Since the departure of Ronaldo and Tevez, Man United have not looked as accomplished an outfit as their main title contenders, Chelsea. With a lack of big money investment this summer, the west London outfit are favourites to claim back-to-back Premiership titles.
Despite undoubted class, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes will play increasingly diminishing roles, and in the absence of a firing Wayne Rooney, the ‘attack attack attack’ nature of United looks less threatening now than in recent years.
Mexican mouse, Javier Hernandez, is their most noteworthy addition in the off-season. Unlike billions of others, the pint-sized striker enjoyed the World Cup, made an impact in the Community Shield and seems blessed with innate technique.
At £6 million and just 22 years of age, Hernandez may well prove to be another Ferguson masterstroke, despite the effeminately precise nature of his acrylic eyebrows.
United have made an unremarkable start to the season relative to some of their chief adversaries, last week’s 2-2 draw with Fulham an unwelcome blip as both Arsenal and Chelsea scored six. However, if there is one team in the league that the Big Boys look to to provide a welcome tonic, it’s us.
Man U are a wounded animal. They can not afford another slip up so early and will be looking to exorcise any doubts as to their title credentials by thumping us on Saturday evening, and who can say they won’t do just that?
Fantasy Football managers across the globe are frantically packing their teams with as many United players as possible.
2. Park Yourself Here
The importance of Scott Parker was again evident on Tuesday night as he popped up with the injury-time winner against Oxford United, in lieu of any incisive forward play.
He also created our best chance against Bolton, threading though a neat pass to Kieron Dyer, who forced a good save from Jussi Jaaskelaineuaiieenanen.
Parker has been the focal point of our transfer speculation this summer, with feather-ruffling tax cheat Harry Redknapp lodging a bid in spite of David Sullivan’s unequivocal refusal to sell. A lucrative five-year contract has been put on the table for Parker, a notable commitment to a 29-year old.
However, this contract has been awaiting his signature for nearly a month. Parker must know that this is his last chance of a big contract and stalling thus far does not fill me with confidence regarding a long-term commitment.
Spurs qualification for the Champions League group stages will guarantee them a tidy income, and so expect another offer to be forthcoming before the close of the transfer window next week.
3. The Proposal
‘Fergie – how about it. You. Me. Candlelight. A can of Kestrel Super and some oven chips. Come on, you can't resist this.’
Since John Paintsil showed the world why he is the greatest player of all time back in 2007, United have utterly dominated us. In the five fixtures since, they have one all five, scoring 14 goals in the process.
A close fought 1-0 loss back in February 2009 is as admirable as we have been, competing until Ryan Giggs stepped inside an askew Carlton Cole to fire in a low, right-footed shot through a crowded penalty area.
Last season’s corresponding fixture ended in a 3-0 defeat with Wayne Rooney scoring a brace of headers during the red-hot spell of form he singularly failed to employ in South Africa.
Despite a similar deficit, this fixture was an improvement upon the home match, in which we were thoroughly outclassed and lost 4-0, picked apart like a Dan Brown plotline.
It says something about our expectations when you’ll take a 3-0 loss as long as we show some appetite.
5. The Response
6. Arrivederci Alessandro
This week saw the sale of Alessandro Diamanti to Brescia for £1.8 million, representing a loss of £4.2 million on our original £6 million investment.
The crass financial folly of this deal aside, I can’t see how it makes any football sense.
Diamanti was sometimes wasteful and as many of his efforts ended up in Zamora territory as tested the ‘keeper. But he was an attacking player, he wasn’t a ‘safety first’ footballer, he was someone willing to take on defenders or try the unpredictable.
At the very least, he provided a positive option on the bench. Kieron Dyer’s papier-mâché knees will not hold out for more than a couple of months, and two games since joining, Pablo Barrera can not solely be expected to carry the burden of creativity.
I just can’t see how this deal makes any sort of sense. While not a great player, Diamanti was a committed one who on his day could provide a breakthrough to a deadlocked situation. There are plenty of other contenders who should’ve been shown the exit in his stead.
Diamanti wore his heart on his sleeve. Benni McCarthy wears his mayonnaise on his shirt.
7. The Case For The Defence
The need for a settled back four is obvious, but prior to settling, it’s important that the right quartet is selected.
Herita Ilunga is nailed on at left-back. Not through exceptional ability, but just through a lack of alternatives. Fabio Daprela is yet to be given a sustained opportunity and one presumes he’s just not impressing on the training ground.
Ilunga has hardly been in dynamite form to keep Daprela out, although the Congolese merits some time to rediscover the form and appetite he showed before securing a lucrative long-term contract, Range Rover and big house in Chigwell.
Our need for a right-back is well established. Julien Faubert has sought to adapt and won a few people round with his renewed endeavour, but his midfielder’s nature has been cruelly exposed by a lack of positional awareness on more than a few occasions.
Matthew Upson has not been the same player since he had his head turned by the prospect of a regular England place. He has been embarrassingly caught out by some ‘Route 1’ football several times in recent months, and he just doesn’t reassure me as he once did. It’s the absence of that beard.
James Tomkins is dangerously close to joining Mark Noble in the ‘promising youngster cruising to mediocrity’ stakes, and his youth can no longer be used as a reason for under-performance. With two seasons of fairly consistent Premier League involvement behind him, he should be making progress.
Manuel Da Costa is on the fringes, but I see no reason why he cannot command a regular first team slot. Amid a mediocre bunch, it’s a good opportunity for the Portuguese to assert ambition beyond that of a Jeremy Kyle guest.
Tal Ben Haim is a bewildered and bewildering lump, probably still confused as to how what he thought was the Kings Road is now apparently littered with broken glass and swarming with pickpockets. His physical presence is his main asset, which also demands a mobile centreback be used in tandem.
Danny Gabbidon is a conundrum. Experienced and injury-prone, he would be considered merely a standard squad player were it not for that dynamite season in 2006, which has mostly served to leave us wondering if he is ever capable of regaining that form.
Everyone would probably have a different favoured four from this bunch. The important thing is that Avram Grant selects his, drills them incessantly and sticks with them.