Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Anelka right to question United's title credentials...

Thankfully United's tour of the Far East has come to a close; it has been a useful exercise on and off the pitch with Michael Owen pitching in with four goals from four games. From a commercial perspective, by all accounts the champions have trousered several million pounds from the games in Malaysia and China. However, as is so often the case at this time of year the real action has yet to start and next United face Boca Juniors in Germany followed by games against either Bayern Munich or AC Milan and then Chelsea in the Community Shield.

The opposition for the remaining pre-season friendlies will no doubt give United a much sterner test, so on the pitch we can look forward to seeing how the team might fair in the coming season.

Following a hugely disappointing summer transfer window with the focus being on exits rather than world-class replacements the signs are not looking good. Earlier this week Chelsea striker Nic Anelka spoke to the media and played down United's title winning chances, he had every right to do so, it's an obvious prediction to make.

Nemanja Vidic who has been at the centre of much speculation surrounding his future has worryingly so far failed to link up with the rest of the squad and cynics will be wondering if there's more to this "ankle injury" than the fans are being told, but the official line is the Serbian will join the champions in Germany ahead of the Audi Cup, but he is unfit and might not play...

New signing Atonio Valencia's transfer is still caught up red-tape over his work-permit and Gabriel Obertan will be out until at least October.

Valencia will hopefully receive the green like over his work permit, but he will not provide the answer where goals are concerned, so United will be left relying on the fitness of Michael Owen and a 17-year-old in Macheda, plus the partnership of Rooney and Berbatov which has so far shown few signs of working.

Following the departures of Ronaldo and Tevez it was imperative that Fergie went out and brought in a world-class striker, but the arrival of Michael Owen surprised and underwhelmed many. The former Liverpool striker has a good record where goals are concerned, but his fitness is the big concern, added to which he doesn't do a lot outside the opposition penalty area.

So given Fergie's questionable summer transfer activity, what exactly can United fans expect this coming season? It's highly unlikely that United will score anywhere near as many goals as last season. Opposition defences will no longer fear United on the counter-attack following the loss of Ronaldo; we are therefore likely to see opponents pressing United further up the pitch which could result in the champions conceding possession and making mistakes in midfield and at the back. Even before a ball is kicked, you can bet opposition managers' are already plotting against what is likely to be a toothless United.

Having to rely on a player whose career has been severely blighted by injuries and a 17-year-old is no recipe for continued success, especially when your existing strikers are not prolific in front of goal and lack pace.

Many are predicting bigger things from Wayne Rooney, but the truth is, the former Everton star doesn't have much more to give, he has been playing at his absolute maximum for United - though he has been wasteful in front of goal on occasion. No one, including Ferguson, one suspects, is actually sure who will play down the middle for United.

There are many unanswered questions including where Rooney will play; will it be left wing in the really big games in a 4:3:3 formation, or will he feature in a more central role? Will Berbatov play alongside Owen, or will it be the former Newcastle striker and Macheda?

Ferguson has been quite clever when talking to the media, when dropping big hints that Macheda will play a big part this season, you cannot beat competition for places and it seems the United manager might well be appearing to lay down an early marker, the suggestion being that one of his striker berths might already have been decided. Mind games and competition for places aside, it is likely to be a very difficult season for United.

6 comments:

  1. Anelka is, as you say, right. On paper United are weaker than last season. We lost the best player in the world.

    However games are not played on paper. players like Nani, Rooney and Berbatov all have the potential to score more goals than they did last season. Owen will score more than Tevez I have no doubt and Valencia is a strong addition to the squad.

    I'm not hopeful of a 4th consecutive title. But I'm not worried either... Not yet... there are too many question marks left to be answered.

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  2. Lighten up mate. It's not all doom and gloom. The real loss is Ronaldo, Tevez not so much. Berbatov can be expected to score more and so will Rooney and possibly Owen will score a few. Ronaldo was a fantastic goalscorer but the main reason he scored so many goals is because he was set up by everyone else. With him gone, those chances will fall to someone else. Hopefully whoever it is (Berba or Owen or Kiko) will be just as if not more clinical.

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  3. why oh why are you so pessimistic about everything ? I dont think anyone can predict who among the top 4 will win the title this year and I guess we have a good chance as always.

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  4. Natraj,

    I make no apologies for giving my honest assessment about United's chances. At present I do not see where the goals are coming from.

    If you want my prediction for the coming season we are looking at finishing 4th at very best and that will be a struggle.

    Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal will finish above United.

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  5. Rossoneri,

    IF you take out last season's top four scorers, the rest of the squad only scored 15 between them - and with Ronaldo and Tevez gone then it's fair to ask where the goals will from...

    IF Fergie was going to stand any chance of keeping the winning momentum going then he simply had to sign a world class striker who would more or less guarantee goals, he hasn't done that.

    A season's hopes could hinge on Macheda coming good, which I really hope happens, obviously. I think Owen is a shot in the dark and even Fergie has referred to his signing as a "punt".

    What I will say is Fergie is a lucky manager and maybe he will get lucky again with Owen and Macheda.

    United fans who say "it'll be alright because it always is" bemuse me slightly because they are ingoring the facts, last season's stats do not lie.

    I honestly hope I'm 100% wrong about the season ahead and I'll be delighted if that happens.

    I'd like to see some of the younger lads coming through and really pushing for 1st team places, that would make it for an interesting season even if we finish potless.

    However, I can see United becoming one paced and too predictable with too many mediocre players getting the nod in the early part of the season.

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  6. Jocke,

    I think the only time to be worried from a club perspective (the huge debts and all) is if the club looks like missing out on CL football the season after next and I can see that happening.

    I don't see Nani improving and I don't see United getting close 100 goals. Berbatov and Rooney have been playing at their maximum and Owen will only get 15 goals tops. United needed to sign a world class striker and no not David Villa who has only scored 21 goals in three seasons in Spain, so what is all the fuss about?

    Interesting times ahead me thinks...

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