Peering out of the window I see a glorious sunny day – not a single cloud in the Manchester skyline (not the Manchester I know). The return of an old friend has brought the sun. How I have missed walking to the stadium, the smell of burgers & hot dogs from the food vendors on the outskirts of the ground, the anticipation and of course singing very badly alongside my Man United mates! The World Cup and Cricket have failed to fill the huge void – Welcome back Manchester United!!
Manchester United kick off their Premier League campaign with a fixture against newly promoted Newcastle United. Newcastle’s players and fans will be full of vigour after a successful 2009/10 league campaign, which saw them dominate and clinch The Championship by an eleven point margin. Newcastle have been quiet in the transfer with only James Perch (Nottingham Forest, £1.5m) and free transfers Dan Gosling (a long term injury absence and is expected to return in the New Year) and Sol Campbell arriving this summer. A lot of emphasis has been placed on their younger players in a bid to avoid the drop this season. Personally, I believe the signing of Campbell is a good one. Not necessarily when Newcastle play against the so called bigger teams, but against the teams in their mini league. He will add experience to their backline, aiding the likes of Stephen Taylor. Campbell is unlikely to start tonight.
Who to select at right back? This was a continually discussion point last season, with several defenders struggling with injuries (Wes Brown, Gary Neville and John O’Shea) Rafael was perhaps thrown in at the deep end. He was rash at times and prone to school boy errors, which is understandable for an inexperienced player. As the 2009/10 season ended, I was firmly of the opinion Rafael would establish himself as first choice right back for the forthcoming season. However, his pre-season form has been somewhat iffy – notably struggling against Kansas City Wizards. Of course, he still will make mistakes…
With Ferdiand still absent, Johnny Evans and Nemanja Vidic is the obvious central defensive partnership. New signing Chris Smalling is unlikely to feature unless Sir Alex believes the ex-Fulham man requires game time or allows him to make his home debut.
Evra is unlikely to start after allowed additional time to recover after the shenanigans of the French. With Fabio featuring yesterday for the reserves against Shamrock Rovers, John O’Shea is likely to earn a starting spot at left back. I’d expect Evra to feature at some point in an effort to improve match fitness.
After missing the North America tour Valencia has made an impressive return to first team action – scoring a goal and providing an assist for Javier Hernandez. After his excellent form during the second half of last season, Nani has perhaps made the left wing spot his own. He deserves first opportunity to maintain form and hopefully improve.
Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes is my preferred pairing in central midfield, with Michael Carrick replacing Scholes mid way through the second half. Central midfield is key – Alan Smith, Danny Guthrie, Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton (the latter two being Scousers) will battle, graft and try to disrupt United’s flow.
In attack there are doubts surrounding the fitness of Wayne Rooney. If fit he and Dimitar Berbatov are likely to start. Personally, I’m backing Berbatov to make one or two eat their own words this season. I have confidently predicted he will have scored 15 goals by 01/01/11. I’m hoping Rooney starts and scores, as he needs a goal badly. If Rooney is unavailable, Hernandez will probably make his first Old Trafford start. Hernandez will no doubt make his home debut at some point during the game.
Score prediction: 3-0 Manchester United with goals from Berbatov, Valencia and Hernandez.
What do you think?
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