Arrivals & Departures:
2011-12 is already stacking up as an interesting season for Manchester United. After several years of very little spending or action in the off-season, Fergie has spent mucho dinero this summer in the hope that he can make his team younger and better. In with the new, David De Gea, Phil Jones, Ashley Young and dare I forecast the possibility of Wesley Sneijder to come. Only Liverpool has been as active in rebuilding their club as we have.
During this time we have lost Paul Scholes and Edwin van der Sar to retirement and have sold Wes Brown and John O’Shea to Sunderland and it seems inevitable that both Darron Gibson and Dimitar Berbatov could be leaving before the transfer deadline comes to a close. And while I am at it, hopefully the loaning out of Bebe to Besiktas will end up being a permanent move.
Many changes have occurred but for me the beat goes on. Nothing much has changed because Manchester United is still the cream of the crop in English football. Yes Manchester City and Liverpool have made serious money moves to further improve themselves but other than them, the rest of the elite five teams seem to be sliding in the opposite direction.
Chelsea seems awfully naïve in believing that yet another young Portuguese manager, this time Andre Villas-Boas will conjure up memories of his predecessor and countryman Jose Mourinho and lift Chelsea to the title. Newsflash Roman, Villas-Boas is not Mourinho, and Villas-Boas was not given the transfer kitty “The Special One” received which helped him build that powerhouse that now six years later looks awfully old, rusty and weather beaten.
Unless Abramovich coughs up some money for some serious world class talent, look for Chelsea to continue the slide they began last season. No Essien, no youth, no chance. Sure they still have some key players with loads of experience and they will be good enough to fight for a top five place but fourth or fifth is where I realistically see Chelsea ending up this season unless Modric or a few other players show up before the deadline to steady the Blues. When did Roman’s cash reserve and desire to buy a winner dry up? Things that make you go hmmmm!
As for Arsenal, Tottenham and the rest of the pretenders to throne, well, they will excite, tease, underachieve and disappoint in the end and these two clubs along with possibly Everton will fight it out for fourth and fifth positions in the league. Arsenal will probably lose Cesc Fabregas but even if they don’t, they have not made the massive improvements needed to really make them a serious contender to our throne. They still need a holding midfielder of world class calibre and the fact is, Song and anyone else they have is not that man.
Wilshere and Ramsey are fine young players but they will not elevate the team to the heights they need to reach in order to end up in first. And my God, if there was ever a team in need of a quality keeper it is the Gunners. Almunia is for my buck, the worst keeper in all of English football. The man is a total muppet and his reserves aren’t that much better.
Yes Arsenal could shock and surprise and finish second or third but for me fourth is where they will be just ahead of Chelsea and Spurs. Wenger is still playing a very dangerous game and his state of denial is now becoming legendary. It’s almost as bad as Fergie’s denial when it comes to our central midfield deficiencies, but on a more massive scale. But that topic is for another day indeed.
So who will finish second and third? Well I expect Manchester City to really put the heat on us this season. Lets face it, that club has the cash and they are stacked with quality players at every position and most of all, great players rotting away on the bench. Their depth like ours is positively scary and that alone is what places them above Liverpool and the rest. If they can get the kind of play out of Aguero and Balotelli that they are capable of, then who knows, they just might threaten us.
Where they fail is in their lack of discipline and cohesive play as well as experience. Manchester United may have some holes in their line-up but they have confidence, self believe, discipline and cohesion that along with experience makes them ideal in winning any marathon race. Sure we can be beat in a one game situation or cup final, but over a long 38 game marathon, few teams are better suited or better managed and rotated than United.
Transition or Title Challenge?
Liverpool is indeed on the rebound thanks to Kenny Dalglish and their new policy of buy UK born players. So much the desire there is to eliminate the remnants of Rafa’s influence that talent wise, Kenny is going in a totally different direction. Sure he still has some strong foreign talent but adding players like Henderson, Adam, Downing and other will only make this club better suited for the English League and make the team a happier and more harmonious bunch. They will be a lot better but will they really threaten for the title? I don’t think so. First off, Fergie will not allow it. Secondly, their back four is a joke especially their center backs. Until they improve their defense, they will not compete seriously for the title.
Manchester United is still the club that have the horses for the courses and has the quality and tradition to carry it through one more time for that magical even numbered twentieth title. Now that we have surpassed Liverpool, Fergie will be damned if he hands it back to the Anfield outfit and lets face it, Manchester City is just the noisy neighbor from the wrong side of the tracks and at the end of the day despite their money and bravado, are still just pretenders.
Part 2 of the preview will follow in a few days and will be a little more specific about United’s title chances and the players who will either make or break us this season. Stay tuned for that one gang.
Last season Sky Sports covered 26 Manchester United matches and will broadcast a similar amount in 2011/12. Every match will be available in HD and selected matches in 3D. At present the confirmed TV listings are up to and including the end of November, with a guaranteed 6 live games to that point.
ALL THE CLUBS: Every Barclays Premier League team will be shown live in the first set of Sky Sports HD fixtures with all three newly-promoted clubs shown live at least three times by the end of November.
BIG HEAD-TO-HEADS: Sky Sports will show 11 matches between last year’s top six teams, including Manchester United v Arsenal on August 28 and Manchester United v Chelsea on September 18.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SPECIAL: Sky Sports will offer more than 129 live matches from the UEFA Champions League on Sky Sports HD2, Sky Sports HD4 and via the red button, including live coverage of the final qualifying round in August. Throughout the tournament Sky Sports will show up to 15 live matches per week across the Group Stage including every match on Tuesday nights.
SKY GO: Sky Sports is also available to view via Sky Go, a service that allows Sky TV customers with Sky Sports access across a range of devices at no extra cost. Sky customers will be able to watch live streaming of every Sky Sports channel on laptops, computers, tablet and mobile devices with Sky Go (link to video)
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