In order to prepare properly for the next ten glorious months of hot club-on-club action, we’re previewing various leagues from around the globe.
Next up, our bread and butter, the best league in the world… the English Premier League (Suck it, Barclays!)
Let’s get our learn on.
Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo. Ronaldo.
For better or worse, that name—the name of a player not even on the team—will define the defending champion Manchester United season. The Glazers and Sir Alex Ferguson finally ended the misery as unwilling viewers of the interminable transfer saga of the orange Portuguese winker and Real Madrid.
Spoiler alert–he goes to Madrid.
The reigning World Player of Year and Ballon d’Or winner was transferred for a world record $133 million transfer fee. His absence in the Red Devil squad may not be as big as his transfer fee, but it will be significant. The three-time champions relied heavily on Ronaldo’s considerable skills and game changing ability, frequently to rescue the squad from a poor performance.
Whether this reliance was to the detriment to the rest of the players or not will be the question that will be answered this season. Did Ronaldo hold back the rest of the squad or did his dynamic skills make the squad better? Who will replace his goals? Will opponents be able to lock down the team more easily?
The answers to those questions, yes and no, a little bit of everyone, and yes.
The Scottish One also lost Argentine Carlos Tevez to crosstown rivals Manchester Arabia. The manager only brought on Antonio Valencia (ostensibly to replace Ronaldo), Michael Owen and youngster Gabriel Obertan. Not a lot of reinforcements for two significant players lost. Sir Alex must be confident with his current squad. Or maybe Precious Roy is correct, the Glazers are banking the Ronaldo funds to pay down the club’s debts.
Or perhaps not, because Ferguson has been unusually talkative this summer and he has been the instigator, especially with Rafa Benitez.
If Ferguson manages to win the title this season it will be a remarkable achievement. The squad was less prolific last year scoring 12 less league goals than the previous season and they will be missing Ronaldo’s 18 goals and Tevez’s 5 goals. The squad is not getting any younger either with the aging and slowing stalwarts of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. Rio Ferdinand is not getting any younger and appears to have more and more fitness issues. Plus, Edwin van der Sar will be out for the first 6 weeks of the season.
By no means, however, is Manchester United not one of the top squads in the league. They have just come back to the pack this season and the pack has expanded with Manchester Arabia. Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov still lead the line and Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra still man the least scored upon defense. Michael Carrick, Valencia, and Nani and Park Ji Sung are still in the solid but unremarkable midfield.
Fifth place would be a devastating blow to Manchester United’s finances, but the club will likely pull out the final Champions League place in fourth.