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August 14, 2009

English Premier League Preview (Suck it Barclays): Manchester United

They are somewhat less contemptible without a certain winker.

They are somewhat less contemptible without a certain winker.

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.



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14 Comments


  1. phil

    I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll miss Tevez more than they’ll miss Crissy.

    Be shocked if they fall to 4th, though.


  2. WhiteSpeedReceiver

    Champions again. 4 clear of CSKA London and 7 ahead of Liverpool.

    Excuse me, I need another gallon of this delicious kool-aid. The secret addictive ingredient is delusion.


  3. MattyDUb

    Fourth, that’s a dangerous prediction. Don’ think two players make the squad go into transition…


  4. hadley

    I think second or maybe first. No lower. They looked okay in the Charity/Community Shield last Sunday.


  5. ebullientfatalist

    Third. Losing Tevez and Ronaldo is big, but not fatal. Scholes and Giggs remain the savviest of players, but do they have the conditioning necessary to make solid contributions? Rooney is the only attacking player that has any flair, so if he doesn’t do his thing this year, Utd could be in trouble.


  6. Lingering Bursitis

    In simple math, C-Ron scored 67 goals in his last two seasons for United. If you can show me categorically where all those tallies are going to come from, I’ll stop thinking that they will struggle this year.

    C-Ron was the dynamic force. He created space and scoring chances for everyone else. Without him, the midfield looks limp, workmanlike, and utterly sterile. Carrick and Fletcher can pass and tackle, sure, but where will the attacks come from?

    Nani? Inconsistent.
    Valencia? Tough to say.
    Berbatov? He doesn’t know the meaning of “workrate”
    Rooney? Drifts all over the pitch and lacks the discipline they will need from him to stay up front.

    Of course, as an LFC fan from birth I’d love to see them struggle, but the evidence is tough to ignore.


  7. hadley

    Not saying you are wrong, Lingering, but Rooney scares me when he drifts into midfield, picks up the ball, and runs at defenders. I also think the Berbs will score loads of goals a la Ruud this season.

    I can’t wait for the season to start. Just wish Wolves – West Ham was on TV.


  8. WhiteSpeedReceiver

    LB, I think it’ll come from a happy and healthy Michael Ow….nevermind, he just tore his Miniscus taking a s**t. You’ve got to plant properly when doing that.


  9. I’ll freely admit that my prediction is more wishful thinking than it is rational thinking. They will be in the mix for the title, but I don’t think they will win title. They don’t have a dynamic force to change the game anymore. Rooney, while good, is still only England’s Dirk Kuyt.


  10. Nathaniel

    THREADJACK!

    Awaydays DVD-R (PAL format) is out on the P2P trackers…

    /threadjack


  11. I have no idea what that means, Nathaniel. Explain.


  12. Georger

    It’s on bittorrent.

    Two of four of Soccernet’s predictions have United winning it, shocking.

    I still think it’s Chelsea though.


  13. whizalen

    Rio is choosing the team music this term:
    http://www.nme.com/news/various-artists/46687

    hooray?


  14. MCR

    Berbatov has actually looked active this preseason. I don’t think it’s going to be enough, though. In order to compete with Chelsea they’re going to need Anderson, Nani and Valencia to play better. Nani might, but I’m not sure about Anderson. Valencia doesn’t really seem to fit, no? He’s a touchline-hugging wide midfield player, and both Berbatov and Rooney prefer to play as withdrawn second strikers. If SAF lets them both drift back into a pseudo-4-6-0, who’s going to get in on the end of his crosses? It’s not like he’s going to cut inside and score the way Ronaldo did.



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