Manchester United – 2011/2012 Season Preview

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By Lee Savery

So here we are once again, a new season dawns. This weekend the 20th Premier League season begins and it is only fitting that Manchester United are the defending champions for this milestone. Sir Alex Ferguson will also celebrate his 25th year as manager, in November, and he would like nothing more than more silverware on his Silver Jubilee. With the 19th title safely at Old Trafford, will the Red Devils make it 20 this season and will they win the Champions League?

Transfers

INS: David de Gea (Atletico Madrid), Phil Jones (Blackburn Rovers), Ashley Young (Aston Villa).

OUTS: John O’Shea, Wes Brown (both Sunderland), Joshua King (Borussia Mönchengladbach, loan), Ritchie de Laet (Norwich, loan), Bebe (Besiktas, loan), Joe Dudgeon, Robbie Brady (loan) (both Hull City), Owen Hargreaves (released), Conor Devlin (released), Edwin van der Sar, Paul Scholes (both retired), Scott Wootton (loan), Ryan Tunnicliffe (loan), Nicky Ajose (all to Peterborough), Oliver Gill (released) Gabriel Obertan (Newcastle)

Change. A new Manchester United is forming. Last season saw the retirements of Gary Neville, Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar, leaving Ryan Giggs as the only current “old guard” remaining. New players were needed and Sir Alex didn’t disappoint with three, seemingly, excellent acquisitions of David de Gea, Phil Jones & Ashley Young. They have big futures and are at the best club to fulfil their potential.

It was inevitable that Owen Hargreaves was released, although the club had tried to secure a new deal that would have been best for both parties. I’m sure we all wish him well for the future. The same should be said for Gabriel Obertan who just wasn’t quite good enough for United.

Squad

Youth. During the second half of the Community Shield win over Manchester City, the average age of the United line-up was 22. Impressive, considering the mature performance that completed a brilliant turnaround. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley & Danny Welbeck impressed alongside the established stars. Believe me, they are pushing for places and they will play a big part in what happens this season.

Our attacking options are probably the strongest and definitely the most plentiful in the Premier League. Seven strikers competing for two places will leave five strikers frustrated. Wayne Rooney is seemingly an automatic starter due to his key role for the team. Competition is fierce and Dimitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez, Michael Owen, Danny Welbeck, Federicho Macheda & Mame Biram Diouf will give Sir Alex plenty of selection headaches.

Last season saw Man United unbeatable at home while away from home saw scrappy draws and silly defeats. However, even if we were left frustrated by the results on the road, United were still in the Top 4 on the away table. Will Sir Alex be too bothered? Not as long as he gets the Premier League title. However, this season’s Premier League could be tighter than ever, at the top, so dropping as fewer points as possible away from home could be key this season.

Sir Alex is a master tactician, evolving his game when needed and has left managers across the world bamboozled. Last season, he felt more confident in his strikers during the big games as he deployed the 4-4-2 formation although that was ultimately the wrong decision in the Champions League final but the Barcelona team they faced would have beaten anybody that night. I still expect the team to pack the midfield when necessary, especially away in Europe. Rooney will have more control of the play (acting as an advanced playmaker), like he had towards the end of last season. Ashley Young will be first choice on the left wing with Ryan Giggs playing in centre-midfield. Pace, energy and a sturdy defence. What more could one want?

With competition for places all over the pitch and a young, vibrant bunch of players mixing alongside the experience winners, lead by Nemanja Vidic, Sir Alex has a squad which will take a lot to beat this season.

Youth

Paul Pogba & Ravel Morrison. These two are certainly big talents and are likely to feature in the Carling Cup this campaign. Morrison’s talent is as well documented as his off-field activities. Maybe this season he will finally realise what an opportunity he has and will focus on the great talent he has. Morrison is a gifted, skilful, creative midfielder who is capable of scoring and creating goals. Pogba is someone who can dominate a midfield and has a great eye for a pass and the spectacular. Also look out for our young players out on loan; Joshua King, Ritchie de Laet, Robbie Brady, Ryan Tunnicliffe & Scott Wootton.

Star man

Wayne Rooney. Last season was a tale of two halves. One split with injuries, lack of form and his agent’s gargantuan greed with the other showing the Rooney we know, doing his talking on the pitch with impressive performances and THAT goal. His overall contribution is second to none and will be important in whatever success this season brings.

Surprise package

Tom Cleverley. In a season where everyone is looking for a successor for Paul Scholes, Tom Cleverley will want to be that successor. No one could ever be as good as Scholes but Cleverley has the potential to be a world-class midfielder. After a season playing first team football at Wigan, he will be hungry to secure his place in Sir Alex’s first eleven.

Season Expectations

Premier League & Champions League. The two biggest trophies available are the trophies everyone involved with the club wants. Considered by many as the overwhelming favourites for the Premier League, it is Europe that remains the hurdle pundits debate whether United can surpass. We are definitely one of the favourites and this team can beat anyone in Europe. The cup competitions will be a bonus. Expectations are as high as ever. Success is craved, success is expected.

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