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Last season Man Utd were very disappointing. We finished fourth out of four in the group stage of the Champions League which meant we crashed out of the Champions League and the Uefa Cup in one painful blow. The reason for this is perplexing, none of the teams we played (and got beaten by) had a superior squad, manager, stadium or fan base. I tried to take some positive out of no European football and this is what i came out with; as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all went further than us i could presume they may concentrate some of their attention on the possibility they could win the mot prestigious club competition in the world. With the other big English teams distracted we (Man Utd) could now put our full attention on winning the Barclays Premiership. With extra matches in the season the other English team also had the problem of fatigue which could benefit us as this would force them to play either tired or less talented players which should, in theory, give them more chance of losing.
These reasons led me to believe that this season we had the best chance we would have in a while to win the league, but, unfortunately, I was proved wrong and we finished second, only one point above Liverpool. As is happens Chelsea and Liverpool didn't actually last that long in the Champions League which meant the problem of fatigue never occurred. Luckily neither of them could solely concentrate on the league as they both made it all the way to the semi-final of the F.A. cup, Liverpool eventually going all the way to win. Arsenal on the other hand managed to make it to the final of the Champions League, losing to Barcelona in the final. This may explain their poor run in the league finishing only fourth, just beating Tottenham to the position in the final match of the season.
Nevertheless Man Utd did win some silverware last year, the League cup. Although this award is generally seen as the worst you can win in the English football it shows some hope. In the League cup, the teams in the Premiership tend to field their young, reserve teams, trying not to risk their top players. As we won the League cup, this shows we have the best reserve/youth teams in the Premiership. This means in the future, when we need to use our young players of today, we will be better, hopefully, then the rest of the pack. Our great reserve team also shows a large squad of quality players, meaning fatigue should never ruin our prospects in league or cups alike.
Quick history lesson . . . in 1998, Man Utd won the treble (League, F.A. cup and Champions League). This was due to a large number of young players that had grown up together in the academy. These players consisted of; David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Phil Neville and Nicky Butt. These players were the foundation of that successful team and we have never had such a good youth team . . . until now.
In my opinion and that of many other fans, the main reason for our failure last season was the lack of a strong midfield player to run the middle of the team with skill and strength. We did have many good midfielders that could play in the centre; Darren Fletcher, John O'Shea, Paul Scholes, Ji-Sung Park but to win the Premiership or the Champions League you need two great central midfielders. Paul Scholes was a great midfield player during the late 90's and early 21st century but now he seems to tire easily and after missing most of last season doesn't look as sharp as I can remember him previously.
Sir Alex must have realised this as he has just bought Michael Carrick off Tottenham for a modest £14m. This could rise to £18.6 if success and appearances go his way. Carrick has already shown his strength and skill at West Ham and Tottenham and with higher quality players around him that can only make him better. He's at the perfect age, 25, where he's had plenty of match experience at club and international level but is also young enough to improve greatly and with the great coaches and the Man Utd camp he'll improve at the fastest rate possible. Carrick has many positive characteristics; strength, excellent passing and creativity, good forward runs, tackling and the ability to hit a great shot from distance or in the penalty area. Carrick may just be one of the central midfielders we need to succeed but Sir Alex has to dig deep and buy as second if we want to taste similar success as 1998. Rumours claim we are trying to buy Senna from Villarreal after failing to sign Patrick Viera from Juventus. He may be the second holding midfield player we need to take us all the way.
Here's a quick review of other positions;
Wingers; on the left we have veteran Ryan Giggs, who still has the pace and crossing ability to rival the best of wingers. When Giggs becomes tired we have a very respectable replacement, young Kieran Richardson who has come up through the youth academy and played a few games last season looking fast, sharp and good on the ball. As well as this he also has a brilliant free kick ability. On the right wing we have public enemy number one, Christiano Ronaldo. I respect his brave decision to stay at Man Utd despite the inevitable booing he'll receive at every stadium in England he plays at. I hope this constant bombardment won't distract him from playing his extremely high level of football and beating opposition players with his skill and pace.
Strikers; up front I think we only have one top class striker, hothead Wayne Rooney. After selling Ruud van Nistelrooy to Real Madrid our second choice of striker is a fight between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Louis Saha and young hopeful Guiseppe Rossi. Despite what looks like three good contenders neither are good enough to play at the top level, Solskjaer is too old, Rossi is too young and Saha is too weak. My advice to Sir Alex would be simple concerning strikers; use only one Rooney or buy another top class striker that can win score goals on a regular basis like van Nistelrooy used to do so well. We have been linked with the possible singing of Spanish goal machine Fernando Torres from Athletico Madrid. Despite his outrageous price tag of £30m I think he would be the perfect replacement for Ruud and with him and Rooney in the team every defence in the world would fear this prolific double team.
Central Defenders; this is probably our strongest area of the field with quality on the pitch and substitutes that would rival most other teams first teams. Our starting two are normally Rio Ferdinand and Vidic. Although we only acquired Vidic in the January transfer market earlier this year he showed great potential in the centre of defence. His partnership with Rio also seemed to be blossoming towards the end of the season, letting very few goals against them towards the end of the season. On the sub bench we have a choice between John O'Shea and Wes Brown. Both have played for their countries and many times for Man Utd so lack of experience or quality isn't a problem. Neither is age with both in their 20's. Maybe the only position Sir Alex doesn't need to splash out for.
Full Backs; on the left the choice is extensive; Gabriel Heinze, Patrice Evra and Mikel Silvestre. All three have excellent potential and quality which shows as all three went to the world cup with Argentina or France. Due to Heinzes' injury late last season Evra finished last season as the first choice left back with Silvestre as the sub. All three players have qualities and defects and this is the only position which I wouldn't be to advice Sir Alex on. Sorry Ferg, you have to choose this one on your own! On the right we have veteran and captain Gary Neville. Although still aging quite rapidly he still is the best right back in the Premiership with Bardsley as his young apprentice ready to take his place whenever Neville decides to pack it in.
Goalkeepers; Edwin van Der Sar the second best keeper in the Premiership only marginally behind Petr Cech. There are rumours we are planning to buy Thomasz Kuszczak from West Brom so when Edwin retires we have a quality replacement. As well as Tim Howard who has been loaned to Everton we have good potential keepers.
Altogether I think if Sir Alex buys a few more quality players to strengthen our squad we can do very well this season. We have exceptional youths, veterans and reserves that, with the right frame of mind could win everything this season.
A good review. I wonder if Man Utd either have their glass half full (a couple of good signings and they really could go a long way) or half empty (an ageing team on the slide). Sorry to nitpick but the Treble was won in 1999 not 1998.
n13roy 28.08.2006 14:14
Really well written and very informative review indeed, looks like things are on the up nowdays though, with a 100% record as I write this ( Kiss of Death there, methinks).........Roy....