GOOD news and bad news, folks. The good news is Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will kick off another Barclay’s Premier League season. The bad news is ... there is no bad news! For the Red Devils’ fans, the next 10 months of football frenzy will be embraced with heightened expectations and intrigue.
Over the years, I have experienced an exponential increase in my heart rate as seasons of watching United in battle fly by. And judging by a rather eventful influx of players this summer, and rumours of even more on the brink, this season promises another optimum cardiac workout for yours truly.
The burning question on everyone’s lips and minds will be whether United are able to improve on last season’s barely acceptable fourth place finish.
There are many ways to ensure that United will mount a sustained challenge for top honours this season. One that resonated most is assistant manager Ryan Giggs’ proclamation almost two months ago. He stated that signing “proven winners” to strengthen the spine of the team is the main objective. The spine he was referring to is the team’s midfield line, strikers, centre-backs and goalkeeper.
As it stands, one can safely say that only the midfield looks adequately fortified, with the astute signings of battle-hardened Bundesliga, Champions League and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger (pic), Southampton’s star Morgan Schneiderlin and the young Dutch tyro Memphis Depay. According to Louis van Gaal, Memphis (he insists on being called by his first name) can also double up as a striker. We “shall” see.
Worringly, the on-going David de Gea saga – will-he-or-won’t-he leave for Real Madrid – is threatening to destabilise the team. It’s high time these two clubs stop beating about the bush already. Free signing, Argentine shot-stopper Sergio Romero will adequately step into out-going Victor Valdes’ shoes, even if the Spaniard is still a proven world beater.
Defensively, it doesn’t take a nuclear scientist to figure out that United still need another quality centre-back. Let’s be honest, the current crop of Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Evans and Blind(!) will not have opponents quaking in their boots, especially if United were to progress into the Champions League. The sliver of good news is that the full-backs, newly-acquired Matteo Darmian from Serie A outfit Torino, and a fitter Luke Shaw, look ready to power on.
A “superstar” striker is also a welcome shot in the arm, as van Gaal lamented that United lack speed and creativity upfront. But how many of these “superstars” are available? How many other Neymars, Messis, Ronaldos and Bales are out there? The striker’s mantle will surely be the most anticipated before the transfer window closes. This is where United’s financial might and Ed Woodward’s renowned negotiating skills will be tested.
So my fellow Devils fans, ‘tis the time to hang on tight and feel the adrenaline surge through your football-starved veins!
Brian’s Top Four Picks:
2 Manchester United
4 Manchester City