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United: Season Preview – Pre RvP! Does his arrival alter things?

Three months ago Manchester United were denied a 20th league title in the most cruel of fashion as Sergio Aguero slotted the ball behind Paddy Kenny sending the blue half of Manchester into raptures, while the other half wished the grounds would come open and swallow them.

City’s comeback might have secured the title in front of a worldwide audience – much to the delight of Sky Sports’, no doubt – but United’s title challenge had long lost momentum by the last weekend of the season as they stumbled to defeat against Wigan and dilapidated a two-goal advantage against Everton.

The paper that had so often disclosed the cracks in United’s armour in recent season fell a few seconds short of accomplishing its mission and United fans could at least find solace at the prospect of Fergie swaggering his way through the transfer window, seeking much-needed reinforcements for his squad.

Having lost out to Chelsea in the race for Eden Hazard back in June, United quickly secured the signings of Nick Powell and Shinji Kagawa, to add grit and guile (and hopefully goals) to their midfield – so often the club’s Achilles in recent history.

While Powell is a long-term signing – who will nevertheless see a lot of action this year – the former Borussia Dortmund playmaker has the potential of being a very exciting player for United this season, despite being labelled too quickly as a “poor man’s Eden Hazard”.

Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean worse – not even in football – and the Japanese has shown enough during pre-season to promise that more will follow between now and May.

Sadly for the many United fans that have been crying out for a midfielder for a few years now, it seems increasingly likely that Sir Alex is satisfied with his options in the middle of the park where a big season awaits Tom Cleverley.

The youngster started off brilliantly last season, before succumbing to a series on injury set-backs that limited his appearances but shone for Team GB at the Olympics and will pick up his first England cap against Italy during the week.

With Nemanja Vidic back at the heart of the defence and Rio Ferdinand fresh following his omission from the England squad for Euro 2012, even the absence of Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans through injuries shouldn’t be too big a problem for United in the early stages of the season.

The left-back spot, however, requires strengthening as Patrice Evra is, at the time of writing, the only option available to Sir Alex as the proposed deal for Leighton Baines has yet failed to materialise due to Everton’s demand thought to be in the region of £20m and Fabio has been loaned out to QPR.

Up-front, with or without the arrival of Robin Van Persie, much will rest yet again on Wayne Rooney’s and Nani’s shoulders. The former will have to put behind him another major tournament in whom he failed to leave his mark, while the latter encountered a summer in which rumours regarding his future have been flying around more often than the club would have liked.

Whatever the outcome of the RVP saga, United will still lack a physical presence in midfield but signing the Dutchman would be a strong message to their contenders. As strong as any Sir Alex has sent in the last few seasons.