any season a United fan has seen.
The fact our defence outshone any in England, Spain, Italy or Germany last season only adds to our attacking strength, making it hard to bet against us.
To think that Berbatov has scored more than 20 goals a season for the past 4 years, with clubs who provided him with nowhere near the quality of service he will get at United, you have to imagine that with his adjustment to the Premiership in no doubt, he will be an excellent signing for us.
We scored 80 goals in the league last season, 110 in all competitions, with 15 different players getting on the score sheet. Even for those who don’t believe Ronaldo will match his goal tally of last season, the potential for United to score even more goals than last season is pretty strong.
It has to be said though, I’m not Berbatov’s biggest fan. He seems a bit too mardy for my liking so for now I just have to imagine he’ll be happier and less stroppy when pulling on the United shirt. He has to be.
So whilst I won’t be rushing out to get his name on the back of my shirt, when the goals start pouring in, I’m sure he will change my opinion of him!