Sunday, August 17, 2008

Berbatov deal intrigue as Reds set to face Barcodes...

A quick trawl in search of the latest on the Dimitar Berbatov saga has yielded nothing at all, which could mean one of several scenarios; there's nothing to report, or more likely the deal has been done and is subject to a news embargo. I'm actually leaning towards the later because following on from yesterday's opening day damp squib; it's a very quiet news weekend. In a nutshell, Olympics apart, the media have had very little to write about, the Sundays' never miss an opportunity to cash-in on a big transfer story, so the fact that there's little or no mention of any update on the Berbatov situation is more than a bit intriguing.

United are set to face Newcastle in a game in which Keegan and his players will no doubt fancy their chances, especially with no Ronaldo, Nani, Hargreaves or Anderson and a no doubt less than fully fit Wayne Rooney, who returns after a mystery virus. The "while Pele", usually needs a few games under his belt before we see the best of him and so I'm not expecting fireworks from the former Everton striker today, not unless he gets himself sent off.

Given the problems up front, United are likely to struggle in front of goal and so I do not expect the goal avalanches of last season when the Reds scored 11 in the two league games. I'm predicting that today's match at Old Trafford will either end in a draw or else it will be won by the odd goal.

Elsewhere, Arsenal and Liverpool won narrowly and both were less than impressive, it's a bit early to be writing teams off, but first impressions do count and the Gunners looked lightweight in midfield while Liverpool didn't deserve to beat Sunderland.

I'm tipping Villa to break into the top four this season and so their clash with Man City could be an interesting game to watch. There's no easy way of putting this, but I hope that Mark Hughes fails at City and losing to Villa will heap yet more pressure onto the shoulders of the Welshman.

Given how well Eriksson did at City last season and the subsequent treatment meted out by the club's fugitive owner, it's doubtful that Shinawatra will afford Hughes the time to put matters right if the Blues go on a bad run, what's more it won't take the City fans long to get onto the manager's back given his United connections. The simple fact is, Hughes could be a great manager for City which is precisely why I want him to fail - and yes I am bitter, before anyone tells me...

As for Villa, the Premier League needs a club to break the monopoly of 'the big four' to show that it can be done, Villa and Spurs both have the potential, but out of the two, I'm leaning towards the midlands club to do it.

Elsewhere, Chelsea will no doubt start the new campaign with a comfortable win against Pompey. Scolari says that Chelsea will play like Brazil - which begs the question, which one? The modern day Brazil, or the old one, because they've not been that exciting to watch since 1982. The other day I posted that Chelsea had made no real significant signings, but I'd forgotten about Deco and by all accounts he's been on fire in pre-season.

My hope is that Chelsea do become more attractive to watch, because if they play a more expansive game, they will leave themselves open in midfield, which in turn will make for better games. We've had some fairly dour United v Chelsea games since they took the 'win at all costs route' following Jose's doctrine of football as laid down by the self proclaimed special one.

Much is being made of the appointment of Scolari and I must admit I'd have liked him to replace Fergie in the event of retirement, but obviously that will not happen now. You do wonder how long it will be before Scolari has his first touch-line row, the Brazilian is a colourful character and the game needs them for sure.

United's collective mission for the first few weeks of the season is not to lose too much ground on the leaders; we just need to stay in contention or thereabouts.

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